I should know better, really I should. I wrote a whole book; Love Being Me, as a result of time off work with stress…but it’s so hard to spot.
There are two types of stress, as my A level psychology group are in the process of finding out (Thanks to SH for doing the biology bits). We all know acute stress when it gets us because our heart races, our breathing speeds up, we sweat, we get a funny tummy, we feel sick. This acute stress is in response to an immediate threat, or perceived threat such as a car pulling out in front of us, a dog chasing us or being shouted. Usually the stressor passes and we relax and all is well.
Chronic stress is the killer as there is no ‘relax’. Chronic stress is the one which catches me out and it’s caught up with me this last week. It’s so easy for people who do a lot, to just get on with doing more.
One friend has been juggling looking after a youngster with doing hospital runs for critically ill aged relative. This is, of course, on top of doing the usual stuff around the house, going to work and caring for the family.
Another friend has been under constant pressure to perform at work.
Another friend is dealing with a teenager who is depressed and off school.
None of them realise they’re stressed until it’s at it’s height and they’re nearly or at breaking point and they’re off work, not sleeping, crying or exhausted all the time.
Youngest son breaking his arm was immensely emotionally stressful and also led to some sleepless nights and there still are changes to our routine to accommodate bandaging.
He broke his arm the week that we’d had Ofsted into school, which has to be one of the most stressful events for a teacher.
I’ve started a new job, which I like, and as with any new job has it’s teething issues which have an impact on family life.
Then last week, the car broke down and had 4 temporary fixes in one day before the RAC came at 1030pm. Tthe head gasket has gone; £600 to fix. Ouch. Not just this, but I had loan cars to arrange, garages to communicate with and then another hire car to arrange and I still had to let someone down in the new job which I hate doing.
Add to this a hospital visit yesterday to be told that all is healing well, which is wonderful and which also means another operation for Youngest on Friday to take out the wires. Both of these hospital arrangements have meant changing my work schedule and changing what I can do when.
And Ofsted are back in work tomorrow.
And I’ve decorated the office.
Whilst decorating the office I found that 10 of my most precious photo albums of my mum and my kids when they were babies have been ruined by rising damp. I cried. I still can’t bear to look at how much damage has been done.
Of course, on top of this I’m still doing washing, cooking, shopping, listening to reading and insisting on spellings being done. I’ve managed to get both kids to the parties and clubs that they wanted to go to and they’ve seen friends they wanted to see.
And I’m not telling you all this for sympathy or to show you I’m superwoman, but because I bet your life is like this too, if not right now, then sometimes.
I bet you too just take on one thing, then another and another and I bet you take it all in your stride like my friends do. I bet you help other people out, listen to them and support them. I bet you work hard and look after your close people well.
I bet you have days where you are so tired that you go to bed at 8, or when you find yourself crying, or snapping at people. I got a bit manic. On the day the car broke down 4 times, I stayed up till midnight sorting out the office, I couldn’t stop being busy, I wanted to do something that went right.
The next night I couldn’t think straight and wanted to cry. I finally realised what was going on and cut myself some slack, watched a film with the kids and had an early night.
- How do you notice you’re stressed?
- What are your signs and symptoms?
- On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is super screaming stressed and 1 is completely chilled, what number would you give yourself now?
So…what can we do about chronic stress?
The first thing to ask yourself is can you control the stressors, ie the things which are causing you stress?
Some stressors you can’t control. In my case I can’t control the broken arm or any of the medical stuff that goes with that. I couldn’t control the car breaking down, not can I control Ofsted coming in again.
Some stressors you can’t avoid, but you can adapt to. I can’t not do some of the house hold things like feeding and clothing the kids, but I have made my cooking even more basic than usual and I’ve just shopped locally as I can’t face on of the big supermarkets. I can also get emotional and practical support from people with the medical situation.
Some stressors you can avoid. I haven’t finished the office because frankly I don’t have enough energy, time or care for it at the moment. I’m not doing much to move my business forward, I’m just keeping up with what I have to do right now. I’ve not added anything new to my diary. I’ve asked for help.
- What stressors can you avoid?
- Which can you adapt to?
For the stressors I can’t avoid, I do have some cognitive tools which I use. I avoid awfulizing and catastrophising (Albert Ellis) about the car, the money or the broken arm. I reassure myself the doctors and the mechanics know what they are doing and will do the best they can.
I remind myself that for Ofsted I can only do what I can do and that I am well prepared and will do the best I can.
I tell myself that in a month, or a year’s time things will have changed and this reminds me that nothing stays the same for long and that this too will pass.
I focus on what is going well and what I appreciate.
- How can you reassure yourself?
- How will this seem in a month? A year?
- How can you rationalise rather than catastrophise?
- What is going well and what do you appreciate?
And still this time, the cognitive tools alone aren’t enough to deal with these few weeks.
So now I’m investing in taking care of myself, listening to my body and doing what I need. I’m having early nights. I’m talking to nurturing friends. I’m reading books that I like. I’m having long hot baths with nice smells. I’m being kind to myself and telling myself that yes this has been a tough couple of weeks, and it’s not over yet, but that I’m doing really well with it.
- How can you be kind to yourself?
- How can you take care of yourself?
- How can you be a really kind, loving caring parent to yourself?
- Notice all that you are doing and coping with and give yourself a pat on the back
I know this will pass and life will move on. It has served as a reminder of how stress can creep up on me and how powerful it is at making me feel a failure and like I’m not coping well enough.
It has served as a reminder that I really do need to look after myself.
Take care of yourself too.