Lightening the load

Use these coping strategies to reduce stress

Everyone responds to stress differently and each one of us has a personal stress threshold, the point at which things start to feel too much.

I liken it to carrying a backpack.

If it feels light then you can walk for a long while but as it gets heavier you are going to need to rest every now and then and if it’s really too heavy for you then you will struggle to move forward at all.

I believe if we can learn what our capacity is and what it feels like when the backpack is getting too heavy (recognise our personal symptoms of stress) then we can take action to recover our resilience and take responsibility for our mental health.

Your unique backpack

The size of your backpack, and how much you can carry before it is too heavy for you, is as individual as you are.

How much room you have at the top of the pack (headspace) corresponds to your tolerance.

This is why sometimes you can deal with what might be considered a major stressor, other times a small thing can feel overwhelming and why something that might cause an issue for one person may not bother another.

What are you carrying?

There are many sources of stress ranging from significant life changes to daily niggles. Even what might be considered positive events, such as a wedding, moving home or changing job, can cause feelings of stress.

Common stressors are our health, work, finances, family, relationships and bereavement.

No matter the cause, all stress ends up in your backpack.

The more stressors we encounter, the heavier the load. It is when the limit of our backpack is reached that we really start to struggle.

Are you struggling?

Just like the capacity of our individual backpack, how we feel when stressed is unique to us too.

Knowing how we tend to become when stressed can be used as indicators that we need to manage our load.

Some common signs are: being short-tempered or tearful, an inability to concentrate, pay attention or make decisions, tiredness, headaches, upset stomach.

Behavioural signs include: dropping hobbies, not wanting to socialise, soothing with food or not eating very much, drinking or smoking more and avoiding the situations that are troubling you. All of which are normal responses to overload but they don’t help us in the long run.

Ways to manage the load

Coping activities can help us manage our load and even reduce the contents of our backpack.

Just like your reaction to stress, the actions that work will be unique to you but here are some that have worked for others.

> examine the contents and see what action can be taken - sometimes just listing our troubles helps us feel more in control of them

> talk to someone about your worries - sharing helps us own what we are carrying and brings it into the light

> get active - moving physically releases that pumped up feeling that often accompanies stress and sets off a chain reaction in the body, renewing cells and releasing endorphins

> step away from tech - we are increasingly attached to our screens and the information we find there, however non-stop interactions don't give the brain a break from thinking

> maintain your hobbies/social life - there are reasons we have particular chosen pastimes, they bring us joy and help us relax

> get to bed early - sleep is a medicine everyone should take, the brain needs sleep to process the experiences of the day and be ready for tomorrow

> eat well - giving the body the fuel it needs means we aren't stressing our bodily functions

> be mindful - bringing awareness to our thoughts and feelings can help us tune in to what we need and so make the best choice for our well-being

Ensuring we make time for such activities helps us to manage the load.

Keep on moving

Stress comes at us from all sides. Some days are like a walk in the park and other days are a hike to the top of a mountain.

To keep moving and not stumble due to the weight of what you are mentally carrying, take time to understand your unique backpack capacity, what happens when you are struggling and the ways that work for you to lighten the load.

Taking responsibility for how much you're carrying can make a real difference to your health and wellbeing.

Take care of you.

Share below activities you use that help you manage your load,

you may help someone else manage theirs

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