STRESS – Musings of a Pilates teacher
I would imagine all of us have been ‘stressed’ at one point or another, whether that’s from situations which put us under pressure (aka external stressors), our unique response to dealing with these situations or in a lot of cases – both! Some stress can be motivating and makes us feel alert (probably the adrenaline) but when more intense can lead to anxiety and depression, with each persons breaking point being different and unpredictable – I know because I’ve had it.
Acknowledging that we feel this way is super important to enable us to find the drive to break the downward spiral. But sometimes we are so low we can’t recognise it or motivate ourselves to get help, and this is when we need our friends, family, neighbours, anyone … to help and support us. It can be terrifying and very hard to accept especially if you see yourself as a ‘coper’ (as I did), with offers of help making me feel even more ‘incapable and weak’. However – no (wo)man is an island! – getting help is essential to ‘lift the fog’, enabling us to develop techniques to manage these external pressures and build some emotional resilience, regaining control and hopefully reducing the stress we feel.
Having a week each year to put ‘Mental Health Awareness’ in the spotlight can only be a good thing. Firstly it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our own mental health and consider if there are improvements we could make to be a bit more robust. Then we are in a better place to help – a bit like the scenario on a plane where you’re encouraged to use your own oxygen mask first before assisting others – makes sense in an ideal world.
However this is NOT an ideal world, and sometimes we’ve just got to get stuck in even if we don’t feel prepared, so take a look at this page – mind.org.uk. MIND (the mental health charity) have great information for anyone wanting to provide support. If you don’t know how to go about it or are worried about making things worse, take a look.
Personally I try to remember that if I give off a chaotic ‘I’m soooo busy’ persona, the person needing help may not want to be ‘a burden’, genuinely feel I may not have the time or I may miss the cues that they need me – completely! Be honest sometimes we do it deliberately, I know I do. But from my nursing and counselling experience, and also my own depression, I know that just sitting with someone, listening and not trying to find solutions for them goes a very long way. Kindness, warmth and proximity – most of us can do that I think x
- Take it seriously, it and can be a cumulative effect and become too much when you least expect it.
- Seek help – family etc or a Health Care Professional. They will help you work out what sort of support would be the most helpful for your particular set of circumstances.
- If medication such as anti-depressants are offered, don’t be afraid to try them under guidance. However anti-depressants are not a long term solution, they can help clear your head enabling you to feel motivated and proactively make good changes, but they are not a long term solution.
- Be patient and remember that if it has taken years to get to this point positive changes may take a while to bed in – long term improvements will be a gradual process, so take one day at a time.
- Be prepared to have bad days – the Slimmimg World community know this VERY well. This comment is not made lightly, body image issues have a significant impact on mental health and well-being.
- Exercise is great for stimulating ‘happy hormones’ known as endorphins which can lift your spirits, and if combined with a more mindful/meditative approach can help you find focus and clarity. Pilates is great for this, look here to understand more, or take a look at my previous blog What actually IS Pilates?
- Consider companionship and group activities, pets, sleeping well, complementary therapies and diet – remembering alcohol can be a depressant and is easy to reach for when you feel low, BUT it will not help you.
- The NHS has done this moodzone page giving really good advice about how you can make positive changes, please take a look.
- Social prescribing is my pet favourite subject (more to come later), and is a way that communities can support each other by providing and participating in activities which increase self esteem, give a sense of belonging/purpose and support our physical and mental health. It’s a national approach where GPs and other primary carers can ‘prescribe’ an activity or intervention from a database of mainly gifted activities, instead of prescribing medication or other investigations when not appropriate. For example I will be providing a few free Pilates sessions each week for suitably matched ‘patients’, other people donate things like pottery classes, cookery lessons, befriending and other physical pursuits etc. Speak to your surgery to find out if there’s a version of it running in your area.
- There will undoubtedly be lots of support groups and 1-1 services close to where you live in the voluntary and professional sector, many of them free and appropriate for you. Unfortunately they’re seldom advertised in one easy to find place. Contact your local GP surgery, council or library because they’re likely to know how to direct you. Social media can be a great source of info and the internet enables you to stay anonymous whilst you’re doing a bit of research, just be cautious and stay with reputable sites.
Life chucks things at us all the time and sometimes in really unhelpful clusters of bad stuff! We’re kidding ourselves if we think we can absorb everything and still function happily and effectively. We are all at risk of mental ill-health. My personal reflections (which may not be dissimilar to yours) are that I get more and more isolated with excessive social media use and stuff on my computer for work, as does most of my friends and family around me. I doubt myself a lot and ‘being relevant’ is becoming increasingly important causing a lot of self-pressure. I’m getting older and friends and family are starting to become un-well and I worry for my own health too. I am quite remote from my extended family and I care too much about what people think…..With the help of the links this week I’m reflecting on these things and what I’ve actually got. I know I’m lucky at the moment because I don’t need to make big changes but I am certainly going to make some small ones starting with closing my computer. Please look for yourselves. Quality of life – wherever, whenever you can get it x