Stress is pretty much a buzz word these days. If anyone talks about reducing their stress levels we look at them and wonder whether they’ve got their retirement plan sorted already.
Of course, stress is a natural part of modern life. A stress free life doesn’t exist. If it did, we’d all be completely bored. An active life has to contain some form of challenge, even if you’re retired and can choose those challenges yourself.
As any stress awareness course will tell you, it’s your ability to deal with the stresses and strains of your daily life that matters. If you’re constantly overwhelmed, in a state of anxiety you and your work will suffer. You’ll lose mental clarity and, eventually, your physical health will start to suffer.
Living the dream
When I was still traditionally employed, I was unhappy for a long time. There were lots of advantages to my job but it didn’t fit me anymore. I knew that leaving to become self-employed would be a challenge but I thought I’d be happier and less stressed.
Fast forward to now and I know I made the right decision. I still get stressed though. My husband once commented that I’m not as happy as he expected me to be. He’s right. Living your dream will help your mental health but it isn’t the complete answer. Every situation has its’ own challenges. You can become stressed as an employee if you feel powerless and overwhelmed when you’re self-employed because the buck stops with you.
Is it just stress?
Everyone feels down sometimes. Problems only start to arise when you don’t feel able to move on from that feeling. If you feel persistently low, ask yourself why. If there’s something going on in your life that’s getting you down, think about what action you can take to improve things. Do you need to stiffen your spine and have a difficult conversation? Look for patterns – are there things that you always struggle with?
If you’re dealing with something bigger, don’t do it alone. If you’ve had a bereavement there is no timescale on grief. My Dad died six years ago and there are still days when the sadness comes out of nowhere. It can hit you in completely unexpected ways. Even if you think “I’m only moving house”, it’s still stressful. Change always is.
Are you depressed?
Depression isn’t feeling a bit sad. I hear people say “I’m so depressed” and wonder if they know what they’re saying. Depression is an illness. It can be reactive. It can also hit you even when you have every reason to be happy. I know people with great jobs and wonderful families who feel guilty because they feel as if they’re at the bottom of a deep pit. Life and happiness is somewhere up there but they can’t reach it.
If you feel hopeless, or persistently down for no apparent reason, seek help. If you feel as if you’ve been struggling with something for too long, tell someone.
Have a natter
Even if you’ve just had a bad day, talk to someone about it. Seek out someone who loves you or who is in the same boat and just have a whinge.
If you need to talk to someone impartial, consider calling the Samaritans. You don’t have to be suicidal. Their volunteers are trained to listen and let you get it off your chest if that’s what you need.
If you are even slightly worried about your mental health, see your GP. I know there have been lots of grim news reports about the state of mental health services but you shouldn’t suffer in silence.
Making changes is hard. Running a business is hard. Having a job can drive you to distraction. Seek out the things that make you happy.
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Are you thinking about a career change? My article for Urban Fox magazine could help you decide.
NHS Moodzone has great advice on mental and emotional health
Blurt Foundation helps to support people with depression