Fandango, the creator of This, That, and The Other, has asked us another superb question this week:

“How do you manage or deal with stress? Is there a specific strategy or approach that you’ve found to be particularly effective?”

GREAT QUESTION FANDANGO! My short answer is…I need a little time to think clearly and decide whether the causes of my stress are real or just imagined/perceived…and then, I need a combination of taking practical steps to alleviate some of the causes of the stress, and I need to make sure I enjoy simple things rather than letting the pressure I am under take all the pleasure out of life.

I don’t mind a bit of stress. Some stress seems to be good for me. I am fairly easy-going by nature. But when things become intense at work, I become like a machine. A little stress moves me to be more organised and I find my stamina (I have terrific stamina) kicks in and I just don’t stop. The kind of stress that comes from being busy makes me thrive.

However, there is another kind of stress that rarely, but occasionally, grips me. It is when I feel absolutely overwhelmed. Just over four years ago I felt that way. For almost five years I had worked between 40-60 hours a week (I did not have one day off sick in all of that time) on a rota of early shifts, late shifts, night shifts and normal day shifts. I had a very busy social life. I thrived on the packed schedule and the wonderful work I was involved in. The problem started when people started to talk about Jack and I…it started tame, but after a couple of years, it was nasty. The worst was what people posted about me and Jack online. I was very upset. In addition, everyday for months I was confronted in person by both friends and strangers who had something to say about Jack and me. I was taunted by people daily about Jack and called names like “slapper”, “slut” or “slag”. People made comments suggesting Jack and I were suppressing sexual desires for one another. Then they clearly became bored and started to say that sexual acts were taking place between Jack and I. Later they talked about arguments we were supposed to have had. Then they said I was sleeping with other men to make Jack jealous. It was all rubbish – but boy did it hurt. I didn’t see it at the time, but the thousands of comments I received did amount to taunting or a kind of bullying.

distressed…Anyway, I do not want to think about that stress right now. But what I would say is, stress that is because of a situation that goes on for a long time, and becomes more intense, and despite all of your efforts, nothing changes – that kind of stress, is very challenging to see a way out of. You become accustomed to the way you are being treated. You accept it as normal, but inside are crumbling. You start to feel yourself drowning and you cannot see an escape. I knew the situation was “stressing me out”. I did a lot more exercise – started running more, swimming more, playing basketball and going to a boot-camp style fitness class. I did the things I loved and spent time with great friends. There were some wonderful events I went to and great days – but the pain and stress were always there. That night that I did not go home – I was overwhelmed by despair. That’s how much the stress had accumulated. I lost sight of my own safety. I don’t know how long I sat there on the bench in the dark next to my attacker. I was in a world of my own. And I know the consequences of that were awful, but it certainly broke the cycle of despair. It brought a host of different challenges with their own stress.

stressedThat was a very bad case of stress of course. A couple of weeks ago, I found myself becoming overwhelmed with stress. This huge amount of money disappeared from my bank account in order to buy my ticket for Australia which was scary. In addition, I have felt as if I was “burning the candle at both ends” for some time and I will be doing so right up until my holiday. The combination of tiredness, worrying about my close family member who has cancer, money concerns, the sheer amount of people depending on me not to let them down…it just seemed such a heavy weight and I found myself becoming emotional and irrational. Symptoms that I was STRESSED!

What did I do about it? A number of things. I had to calm myself down and think about what I had to do one step at a time. I made lists of all the tasks I have to squeeze into my schedule. I made a start on doing what I could, so that  could reduce that list and feel a little relief. I had to reason with myself that my financial situation was not as dire as it may seem. After all, I carry no debt. Living a debt free life is a brilliant way to avoid stress. I might have wiped out my savings, however, I do not owe anybody or any bank, or organisation a penny. It will just take time to build my bank account back up again. Sometimes being able to think clearly and reason with your anxieties – is this a real problem or a perceived one? Is this level of stress justified? I really do need that time to think and reason to get control of my thoughts.

