When things get overwhelming and I recognise that I’m not coping so well, there are things that I default to that aren’t necessarily very helpful. Some things I do distract me from being stressed for a time, but as soon as I stop the knot in my stomach is still there and the weight piles back on my shoulders.
It’s hard to make great choices in the most difficult days, but here are my top things NOT to do when life is overwhelming. There is a new list coming next week of what TO do instead - things that will help to unwind and refresh.
Ten things NOT TO DO when you’re stressed:
Ignoring the signs of stress and soldiering on as if nothing is wrong doesn’t help. Eventually it all falls down around you. For me it usually end up in sickness, me yelling at the kids and annoyed at my husband, dropping the ball at work and crying through the whole thing. It’s not a pretty sight! If you’re stressed out don’t ignore it, do something different.
Hours looking at stuff to buy doesn’t help me feel better. It can be distracting and keep me busy for a while, but it is not soul satisfying and when I give in to the temptation of spending good money on things I don't need, shopping adds extra guilt to the weight I’m already carrying. It’s not helpful at all.
It’s so tempting to go for the TimTams or slice of cake when we’re having a bad day. I’m a chocolate girl. I love the plain stuff, none of the fruit and nuts and soft centres, just good plain chocolate. I’ve learned that when I’m stressed my body is already fighting to function well, and the sugar high doesn’t help my body to cope or to recover.
A nice glass of red is a lovely way to wind down at the end of a long, difficult day. It can be a slippery slope though. It can be easy to drink too much or drink too regularly. Like many things, alcohol becomes an addiction that can have devastating effects on life and family when it gets out of control. Set yourself some guidelines around your alcohol consumption and if you find it hard to keep to your own rules, stop altogether or go and get some help.
I love a good TV binge as much as anyone. Since we got Netflix several years ago we always seem to have something on the go. I have two daughters in uni. One is going through Gilmore Girls (again) and the other is watching Suits right now. It’s mostly harmless fun and a break from study brain. TV distracts me from my stress. It does take my mind off whatever happens to be bothering me. But, as soon as the show is over it is all still there, and usually I just feel worse because I’ve waisted so much time numbing down for no beneficial reason.
6. Watch the News
I know, this sounds weird, but watching the news can be depressing at best and distressing at worst and just doesn’t help when life is already feeling out of control. A day or two without actually sitting down and engaging with the tragedy of the whole world helps me process what is on my own plate. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s actually that I care too much, and I drown in the borrowed tragedy of others. If something significant happens I can always find out in the reruns.
7. Make big decisions
When you’re stressed, avoid making big life decisions. When we are under stress the thinking part of our brain shuts down and our emotions take over. Don’t quit your job or sell your house or buy a new car in a season of high pressure and stress. If you absolutely can’t put off a life altering decision for a day when you're thinking more clearly, make sure you get some good advice from a trusted friend or mentor, or get professional advice from a counsellor or financial planner.
8. Coffee & Energy Drinks
Now, I can’t remember the last time I didn’t start my day with a coffee. I love coffee - going out for coffee, meeting a friend for coffee, reading my Bible with a coffee… any excuse really. But, if I’m worried and stressed and need to wind down an overload of caffeine doesn’t help. Limit your coffee to the am hours, and stay away from those caffeine and sugar loaded energy drinks as well.
9. Social Media
Don’t post something you’ll regret later. The rant about your boss might be justified today, but making your feelings public probably won’t help you improve the situation. And be careful what you look at too. Scrolling through the highlight reel of other’s lives doesn’t make you feel better about the reality of yours.
10. Say ‘Yes’
This is not the time to sign up for something new. Don’t volunteer for the footy club sausage sizzle this time. Say ‘No, sorry, I can’t help you this time,’ and walk away without feeling guilty or giving it another thought. Last week I was asked to be one of the speakers at an event coming up at church. This is the kind of gig that I usually jump at. I love doing this stuff! But, this time I walked into my colleague’s office, wiped my name off the list on the whiteboard and burst into tears. It was just one thing too many for me right now. The surprise for me was the reaction of my friend. Rather than trying to talk me into doing it, she cheered and clapped and celebrated that I said no! That’s a great friend!
What about you? Have I left anything off the list? What do you avoid when you’re having a bad day, or a bad week?