April – Stress is in the air

April is Stress Awareness Month.  Stress is something I am very aware of as there have been times in my life when I have been overwhelmed and felt I just couldn’t cope.

Not surprising given that the Mental Health Foundation’s 2018 research found that 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

AND THAT WAS BEFORE A GLOBAL PANDEMIC!

I wonder what that statistic would be now, given all the changes and uncertainty in the world.

Stress, of course, isn’t always a bad thing.  Without it, we probably wouldn’t have survived. Our ancestors relied on ‘fight, flight and freeze’ stress reactions to escape many tricky situations (think sabre tooth tigers and cavemen).

Even today there are certain situations where stress is really useful. In dangerous situations, the release of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, gives us the energy to react quickly.  For example, at 8 months pregnant I somehow managed to hold a car to stop it from falling on top of my husband when the car fell off the car jack whilst he was under the car!

I guess the problem is when we have a stress reaction to less dangerous situations and all the blood flows to the muscles that are needed for fight or flight and brain function is minimised and we just can’t think straight. And for me the more I can’t think straight, the more stressed I get!

I get less stressed now than I used to. I have learnt strategies to cope on those occasions when I do start to feel stress coming.

What works when we are stressed is different for different people but for me, my stress survival strategies are as follows:

  1. Write a list.
    It always helps me to see everything that I have to do or that is bothering me down on paper.  I then move them into 4 lists – High, medium, low and someone else.  This allows me to really focus on what is urgent right now, what I can delegate and all of a sudden, I am not quite so stressed and overwhelmed;
  2. Ask myself the question.
    “Will this matter in a year’s time?”  If the answer is ‘no’ then I try really hard not to let it matter in that moment. Easier said than done I know but it helps to put things in perspective;
  3. Move.
    No not a walk, that’s not for me, the gym, Nah! But a kitchen disco, I stick on some top tunes and dance. I sing and dance as if no one is watching (even if they are!);
  4. Say No!
    If I’m really overwhelmed and stressed, I give myself permission to say no.  It doesn’t make me a bad person; it makes me someone who cares about myself and is being as kind to myself as I am to others;
  5. Distraction.
    Usually some mind-numbing activity like sorting out the kitchen cupboards or pairing socks, it helps the thinking part of my brain get back in control and it helps me feel better.  Failing that a good film or binge-watch a series;
  6. Be honest.
    I tell my nearest and dearest that I am stressed and why.  Spending time with good people in good places eases stress and reminds me of the many good reasons to be more chilled.

So that’s my Six Stress Survival Strategies.  If you want to think about this more and think about what works for you, you can download The Pink Widow’s Six Stress Survival Strategies here:

I’d love to hear what works for you when you are stressed.

And if all else fails remind yourself you have a 100% success rate of surviving the tough days!

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