There were some physical things that quickly brought me relief. Trying to get more sleep helped. Trying to do a bit of extra walking, although I did not have time for as much as I would have liked. I love walking out in the woods and through parks. One evening I arrived in an area where I do some work once a week, and found I was too early; they don’t want me to arrive before 6:30pm. I have a friend who lives round the corner, so sometimes, if I arrive early, I will pop by to see her and have a cuppa and a chat. But she was not in that evening. It was very sunny, so I headed down to the local common and I discovered a park I had no idea was there. It was lovely – a little pocket of paradise. Sitting down on a bench with warm evening sunshine bathing me and listening to birdsong and the rustle of the leaves in the light breeze, breathing in the fragrance of the flowers around me – I closed my eyes and said a little prayer of thanks for all the wonderful in my life.

When I am rushing around, I sometimes forget to enjoy life. So when I can tell stress is creeping in, I deliberately slow down events like meals. Rather than gulping down my food, I take my time eating it and absorbing the flavours so that I can have the full enjoyment. Silly little things that bring pleasure like pressing my nose to my fresh bed linen and smelling the lovely fragrance of the linen spray I use. Closing my eyes in the shower and enjoying the sensations of the water streaming down my back. Moisturising my skin with coconut body butter. Little pleasures that help me not to be in such a crazy rush but to make the most of each moment.

cuupaAnd…very importantly, I make sure I spend time talking with the people I love and who love me the most. My family and close friends. Just knowing that you are not alone. There is a team around you rooting for you. Just knowing that you are loved is sometimes such an invigorating impetus that stress seems to melt away. And making sure you communicate openly with lots of people, helps you to realize that everyone has their load to carry. Stress is common. And talking helps you realize that others have also had times when they have been overwhelmed with stress. They often have great advice and experience to share. If there was one huge mistake I made with the situation regarding Jack, it was not talking to my nearest and dearest about how it was effecting me. I hid it from them because I did not want them to be upset by the awful things that were being said about me. Keeping that stress to myself, isolated me emotionally. I did not know who to turn to and despair crept in.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with stress and it is having a detrimental effect, it is wise to take some practical measures so that it doesn’t develop into severe distress or despair. Do not be afraid, a little stress can be healthy, but too much stress can be harmful. Many other people will be able to relate to you. But not all people are kind or empathetic, so make sure you seek out those who do want to help. There are some tried and tested recommendations on how to deal with stress at the links below:

Anyway…as soon as I decided to call this post “Stress-Busters”, I started to hum a certain tune, and it was stuck in my head until I re-wrote some of the lyrics:

Your problems mount up
There seems no way out
What you gonna use?

If life’s getting tough
You’re feeling tired
What you gonna use?

I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
What you gonna use?

You’ve got bills to pay
But you ain’t got cash
What can you use?

If life’s getting hard
And you don’t look good
Ow, what you gonna use?

I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
I ain’t ‘fraid of no stress
What you gonna use?

Fandango’s Provocative Question #23


16 thoughts on “Stress-Busters

  1. Great post. As you wrote, some stress is healthy and is part of being who we are. I find that when life starts to feel stressful, that I need to do the thing(s) which bring me joy, such as spending time in the wilderness. Hence enjoying life. When I neglect to get outdoors, the stress that was the original reason is still present, but I end up adding the stress of not getting outdoors. If that makes any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love being outdoors – the beauty of nature, the escape from the crazy world. I love it. The only thing I will admit though…is that when I was severely stressed, I would go out walking in rural areas, beautiful countryside, but if I was on my own, I could become distraught with my own thoughts. I could end up sobbing and let anger build up. Sometimes I thought I needed to be alone, but if I was with a good friend, a mild friend, it was better, I would not end up becoming emotional.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The solitude found in nature and the healing it can bring doesn’t have to be a solo endeavour. Often the most enjoyable things are best shared with a friend. And if having a good friend wih you helped with your emotions and such, then that seems like a wonderful combination, for both of you.

        Cheers! Mel

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It does seem as if for a long time people (maybe especially men) have bottled up stress, sometimes with very damaging effects.
      You have a huge amount on your plate at the moment and I can imagine stress might be constantly creeping up on you. Do you have any stress-busters up your sleeve?

      Liked by 1 person

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