Let’s get down to it. Stress. It’s an over-used word to describe anything from a small inconvenience to debilitating physical and emotional response to difficult situations. The body’s stress response is vital to help us avoid short-term danger and keep us alive, but long term – constant and chronic stress can lead to depression, physical burn-out, poor sleep and mood changes. There is an increasing field of research suggesting that long-term stress and exposure to trauma from can increase our chances of experiencing chronic pain.
Sometimes there are limited things we can do to avois chronic stress especially if it is related to illness, bereavement or work. Speaking as someone who has experienced the damage long-term stress can do, there are things I know now that I wish I’d known then:
- Seek help from your GP – I should have gone earlier. I was the classic ‘don’t want to bother’ person combined with ‘am I really going to say to someone working in a stressful job that I’m stressed?!’ Being in a state of extreme stress is not a competition. If you feel it, and it is having a negative impact on your life then it’s serious.
- It’s temporary. It might be long-term temporary, but it too will pass.
- Avoid as many socially and professionally toxic environments and people as you can. It’s impossible to completely get rid, but it might be time to minimise where you can. Wait, that’s just a good rule for life.
- Notice the small good things. Tiny bits of joy leave a big impression.
- Look after yourself. It’s tempting to have a drink, eat things that are easy to prepare and zone out with a screen. These all have a place in life, but these can add more stress to your body at a time when you are already dealing with a lot. Let’s be honest, it’s much harder to get some exercise and cook from scratch. Do one thing a day that’s in the ‘looking after’ category. BBC Good Food website is brilliant for quick and healthy recipes.
- Of course, I’m going to say ‘get some reflexology’. Reflexology changed my life, gave me permission to switch off and gave my nervous system a break. Find your ‘thing’. Massage, meditation, foxtrot, oil painting, bungee jumping. It’s all good.
You’ll get through. My experience of long-term stress changed my life. I thought I would never be the same again. Truth be told, I’m not. I’m not better or worse, just changed.