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Let’s Talk About Stress?

7 tips from Jade Lawless on how to manage stress over Christmas.

 

As we move into the Christmas wind down period, it would seem that most of us are wound up, or at least almost half of us are. According to a recent IACP General Public Survey (2019), 46% of Irish Adults report to feeling stressed, a third of us feel anxious, and I in 5 of us feel depressed and isolated. What is happening in Irish society to drive such bleak figures highlighting our struggles with mental health. Why are we so stressed in modern society?

 

I have noticed a trend when asking people, in passing, how they are. We have moved away from the typically Irish answer of ‘Grand’ and most people I ask now respond with ‘Busy!’. Life seems to be incredibly busy for the majority of people, with responsibilities, tasks and demands whirling past and lurking with threat around every corner. The 24/7 society that we live in only adds to this with email, instant messaging and social media at everyone’s finger tips. Do we ever get to switch off anymore?! It is becoming the norm to always be ‘on’. Technology is amazing and it is hard to imagine our lives without it but I for one definitely do not look forward to receiving my screen time report that comes through on a weekly basis which tells me exactly how long that week I have spent on virtual tasks versus real life connections.

 

The online world is not the only pressure point in our lives, work is cited as the main source of stress for most people, particularly for men aged 25-50, people who live in Dublin, those in higher income brackets and people who have children!

 

The stark reality of this is that there is little enjoyment in life if we are constantly running from one thing to the next with high levels of stress. The more we get done, the more that needs to be done as we clear a space for the next stressful task to begin.  So, how do we relieve some pressure? How can we move away, even slightly, from external stressors and enjoy the now without worrying about the next objective?

 

 

1- Identify the pressure points in your life. Become aware of what causes you high amounts of stress or anxiety.

 

2- Look to implement small changes. The reality is we probably cannot remove big stressors like work, paying bills, meeting the needs of our children, etc. but are there small things that might make a difference? Ask yourself the Miracle Question: ‘If I woke up tomorrow and my miracle had happened overnight, how would I know that a miracle had happened? How would things be different? Let me give you an example of this from my own life. There was a time when my miracle would have been to win the lotto! Don’t get me wrong, I still wouldn’t turn that opportunity down but that was not really my miracle. When I drilled down into the questions – what would be different, how would I know I had won the lotto, my answer was quite simple; I would be available in the morning to bring my little girl to school. Winning the lotto would give me more freedom and make me more available to my family. The next stage was to ask myself if there were any small changes that I could make that might bring this part of my miracle to reality. Now I start my work day a little later, miss the dreaded M50 traffic (most mornings!) and bring my daughter to school every day and that satisfies me…at least until my lucky numbers come in!

 

3- Create some ‘me time’. Just as you would block off time in your calendar to have that meeting, see that client, do the weekly food shop, whatever it may be, put yourself into that schedule. Everything will still get done and you will feel better for it.

 

4- Try only saying yes to things that you actually like doing…granted this is for outside work pursuits!

 

5- Slow down. Take a breath. Take a pause if you need one.

 

6- Review. If things aren’t working for you, look again. Is there a new plan that might work better? Revisit your miracle.

 

7- Share the load. Ask for help. Don’t struggle alone. According to the IACP survey 86% of people agree that it is more acceptable now than it was in the past to talk about mental health issues and 47% or people say that it is helpful to talk to a friend or relative when they are struggling.

 

While it is impossible to guarantee that these tips will bring about a stress free Christmas, it is likely that following one or two of them might make your stress a little more manageable and show you that sometimes Christmas miracles can come true.

 

 

Author: Jade Lawless C. Psychol. PsSI, MIACP

Head of Counselling and Psychotherapy PCI College

Director of Psychology Harmony Residential Care.

Executive Board Member IACP

 

Reference: IACP. (2019). General public survey: Mental health and counselling/psychotherapy in Ireland: Public perceptions and attitudes. Retrieved from: https://iacp.ie/gps2019





 

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