Stress is stress right?
Well, yes and no. Stress triggers the same physiological reaction in us whatever the cause but I believe there are different types of stress.
We are all affected by different things and to differing degrees.
You ask the parents of a critically ill child how they “do it” the answer is invariably “I have no choice”. Is it stressful? Yes. Do they feel stressed? Often not so that they would notice.
If you asked me about the most stressful times in my life there are a few, but the most recent time was when I bought a car about three years ago.
On paper it was incredible; low mileage, one previous female owner, automatic (so no gear box to kill), paintwork was good and it was just the price I wanted to pay.
It was a total bag of spanners!
We hadn’t even got it home from the garage when it started to show signs that all was not what it seemed, but it got progressively worse and worse over the next few days until it just wouldn’t start.
To make things worse, the day it decided to die was my son’s birthday. We were leaving to take him and his friend to the bowling for his celebration. My husband had a Mini at the time and only 4 seats so we couldn’t get myself, my husband, my son and his friend and my daughter to the party.
So instead of attending my son’s party I spend a couple of hours on the phone to the garage trying to sort out my car. It was really stressful. Fortunately I have the skills to recognise when I need to take care of myself to prevent meltdown.
I won’t bore you with the details but long story short it was a nightmare that lasted about three weeks and felt like it was never ending.
You can cope well with stress though Kate!
Well, yes I can, but this episode was more stressful than three years living with a tumour.
When I had my pituitary tumour I was in constant pain, I was caring for two toddlers (my daughter and I was childminding for my friend) and dealing with countless other crises. Despite all this, it was easier to cope with than three weeks of car drama.
Well, there are several reasons I think. I don’t like not having access to a car. My family live over 100 miles away and I like to know I can get to them whenever I need to. I also needed a car to get my children to school so we were juggling cars. It fed my parental guilt because my son will still tell you that that was his “worst birthday ever” because I couldn’t go and have fun with them.
But it’s more than that.
Sometimes smaller stresses affect us more.
We all know people who are dealing with so much we believe that we would crumble under the weight of it, but they seem to glide with grace through the drama.
The more we are dealing with the less stressed we seem to be and often the less stressed we feel.
We switch into autopilot and we just function. Our stress responses seem to get overwhelmed, we become numb and we don’t notice them anymore.
That doesn’t mean that they aren’t still happening though.
It is important to recognise when we are functioning on this level because even though we don’t necessary feel stressed all our chemical responses are still working. Many of these can have serious health implications if they aren’t rectified.
If you imagine your stress levels are stored in a large glass jar. Every day a little stress goes in and when you sleep and when you relax the jar empties a little. If you don’t sleep well, and you never relax it just gets more and more full until eventually the jar overflows.
So what is my message?
Well, there is just one type of stress but it is triggered and we react to stress in many different ways. When I was teaching I didn’t feel stressed. I was so busy I just kept going and kept going. I didn’t even get upset about things any more. Then one morning I woke up, burst into tears and couldn’t get out of bed.
Don’t let your stress levels get to that point before you take control of them.
If I am late for a meeting because there is a traffic jam I am more likely to be aware of stressful feelings.
Make sure you take time to relax and allow your stress jar to empty, as regularly as you can.
Learn the signs of stress (You can read more about that here), learn to spot them in yourself and in others.
Combating stress doesn’t have to be time consuming. Just five minutes of mindful breathing can reduce your stress levels dramatically. Take little steps and often, your body will thank you for it.
So please, take care of yourself. Don’t allow all those little stresses to slowly fill up your jar. Empty it regularly and clean it well.
Do you want to make an impact at your school and create a change that will benefit generations of children and staff? Why not introduce Calmer Classrooms with Mojo my whole school mindfulness programme?