How much is too much stress?

While a little bit of stress may be good for us to get working well, too much and we’re tipping into anxiety, panic then burnout. Too much stress and we lose motivation, it’s more difficult to concentrate and to remember things.
Sometimes when we’re stressedout we keep jabbing at the thing we’re trying to do. We get frustrated and angry, and we can’t get anything done properly.

At this point you need to

STOP.

Breathe.

Go do something else for a time. Then come back to it. If it’s your life overall that is stressful, try to find some time in your day where you can do something mindful or fun. This helps reduce your stress levels, and allow your brain to start processing properly. When I tell students this they sometimes say

“I don’t have time!!!”

But you do. Because by taking time out here and there and giving your brain some recovery time. You’ll actually be able to think more clearly, work will become easier and you’ll increase your memory and concentration.

For example, did you know that just 1 hour of gardening each week has been shown to reduce anxiety? Just this small amount of time each week can have amazing benefits.

What mindful activities do you do to relieve stress?

Self Care Planning

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The idea that we need to care for ourselves is not new but many of us still neglect it. Why? I think it’s because when times are good, like our physical health, we don’t take much notice of our mental and emotional health. We just potter on.

On the flipside some of us roll our eyes at the idea of self care while actually practising it. Self Care doesn’t have to mean sitting meditating every day, for example it doesn’t do it for me, but exercise where I can immersed in the moment does. For some spiritual self care will be about prayer, for others walking in the woods with their dogs will rejuvenate their spirit.

It also depends on how you are doing overall. If your emotional weather is generally sunny at the moment, self care is putting routines in place that can help you when your storms come. If you’re in the midst of a mental health crisis your self care routine may be as simple as focusing on ensuring you have eaten & had a shower. Something which isn’t as simple as it sounds when you are not doing okay.

Your support system is also really important to acknowledge – who can you turn to if the going gets tough, or to have fun with this week? Your support system doesn’t have to be IRL it could be friends online, helpline numbers or support services. There is always support out there, no matter how alone you feel.

So choose to take some small steps today to invest in your emotional wellbeing – it would be great to hear how you look after yourself in the comments!

Show up… but also look after you.

I finally finished watching the third season of 13 Reasons Why and I wanted to pick up something the (new) school counsellor says to Clay Jenkins.

He asks “how do you do your job everyday when nothing ever changes?”

She replies by telling him that he personally helped Tyler change by encouraging him to seek help. She says all she does is show up. Good days. Bad days. She shows up, implying that’s all most people need. Someone reliable they can talk to when things are tough. That and I believe someone who hangs onto the hope that things can and do change for people. That things can get better.

In the show Clay is that person. He is the keeper of secrets, the friend most people turn to when there is a crisis. He shows up. And you can see the weight of what he carries around.

You can also see that without all that weight he would be lighter, happier.

I’m not arguing that you should stop listening to your friends. I am arguing however that if you are a “Clay Jenkins” please speak to someone to offload, maybe someone like me, a school counsellor. You don’t need to tell us your friends secrets, just how you are doing so you don’t take on too much. Counsellors have Supervision to help them deal with everything they hear – use us to help you deal with what you do.

Sentence Starters are…

…great for getting people talking.

I bought these coloured lolly pop sticks a little while ago & finally got around to writing on them today. Each stick has the start of a sentence on it which the young people can finish.

Ideally they shouldn’t think too hard about what they answer. A way to do this could be to give them a sheet of paper & ask them to write down the first thing that comes into their head.

You could do a similar thing if you are into journaling and want random topics to write about. You could write things like – love, politics, family, religion, hope, tragedy, fulfilment etc on them and pull them out at random. You could colour coordinate them as well, so the yellow ones could be internal emotions say, the orange could be about relationships, blue about the world, green about self etc. The questions or topics you devise will depend on who is going to use them and for what purpose.

Mine will be used in counselling with young people so explore a range of emotions, wishes and coping strategies. What will you use yours for?

Navigating Tech and Relationships

I worry sometimes about young people and technology. No not for the reasons you might think of straight away. Not the sexting. Not the access to explicit content. Not the bullying. Not the myriad of horrendous people online. I’ve seen young people take down and deal with all of that spectacularly – its a world they’ve grown up in – most of the time that’s the easy stuff. No what I am worried about is the inability to turn off the tech from  friends and within romantic relationships.

When I was young – the very sentence makes me sound old – I went to school and saw my friends. I ‘played out’ – I saw my friends. I went home and over-analysed every minute detail of the day over the phone with my friends, until my mam or her mam screamed at us to get off the phone… the phonebill!! blah blah blah. Same with my boyfriend. I saw him for a couple of hours a day max. There was always a period of the day where we were alone or with my brothers, probably arguing about something someone had stolen off someone else.  I left my friends and my boyfriends behind physically, and often mentally. I just watched the TV, listened to music or, perhaps wrote out song lyrics which completely expressed my unrequited love (true story).

Whatever drama was going on, I got a break from it.

Now this is important. When we are worried about someone or something our stress chemicals flood our brain. We need time where we are distracted, doing something, anything, that helps reset this. If you walked into your house and your bathroom was flooded, what would be the first thing you’d do? Hopefully it would be to turn off the tap. Same with stress and anxiety. You need to be able to turn off the tap. In my job as a school counsellor I ‘prescribe’ fun activities as an antidote to stress. You need to be able to switch off.

Now I think this is where the problem lies. The tech has given young people access to each other 24 hours a day. When a friend leaves them ‘on read’ they get angry, or anxious that they’ve done something wrong. Moreover there is no getting away from each others drama. Or if someone is having a really tough time – of course as friends you want to support them. But where does it stop? I have heard stories of young people acting as mini-therapists to their friends until 3am, sacrificing their own health to help their friends. I know of young people – absolute heroes – that have talked other young people out of suicide in the early hours of the morning. The weight of this lies heavy on the shoulders of the helpers as anyone who works in the helping profession knows. But young people don’t have supervision. They don’t understand the meaning of self care and shutting off. And one by one they become more stressed and anxious, but unable to pin point why.

Then there’s romantic relationships. Leave me on facetime while you sleep. Connected all night. Expectations to be supported and to be there for each other 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Expected instant replies. Expected password sharing. Expectations that were not there 20 years ago.

To young people I say this. You are absolute superstars and the support and help you give each other is tremendous. However you cannot drink from an empty cup as they say. Please, please, please consider setting some boundaries. Think about turning your internet off at 10pm. Get yourself some rest. Spend some time on you having fun. Get out into nature. Laugh. The world will  be there tomorrow. Self Care is not selfish, and anyone who tells you it is, is.Continue reading “Navigating Tech and Relationships”

72 Five Minute Stress Relief Ideas

  1. Cuddle your pet
  2. Do 20 star jumps
  3. Drink warm milo
  4. Walk around your house
  5. Smell your favourite perfume
  6. Stretch as high as you can
  7. Try to touch your toes
  8. Sing
  9. Dance to an upbeat song
  10. Be silly
  11. Look at a photo of a happy time
  12. Have a shower
  13. Have a snack
  14. Draw something simple & silly
  15. Go outside
  16. Listen to the birds
  17. BREATHE slowly & deeply
  18. Play an instrument
  19. Talk to a friend
  20. Scream
  21. Fake laugh for two minutes
  22. Laugh at something funny
  23. Watch baby animals on youtube*
  24. Moisturise your skin
  25. Wash your face
  26. Pray
  27. Talk to your siblings
  28. Do something nice for someone
  29. Send someone a text saying you appreciate them*
  30. Pretend you’re 5 years old
  31. Cry
  32. Shake your body
  33. Draw every noise you hear
  34. Listen to upbeat music and try not to move
  35. Skip
  36. Roll your shoulders and your head
  37. Write a list of all the things you are looking forward to
  38. Write a list of all the things you can do to relieve stress
  39. Change your clothes into something more comfy
  40. Watch a K-Pop video and try to copy the dance moves*
  41. Visualise your life after the thing causing you stress is over
  42. Write a letter to yourself
  43. Meditate
  44. Remind yourself about times you have gotten through stress before
  45. Take control of unhelpful thoughts – rationalise panic
  46. Tell yourself you can do this
  47. Organise your workspace*
  48. Try to think of a vegetable for every letter of the alphabet
  49. Do nothing*
  50. Write a poem
  51. Write down all your thoughts and worries
  52. Brush your hair
  53. Brush your pet
  54. Rock yourself gently
  55. Ask your parents/siblings for a hug
  56. Smell the flowers in your garden
  57. Take a break
  58. Write a list of your strengths (what would your best friend say about you)
  59. Do 20 sit ups / press ups
  60. Make a list of everything you have to do, PRIORITISE them and put together a schedule
  61. Try to balance on one leg
  62. Do a handstand against a wall
  63. Identify the source of stress & problem solve it if you can – ask is this worth stressing over?
  64. Make a song up as you go along about being stressed
  65. Write out motivational quotes*
  66. Make fun of this list
  67. Do some calligraphy
  68. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing – try to slow it down as much as possible
  69. Blow bubbles
  70. Blow up balloons & whack them around your bedroom
  71. Lie on the floor and tense then relax all your muscles
  72. Ask for help…

*has the potential to send you into a procrastination spiral so stay away from if you cannot trust yourself.

Originally written for The Wallflower Project.