Stressed – to be or not to be?

How often, especially at Christmas do you hear the word stress in a sentence? Maybe you say it yourself, “I am just so stressed”, or “It was so stressful in town today”. Or maybe you have never felt stressed at all… ever. Now I know we are all unique, but I do find the concept of never feeling stressed difficult to get my head round!

Just a few days before Christmas as I was stood in a queue with many other people, with my ‘To do’ list going through my head, the woman in front of me looked at me like she knew exactly what I was thinking and said “I really can’t understand why people go on so much about stress these days”, She continued, explaining how easy it is to cook a Sunday lunch, even for 8 people, a common event for her, as she described her joy at trying different recipes. She continued with lots of other examples of ‘things’ perceived as stressful, “when actually they are not at all”. I suggested, as perhaps you would expect, that as we are all different, what is stressful for one person is not for another. She dismissed my comment and decided against further conversation as I was clearly not on her wavelength.

Now I was stressed, only a little, as the queue was not getting shorter and the list in my head was growing, yet my ‘co-queuer’ had actually helped me. As I stood there, thinking about what she said and looking round at everyone, wondering what was going on in their heads, and whether they had a list, I started to smile and feel quite relaxed. Having a conversation with her, albeit minimal, had got me ‘out of my own head’, full of intrusive thoughts, and allowed me to accept and see my situation quite differently. The stress had gone simply because I came to accept where I was.

We all get stressed; we all have optimum stress levels, above and below that level lies frustration, boredom, lack of interest, poor concentration and lowered confidence. Without it we would not survive as the ‘flight and fight’ phenomenon is triggered by physical stress to keep us all on alert and protect ourselves from risky scenarios. Knowing your optimum level is understandably valuable.

Stress is necessary, healthy and can be an effective tool in achieving goals, taking new challenges and stepping out of our comfort zone. If we wish to experience life and what it has to offer, we have to take new roads and opportunities and engage in the journey and not just focus on our destination.

My ‘mindfulness’ strategy helped me feel calmer, to accept and appreciate the world around me rather than just criticising it, or being irritable, simply because it wasn’t happening how I wanted it to happen. There are so many strategies to manage stress, whether it’s the unhealthy kind, the new experience kind, or ‘I am not in control kind’; so find yours.

Incidentally, for me, the idea of cooking Sunday lunch is stressful and one to be avoided. I cleaned out a pigsty instead – most relaxing and rewarding.