As we head into the ‘Silly Season’ I want to talk about stress, grief, and tension. This trifecta can often consume us and finding a way to be happy can sometimes seem impossible.   Attempting to suppress these feelings will probably leave you feeling emotionally exhausted, drained, and defeated.  Ultimately, grief and stress can physically manifest in increased heart rate, muscle tightness, and tension; all resulting in pain.

 

Out of our control

In a complicated world, we can’t always control what happens to us.  Our control is primarily limited to how we react to emotions and situations.  Historically, we’ve been taught to ‘not think about’ the circumstances that cause us emotional pain, grief or stress.  Interestingly, science has repeatedly shown that the more we try not to think about something, the more it will appear, uninvited, in our minds. 

You can test this on yourself.  Don’t think about a red car for the next 60 seconds…I’ll wait…What happened?  I’m going to guess you repeatedly thought about a red car.  Avoiding thoughts and emotions causes them to come back with a vengeance. We need to face into and deal with them to be able to move forward.  

 

Cause and effect

The other day I heard a person talking about the cause-and-effect we have on ourselves in normal situations.  They said if you are walking over a white carpet with a glass of red wine and you’re continually thinking “don’t spill the wine, don’t spill the wine, don’t spill the wine” you will most likely spill the wine.  Put simply, focusing on a subject (positive or negative) can push those thoughts to the front of your the mind and become reality. 

 

Coping strategies

This is a relatable situation which I’m sure has happened to you and it got me thinking.  How do I recognise, address, and move on/around difficult and emotional thoughts every day?  New studies are saying addressing challenging subjects improves both mental and physical health.  While this might seem like common sense and aligns to most therapy techniques in use, the key difference is the new studies focus on confronting the topics, setting them aside, and moving on, instead of revisiting them repeatedly.  While I don’t claim to be a neurologist or therapist, I do find some truth to what these new studies are espousing.  Now the trick is trying to apply it to everyday life. 

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  • Smiling through stress.  I consciously fight the furrowed brow and narrow eyes that come with stressful situations.  Even a slight smirk can help you recognise the magnitude (or lack thereof) of your situation. 
  • Talk about the dead as if they are here.  This isn’t about avoiding an emotional loss, it’s about talking about your passed loved ones as if you saw them last week.  I talk about losing them but inevitably find that I’m talking about positive memories in relatively short order.  It keeps their memories alive along with helping to address grief. 
  • Celebrate the small things.  Monty Python said it best, always look on the bright side of life.  Every day, regardless of how good or bad will have victories. A great cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset, a good hair day…keep an eye out for the little things. 

 

Everyone will have different methods of coping.  Find a sympathetic but honest ear to listen and do your best to look at yourself from a distance every once in a while.  Most of all, cut yourself a break and look after your own health and well-being as much as you look after others. 

 

~Cassie Haslam

 

For more help or support contact your GP or click on the links below to find support.

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/

https://www.lifeline.org.au/

https://gidgetfoundation.org.au/