It’s the start of 2017, and I find myself freshly unemployed having just left what I thought was going to be my dream job. There were several reasons for this, one of them was how stressful I found it. My sleep became disrupted, I was either not eating, or binge-eating terrible junk food, and I couldn’t summon up the energy or motivation to exercise. Stress was beginning to take a bad toll on my health.
I remember being very stressed at the end of school. The last two years of school I was very focussed on getting into uni and very sure (without much evidence) that this was not going to happen. However I was mistaken and after school I took a gap year. I worked in a shop part time and tried to unwind myself after the stress of school to prepare for the stress of leaving home.
My first year of university was ridiculously fun, if you ignore the stress of leaving home for the first time, making new friends, trying to muddle through lectures and essays whilst also independently keeping yourself alive for the first time.
The second year of university is when stress stopped being white noise in the background and became unbearable. I sought professional help and got myself together enough to embark on my applied year for my degree. I loved the work I did during this time, the first time I got to put “psychology” in any part of my job description. However, it was my first real adult job and the pressure of this role meant there wasn’t much of my attention to go around outside of this stress.
My final year of university held a break up and a return to the stress of academic work. Again stress got on top of me and I was dragged through my final year by the people around me. Then university is finished, ADULTHOOD. Looking for a job – stressful. Moving home – stressful. Getting a job… yup… stressful. (I was looking for a job and then I found a job / and heaven knows I am miserable now – The Smiths – 1984). So after looking back on the last 8 years and realising that I have been, to a greater or lesser extent, stressed, it has come to my attention that… maybe it’s me. Maybe, despite a psychology degree, a supportive network of people around me, and being a generally reasonably sensible person – I am not really handling the stress of being a human.
So I’ve decided to do something about it!
Don’t get me wrong, being stressed a lot has not made my life miserable. In many ways it has made it better. It has pushed me to accomplish many things. Stress can drive us to seek new challenges and to achieve. I love testing myself and exploring new scenarios – nothing compares with the feeling of achievement when you’ve stood in front of something big and not backed down. But the scales can tip too far in the wrong direction. It can have a long term effect on our physical health – headaches, muscle tension, insomnia, disrupted appetite and our mental health – potentially leading to depression, addiction and outbursts of anger (to give just some examples). I’ve studied psychology at A-Level and degree level. I’ve led groups on well-being and sung the praises of various relaxation methods. It may be time to start practicing what I preach. I’m going to start making time to relax.
So here’s my plan. Once a week, I am going to try a different method of relaxation. Some of which will already be familiar to me, others will be totally new. Some will be small easier things, that easily fitted into my daily life. Others are going to take a concentrated effort to achieve. When I sat down to think of what I was going to do I found that I already had 20-25 ideas of how to relax that I just hadn’t been putting the effort into doing. However, that is not going to be enough. So I’ll be open to suggestions, everyone relaxes in different ways and while some of those initially will make me want to run screaming for the hills, perhaps they are what I’ve been missing? I hope to share what I have found here, so that by the end of the year I can look back and identify all the different things I have tried to make some time to not be stressed, to take a step back and be relaxed. In the lucky position of having some time at the moment, perhaps I can get into good habits now, so that when the next challenge comes around, I’ll find myself that bit more ready to tackle it.