Dealing with Massive Amounts of Stress When All You Want to Do is...Not.
Finding ways to cope when life becomes a steaming pile
Simple + Straightforward is a weekly letter filled with essays, tips, and ideas to live life more simply and intentionally. This is a public post so feel free to share with friends and family you think would enjoy a dose of simplicity every Friday.
Friends, it’s been a week.
Scrap that, it’s been a month.
It’s been that sort of time when, despite my best efforts to be all chill and shiz, stress has come into my life full-pelt.
And that crap is cumulative.
Once it starts to compound, it’s not long before you’re staring out from the bottom of a stress-lined hole, wondering how you got in there and with very little idea of how to get out.
I - like many others - didn’t get the memo about the School of Life’s stress management course and thus, I’m really rather dumb when it comes to dealing with it. It’s all racing hearts and butterflies, and not of the good kind.
If you’re picking up what I’m putting down here, this week is dedicated to you.
What the Flamin’ Nora do you do about high stress levels? About those days, weeks or months when everything piles on at once?
Here are some tricks that have been working for me this week.
I start with the big picture. First, what’s the worst that can happen if you continue to be stressed?
Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, death FFS.
The problem is however these are nebulous issues that, especially if you’re on the younger side of say 50, you might struggle to comprehend as real threats. It can do little to appease the stress in the moment.
So if considering my own death doesn’t work (and sometimes it does), I think a little smaller.
Right now, I’ve got a health issue which is execerbated by stress. If I stop stressing, it will likely improve.
This is still big picture thinking, but it’s a much more real concept to grasp. Every time I’ve started to feel that heart rate rise, I’ve remembered to control my reaction by thinking about what I gain if I don’t react so strongly.
Go deep into a distraction
Anyone who has ever rented a home will know how stressful it is dealing with a batshit crazy landlord. I’ve been on the sticky end of a situation this week with our last long-term Airbnb which has sent my stress levels flying high.
I sat, I panicked and I dug myself into a nasty mental hole for a while until I decided to distract myself. And when you’re in a state of heightened anxiety, only the strongest of distractions will suffice (no TV).
My mother is an incredible artist and I’ve been promising her for a long time that I would help her open an online shop. I’m now in the UK for the summer, so this week I started the project.
Before I knew it, 3 hours had passed and I’d completely forgotten about the Airbnb problem (for those hours at least).
Deep distractions work. Cooking, working, running, meeting friends or family - whatever works for you, get to it.
Find a kitten, puppy or child and take notes
Now I’m back in the UK, I’m staying with my brother’s family again, which includes living with two young nieces and one tiny new kitten.
I was looking after the youngest niece yesterday. As I watched her, I couldn’t stop thinking:
Ffion doesn’t give a fuck about stress
Of course she doesn’t. She’s two.
Then the kitten crawled onto me and fell asleep. And I thought:
Mochi doesn’t give a fuck about stress.
Of course she doesn’t. She’s a kitten.
For me, watching tiny children and tiny animals go about their day in a state of utter bliss and contentment never fails to put my own stresses into perspective.
Go all guns blazing on health
Yeah all I want to do is sit on the sofa, watch TV and shoot sugar directly into my veins too, but I know that’s not what helps stress.
Eating fruit and vegetables and all other good things helps.
Running or walking or going to the gym helps.
Sleeping well helps.
Cutting down (or out) the alcohol helps.
Stress is just as much a physical bodily reaction as it is a mental one so if you want your body to be ready for the onslaught, you’re going to have to prep the crap out of it.
If all else fails, go to bed
When you’re at the bottom that stress-lined hole, it can be hard to remember that things do get better. The brain is a marvel at coping with negative feelings. After a while, they diminish and eventually all but disappear.
Sleeping is a good place to start this process. Not only does it give you more energy and the resilience to deal with difficulties, but there is something in the finality of a day ending - and the newness of a day beginning - that helps with the coping process.
The old cliche “tomorrow is another day” may sound like nothing more than a hollow saying, but if you go to bed truly believing that things could be a smidgen better in the morning, the chances are they probably will be.
As I’m in Wales this week, I’m want to wish al you, my ffrindiau (friends), a stress-free (or at least stress reduced) weekend.
Something to read this weekend
An article from my collection (paywall-free)
3 of the best pieces of content I’ve consumed this week
Article - I Still Miss Anthony Bourdain - an homage to a man I regularly think about and still truly miss in this world.
Podcast - How to Fail with Delia Smith - Delia Smith has exactly the attitude I want when I also hit 80.
Book - Blink by Malcolm Gladwell- the psychology behind making snap decisions and judgements.