Tag Archives: stress

World Mental Health Day 2018 – it’s ok not to be ok….

 

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Research shows that 1 in 4 of us will experience some form of mental health issue in our lives.
That’s quite a scary statistic.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), health is defined as follows–
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
WHO define mental health as –
“A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution or his or her community.”
Sometimes the stresses and strains of 21st Century life take its toll on our general mental well-being.
So, how is mental well-being viewed?
I checked the NHS website and found the following explanation-

“Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at the University of Warwick and a wellbeing expert, says: “Feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing. But it’s far from the whole.
“Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.
“So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do. And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.
“Of course, good mental wellbeing does not mean that you never experience feelings or situations that you find difficult,” says Professor Stewart-Brown. “But it does mean that you feel you have the resilience to cope when times are tougher than usual.”
It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are. The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out.
“No-one can give wellbeing to you. It’s you who has to take action,” says Professor Stewart-Brown.”

Perhaps, if you’ve experienced a time when it’s been difficult to cope, you’ve described yourself as being “stressed.” I’m sure most of us have said it and experienced it at some level.
So, where does stress fit into the jigsaw of mental health and well-being?
According to http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk stress is described as follows-
“At the most basic level, stress is our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup. Some common features of things that can make us feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation.
When we encounter stress, our body is stimulated to produce stress hormones that trigger a ‘flight or fight’ response and activate our immune system 2. This response helps us to respond quickly to dangerous situations.
Sometimes, this stress response can be an appropriate, or even beneficial reaction. The resulting feeling of ‘pressure’ can help us to push through situations that can be nerve-wracking or intense, like running a marathon, or giving a speech to a large crowd. We can quickly return to a resting state without any negative effects on our health if what is stressing us is short-lived 3, and many people are able to deal with a certain level of stress without any lasting effects.
However, there can be times when stress becomes excessive and too much to deal with. If our stress response is activated repeatedly, or it persists over time, the effects can result in wear and tear on the body and can cause us to feel permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’. Rather than helping us push through, this pressure can make us feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Feeling this overwhelming stress for a long period of time is often called chronic, or long-term stress, and it can impact on both physical and mental health.
Stress is a response to a threat in a situation, whereas anxiety is a reaction to the stress.”
Allow me to be open and honest for a few moments here.

I’ve written before about being stressed and the effects it had on me so I am not about to repeat myself. However, I’m human (no, I am, honestly!) and, despite my best endeavours at looking after both my physical health and mental well-being, there have been times lately that have left me in a state of “fight or flight”.
I’ve no intention of revealing the details of the various factors that contributed to these feelings. This isn’t that kind of blog….at least that’s not my intention. Suffice to say, I could see the cracks beginning to open up. I began to recognise the signs and the emotions surrounding them. These were threatening not just to overwhelm me but to swallow me whole.
Like everything that’s put under enormous pressure or strain, I had a bit of a meltdown.

I imploded.

It didn’t last long, a few hours probably, although at the time it felt like forever. Those few hours were at a point in the day when I had to paint on the “Disney smile” and keep going, while inside I was in bits. (To the friends who helped pick up the pieces that afternoon, thank you. To the one friend that I broke down in front of…. sorry, but thank you for being there at the right time and place.)
As I drove home that day feeling miserable and defeated, I reflected on the events of the day and the previous few weeks and months. I dug deep and retrieved my “pot” of resilience and, to echo my friend’s philosophy, thought, “Fuck it, life’s too short. Life’s too short to take all this shit so seriously. It’s not worth letting it have such an effect on me.”Fortunately, the “pot” of resilience wasn’t empty.
I  banished “flight” and reconnected with “fight” (not literally, you’ll be relieved to hear. I’m not a violent person.)
But how to subtly show the world that life was too short to take things so seriously? How to carry a reminder with me not to let things impact me to my physical and mental detriment? The answer was simple…….

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So, if you happened to see me that day or meet me on some future day when I need a reminder, I’ve not lost the plot. In fact, I’ll have actually found it again.

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A Tad Frazzled….

What gets you through the day? What gets you through the week or the month? How do you cope?

I found myself pondering this thought while I was out for a walk at lunchtime today.

After a rather stressful morning, I’d messaged friend saying simply, “What a morning! Frazzled.”

