In line with this years Mental Health Awareness Week focus on stress, we had a discussion on this topic.
“The word stress was originally an engineering term. It referred to how much pressure a building could take before it collapsed. These days a lot more people are collapsing from stress than buildings.” Joyce Meyer
“Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure.
Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope. People have different ways of reacting to stress, so a situation that feels stressful to one person may be motivating to someone else.” (NHS inform)
Another way of understanding stress as brought in the group was a picture of a jug of water, and more and more water was being poured into it and it just overflowed; we really can only take so much until we spill over.
People in the group shared their experiences of what this could look like for them, from having an angry outburst to excessive shopping trips, or becoming unable to make a decision about anything, or going over and over and over situations.
Typical signs of stress include the following:
Emotional signs: anxiety, fear, sadness, frustration.
Behavioural signs: withdrawn, indecisive, inflexible, irritable tearful.
Physical signs: sleep affected, sex drive affected, changes in eating patterns, use smoking, alcohol or drugs.
Bodily changes: headache, nausea, indigestion, shallow breathing, sweating, palpitations, aches and pains…if prolonged stress, sleep and memory are affected, along with Irritible Bowel Syndrome, ulcers and cardiovascular disease.
People in the group were able to recognise their signs of stress and realise that this is really important in order to look after themselves. We talked about different ways to deal with stressful situations in life:
For those who like writing, or making lists, it can be helpful to write down all the stressful things, see which ones can be attended to and prioritise, which can be delegated, deleted or cancelled and which are out of our control, recognising that sometimes unresolvable situations are very stressful and we have to find ways of accepting them. Group members talked about the difficulty of long term suppressed emotions in these types of situations.
People also talked about recognising what their bodies needed, such as saying no to something and getting a rest, or going out for some fresh air and a walk.
We looked at who can support you?-are some relationships stressing you? This led us onto a big conversation about boundaries. We needed a bit of help understanding how it looks when we take ownership of other people’s issues that actually aren’t ours to carry, but then end up doing things we’d rather not because we’d feel guilty if we didn’t.
Mood helping food is something we have had a few group topics on over the years, and it’s worth remembering that good choices of what we eat, and how often we eat can help reduce stress. Cutting down on smoking, alcohol and caffeine, can also help to reduce stress.
When stressed you are negatively reacting to a change. All earth’s creatures are subjected to stress. There is some research to suggest that serene nature scenes reduce stress, as little as five minutes a day of walking in nature can have a positive effect. You don’t have to be in nature to enjoy the benefits, a nature scene painting or photo can calm the mind and feel relaxing. Nature scenes can buffer you from stress and when you are less stressed you have more emotional reserves for coping with real and imaginary threats.
We discussed feeling able to take time-out and practise self-care. The idea of accepting that this is ok takes some working on, as people think it’s selfish, but if you look after yourself properly you will probably look after others more attentively too. Some people talked about how they had found mindfulness and meditation to be helpful.
Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself.
- Try to keep things in perspective.
- Remember that having a bad day is a universal human experience
- When your inner critic or an outer critic finds faults, try and find truth and exception to what is being said
- If you stumble or feel you have failed, don’t beat yourself up
- Act as if you were your own best friend: be kind and supportive
- Take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself