Life is often stressful. But the last two years have proved particularly challenging. A few short years ago, we perceived Donald Trump and the drag race villain edit as our biggest problems. But then came the pandemic. Now, stress is almost, if not, as endemic as COVID.
Paul Martin is the Senior Psychologist at the Centre for Human Potential.
Lately, I’ve counselled increasing numbers of people suffering from stress. Like the ladder in a drag queen’s fishnet stocking, unhealthy stress can sneak up slowly. It starts little, barely perceptible, and then, before you know it, it’s all that matters.
Like a ladder, you need to watch for the telltale signs of an emerging problem.
Telltale signs can include general unhappiness, relationship problems, issues in the workplace, a lost sense of humour and increasing grumpiness. Allowing yourself to remain stressed for a long period of time can lead to premature aging. Or even see you develop serious physical issues like heart problems.
So, if you notice that you no longer enjoy life and can’t see light at the end of the tunnel, develop some coping mechanisms.
One of the most effective methods of overcoming stress is increasing your resilience to pressure. Improving your general fitness levels. Go for a walk on the beach, join a gym – whatever suits your lifestyle and improves your general health – do it. Fitness pays dividends physically and mentally.
And ensure you eat well. Salad never killed anyone, unless dropped on them from a great height.
How you think and how you feel
Another powerful tool to combat stress is understanding the connection between how you think and how you feel.
Your thoughts, and even the terminology of your thinking, affect how you feel emotionally.
Become aware of which thoughts induce stress and you can then challenge them and kick those bitches to the curb.
Don’t catastrophise your thinking by always focusing on the very worst possibilities. Yes, an asteroid attack might take us all out tomorrow, but the probability is actually low. And there’s no defence anyway. So, doomsday prepping is futile. Focus on all the good things that might happen tomorrow, especially if you make those things happen. Give yourself positive things to do.
And stop using words like ‘awful’ and ‘terrible’.
Focusing on the worst possibilities inevitably activates your ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms. You prime yourself to either run or to attack something.
That’s probably a good thing if you’re in a bar being slagged by a drunk who’s had one too many Red Bulls and Vodka. That is the time to run.
But it’s not such a great strategy in the office.
So, take some time to journal your thoughts when you’re stressed. Notice the words you use. Put the catastrophising thoughts back into context. Become vigilant about your stress doing your thinking.
Challenge negative or stressful thoughts. You’ll find it a powerful and effective mechanism for riding the wave and emerging without getting dunked.
If thinking about this issue is distressing, make sure you reach out for support. Finally, if you have a very strong response or this is a long-term central issue, you may benefit from seeing a psychologist such as the psychologists at Centre for Human Potential who have a lot of experience with our LGBTIQ+ communities.
This article is intended as information only and does not replace professional advice. If reading this triggers you in any way, please reach out for support including by phoning Diverse Voices (QLife) on 1800 184 527 or speaking to your GP about a Mental Health Care Plan.