 Until recently I hadn’t really thought of “frazzled” being a legitimate state of mind.  I picked up a copy of Ruby Wax’s “A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled.” I’ve barely started it, only dipped in and out of it briefly, but in her foreword, Ms Wax explains “A neurobiologist might say someone is stuck in a state of “frazzle”. They mean that, for this person, constant stress is overloading their nervous system, flooding it with cortisol and adrenaline.”

The Urban Dictionary definition sums it up nicely – “to be feeling a bit brain-fried; lost and confused; not functioning properly; slightly stressed; all over the place.”

That pretty much sums up how I felt just after midday today, although I wasn’t lost!

 I’m pretty sure each and every one of you can relate to having felt like this at some point.

 So how do I cope? How do I “de-frazzle” myself? (There’s a few strategies been put into play here already)

 For me, the best coping strategy for during the working week is to make sure I take my lunch break and, weather permitting, get outside for some fresh air, coupled with some therapeutically loud music courtesy of my iPod. It works for me. (Messaging a sympathetic friend helps too.) Recharges the batteries long enough to get me through the rest of the day.

 So what coping mechanisms work for you? 

Others that I use include writing (yes, the thought of writing this blog while enjoying a medicinal bacon sandwich eased me through the afternoon), colouring in (art therapy to give it its adult name), listening to music, reading a book, going for a walk along the nearest beach, playing with the cats or simply enjoying a long hot shower.

I’m sure there are many more but these are my “go to” strategies.

There are no hard and fast rules here. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another and, yes, there are occasions where professional assistance may be required. There’s nothing wrong about seeking help when you need it. 

One final thing that helps reset my frayed nerves is photography. Looking through the world from the view finder of my camera or the camera screen of my phone helps to see the world around me in a different light.

It helps if the view is stunning too!frazzled-view

With A Little Help From My Friends – hopefully!

It’s been another one of “those” weeks around here. Living with two exam-stressed teenagers isn’t fun, as I’m sure all parents of teenagers will agree. Five exams in five days has been baptism by fire for Girl Child. (These exams are her first experience of sitting formal exams in the school assembly hall) I really felt for her and could empathise with her rising fear and panic, as I recalled my own exam experiences. I can still clearly picture the rows and rows of desks and still hear the silence.

In the midst of all this emotional turmoil, I made time to take my next leap of faith towards bringing my “creative baby” to life. Well it was on this week’s To Do List and had to be done at some point.

Mid-week I set up my Kindle Direct Publishing account. GULP!

Cue rising fear and panic to rival Girl Child’s!

Adding things like your tax information and bank account details in international format suddenly felt like very grown up things to be doing. Not like me at all. Scary stuff!

On reflection, my immediate reaction didn’t totally surprise me. As I’ve said in previous blog posts, my biggest fear as a writer is letting folk read what I write. Crazy, I know. By creating the KDP account and reading the T&C’s, in particular the list of countries that Amazon cover, brought home how many people my “creative baby” will be exposed to. Now I know that’s a good thing. The more exposure I can get for this book, the greater the chance of sales and success etc. I get it. But what if they think my “creative baby” is ugly? Hence the rising tide of fear and panic.

Breathe! Deep breaths! Breathe!

(A medicinal glass of wine may have been required at this point)

The following day, I stumbled across a magazine article about something that is another weakness of mine. (No – it was nothing to do with coffee or rock stars!) It was an article extolling the virtues of asking for help.

To ask for help is a bit of an alien concept for me. I’ve always attributed this to the fact I was an only child and had no siblings to either ask or help. Over the years and through various situations that life has thrown across my path, I’ve got used to finding my own way through things. I guess there have been times when I’ve felt to ask for help was to show weakness. The article brought home to me the fact that sometimes it’s necessary to ask for some assistance. We don’t all know the best way to do things or have the ability to do everything on our own. At the end of the day, it’s not a sign of weakness or stupidity to ask for help, particularly if you are doing something you’ve never done before.

The time has come to follow the advice I’ve been giving to both Boy Child and Girl Child for years. If you don’t fully understand the subject, ask for help.

So, that’s what I need to do here. If any of you beautiful people have any hints or tips to offer this fledging writer regarding using KDP, I’d be eternally grateful. If there are any pit falls lying in wait that I should be aware of, please let me know where they are lurking as it may save me from a painful fall. Any help will be gratefully received.

And if there are any suggestions for steering stressed out teenage girls through exams, I’ll take those on board too!