We live in such a stressful and stress-filled world that sometimes it’s the habit of stress we need to break more than stress itself. We live in a fast paced society which demands our attention wherever we look. Let’s not kid ourselves, the times we are living in are very stressful and to a certain extent, we need to stop and smell the roses and just enjoy being alive.
I feel I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to taking stress to the ultimate level! How you may ask? Well for starters I grew up in a very stressful household with a father suffering post-war trauma which in those days was not acknowledged or treated in any long term way. We weren’t the only ones – we had three other returned soldiers living within a stone’s throw from our house and Friday/Saturday nights were frequently spent with visits from the police, ambulance and putting out spot fires of tempers and raving behaviour that one or other of the returned soldiers were laying on their families. Researching the post-war condition now is very interesting and I can only guess at what experiences these men suffered, let alone what poisons they were subjected to through vaccinations etc. The fact that so many returned soldiers suffered and suffer pscychological problems is a case in point. So, I grew up stressed and praying that this weekend we would escape the ‘row’ that my mum would warn us about as dad returned home from the pub after his twin brother had well and truly liquored him up with the dreaded whisky. I don’t know why that alcohol made him crazy but it sure did and I don’t think any child should have to hear the violence and bedlam that followed. Don’t get me wrong, my dad was a good man, he provided for his family, I don’t ever recall him buying anything just for himself. He was a strong willed and opinionated man who had some very strict rules and a very nasty temper when mixed with alcohol. One of his rules was very little conversation at the kitchen table and to this day I think that was the saddest thing to do as we didn’t get to share each other’s day and discuss what had happened, to perhaps contribute a possible solution or two along the way.
So, as childhoods go, it had its bright moments as well as the stressful times as I was the recipient of a Walter Collinson piano which my Dad scraped $50 together to buy for me as a surprise. As I said he was a good man. Still I determined as an adult that I would try to never treat my children in the way I was treated during those awful rows so I’ve made my own set of mistakes instead! 🙂 The experts say that in a large family we each adopt a particular role and mine was protector of my mum, so I would do lots of little things for her and help out where I could. This in itself was stressful as I couldn’t protect her when it came to serious issues such as violence and abuse. Mum kicked dad out at one point then my older brother began to act out like him so eventually dad came home. Dad had the greatest sense of humour and was a very generous man when he could be. He had a lot of stresses in his life too – eight kids will do that to you!
So, fast-forward to adulthood and I found myself being a protector to those in my life, some were worthy of that but others took advantage which resulted in some very stressful situations. I discovered years ago that there is always someone better off than me and someone worse off, so I’m just grateful to still be alive and kicking! I’ve heard people say that as we get older we don’t sweat the small stuff anymore and to a certain extent that’s true, but on the other hand we need to take stock of our circumstances and decide which stresses we will allow in our lives. I now look at life rather simply – draw a line in the sand and step over it and leave the problem on the other side of the line! That mentality comes from lying in hospital beds on several occasions having suffered a serious hemiplegic migraine. There is nothing like being stuck in a stroke recovery ward to force you to assess how you came to be there. The patient in the bed directly opposite me was a dear old lady who had suffered a stroke and was totally confused as to what time of day it was so every time the nurse tucked her down for the night she would get herself up, get dressed in her day clothes, pack up all her belongings and quietly head home! Five minutes later she was back again with an amazingly patient nurse who would go through the routine again. Everyone would get settled down (there were four people in the ward) and a short while later on would go the light and this dear old lady would get herself out of bed and go through the whole dressing, packing routine again. Talk about Groundhog Day!!! Another night the Dr had put me on anti-stroke medication (not realising it was HP migraine) and that began to severely affect my heart which then resulted in a cardiologist being called out in the wee hours of the morning. It was just an awful experience being stuck in a ward told that a massive stroke was a strong possibility. Now that’s stressful!
So, how do we destress? How do we start to live again? Well, in my case it’s simple. Learn to say no. Stop and assess the situation – and stop offering to do things over and above what your normal routine is. You can always say you will think about it and get back to whoever is asking you to do something for them. Then, sit down and look at your life as it stands, if you are menopausal then it is very important that you stop and assess your life as it stands now. Find out what you really enjoy doing and try and make time every day to do it. That’s where saying ‘no’ is valuable as it frees up time to de-stress doing something you enjoy. Treat yourself as a project and work out how feasible your timeline is! It’s amazing how much we can fit into a day but sooner or later that level of stress is wreaking havoc on our bodies, our relationships, our workplace, and every other aspect of our lives.
We either get on top of stress and control it or stress will get on top of us and control us – for me, I choose to de-stress and live again!