You probably noticed a few weeks ago all the posts for Mental Health awareness day on 10th October. My first thought was why Mental Health Awareness day was on a Saturday. Probably not the go to ponderances for most people – but Saturday. In the past when I have struggled with work related stress Saturday was my most well mental health day of the week. I wasn’t at work, and it wasn’t imminent.
Yes, I have suffered from mental health problems in the past. Depression in 1996 resulting from financial stress. A bout of work related stress that led to six weeks being signed off work in 2006 resulting from a too heavy workload and a boss who said that “everything” was a priority. Then again in 2010 after being bullied at work ending in a serious nervious breakdown.
But these episodes mean that today I have high levels of mental resilience and fortitude because, having completed a lot of counselling and cognitive behaviour therapy I have trained my mental processes. It does not mean that I am immune from stress. I know what my stressors are, and I know what keeps me mentally well.
In 2016 I suffered from my first panic attack. At the time I thought I was having a heart attack, but a night hooked up to an ETG machine in A&E dispelled that idea. When the Doctor asked me if I was “feeling” stressed, I answered honestly. No. I wasn’t feeling stressed. I mean there was a lot going but, no I was fine – and mentally I was fine because I have developed numerous processes for dealing with stressful situations so I don’t “feel” and effectively manage my mental load.
That was when I discovered that the way I processed anxiety was no longer a mental battle, but a physical one. I manifest anxiety and stress physically. Shortness of breath, tight chest, panic attacks. When things are really bad I get a fizzing in my head. If my anxiety remains high for long periods of time I get migraines. They suck big time.
I had a migraine last week and I have been experiencing a fizzing in my head. My chest has been feeling tight and I have been feeling slightly breathless. This time though, my anxiety wasn’t coming from one thing. It was developing as a result of everything. I know I am not alone in feeling that the world is out of control, struggling to prioritise because of shifting sands.
If I could try and frame what has been causing the anxiety it is lack of control. In normal life (Oh how I have missed you) a stressor is something that is out of kilter, but the rest of our life may be bobbing along as normal. In 2020, its the reverse. Everything is out of kilter and there is not a lot of anything bobbing along as normal. The stressors are numerous
In a recent thought forum I was reminded of how I reacted to the first lockdown. I allowed myself one night to feel sorry for myself and have a good weep about my business blowing up, and then I yanked on my “big girl pants” and asked myself what I could do in this situation… and well, here we are.
This reminder was timely. Even when everything seems out of control, I am in control of what I choose to do next and it begs the question – what is important right now?
- It is important that I pay attention to my body and practice activities that contribute positively to my wellbeing.
- It is important that I remind myself that I am master of my own destiny and focus on the things that I can do now
- It is important that I don’t just react to situations that are happening to me, but take the initiative
- It is important that I prioritise those things that are impactful and move me towards my goal – and don’t do things that move me away from my goal.
- It is important that I shift my priorities so that I focus on doing the things that will get me to where I am trying to get to.
I can only do what I own, and take actions to influence outcomes but there is no point spending time allowing myself to be limited by those things I can do nothing about. Those things I just have to let go of and work around.