My daughter is in Year 13. In the UK that means she is working hard (I hope) for her A levels, which she will take next May. She has homework, mock mock tests in the next couple of weeks, mocks after Christmas, a dislike of working at revision, a desire to get decent grades so she can go to the University of her choice and a teenager’s natural demands on time: parties, shopping, reading, online living. She’s stressed, and I know because she told me so one day as she burst into tears telling me exactly what she had still got left to do.
Stress seems to be just an accepted element in 21st Century life. We live, therefore we stress. Some people handle it better, some crumble under the weight. Even those who sail along in life are often just acting like swans…. all smooth serenity on the top, but a mad dash of legs and work happening underneath. 80% of us admit to feeling stressed at some time during the day… and one survey in 2015 found that people in London felt stressed for nearly 4 hours a day. I’m pretty sure that number won’t have dropped much in the last 4 years.
So, what can we do about stress? Anything short term is useful as a sticking plaster (that will give you a breathing space and a chance to catch breath) but won’t address the underlying issue, which is that modern life is not set up to be stressfree. Humans are not supposed to live stress free, we’ve evolved over years to handle problems involving what food to eat every day, whether we’re in danger and whether we’ll get through the winter. What we’re not set up to handle is the overwhelming levels of stress that modern life has evolved: what to have for lunch, which clothes to wear, do we have enough petrol to get from A to B, how many times do I have to tell the call centre that I’m not interested in the survey before they stop ringing daily…. and that’s only the small stresses. Let’s not get started on big stresses like how the country is run, who controls my data and whether I’ll still be employed after that emotional outburst. How people cope who face real stresses like finding a home for the night, feeding their kids or whether they’ll get work this week… I don’t know. I take my hat off to them, coping with things that would terrify me.
My life is usually not that stressful. We’re back to this past year having added stresses to my pile in a way that I found difficult to handle. My inner self was being questioned and demeaned and I found it difficult to walk away from the issue, which has implications across society. As my husband would tell you, I was obsessing about it and I never obsess.
I’m back in the room now. I’m through the issues, and through with the inevitable pushback. It’s taken me a few months, but I’m feeling more like me now than I have for a few months. The Yellow Sunshine Girl is back in the room.
Now, everybody’s way of dealing with stress is different. For many people, simply carving out time to be helps immensely: early morning cup of tea, a ten minute journalling session, making sure you do the things that feed your heart. For others, they need a more forceful approach to stress. I found the online mental health service, SilverCloud, offered by my GP enough of a kickstart. It’s Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and very much based on reframing, addressing the issue and recognising which issues I have control over and which are beyong my capabilities. I know you can self-refer in Liverpool, which is useful, as they have programmes to help with social anxiety and gentle depression as well.
And going forward? Well, I hope not to get low again, but if I do I know what my first responses will be:
- Clear time for me to write. Writing clears my head, lets me formulate my thoughts and gives me an outlet for ideas that sometimes my nearest and dearest don’t get.
- Cut back on Twitter. I can handle Facebook, mostly because it’s my light, fluffy self and no politics or social issues (thanks to The Hygge Nook) but Twitter gets very bitter and nasty very quickly. This August I came off it completely, but now I’m back and limiting my time on the platform.
- Connect with people in real life. I know at my lowest I stepped back from all my external commitments and couldn’t face people. It’s difficult to admit to problems when you’ve always been the strong, happy one. Now I hope people see me as I am, and accept me. On days when I need the time to be alone, I’ll take it… but real people are essential in keeping me focused.
- Commit to what’s important. I now have my priorities set out (in no particular order): my health, both mental and physical; my immediate family, including my parents; working in the office and on my books; anything else can go hang. If I want to take it on, I will, but I’m not obligated to.
And my personal stress busting moves? Nature, always, a good walk in the woods or anywhere where I can see trees. Reading as an escape route (chick lit novels, I’m looking at you). Eating well. Sleeping. Being honest and accepting human beings are just humans, not superman. Gratitude, focusing on people not the phone and seeing the beauty in small moments of joy.
The last six weeks have been like returning from a dark tunnel. The next six weeks, hopefully, will be like sunny uplands. It’s November 19th: come on, it’s nearly Christmas!!!
A Heads Up for Next Week:
My new book, Cosy Happy Hygge is available for preorder as an ebook on Amazon now. As you know, I do the whole kit and caboodle myself, from writing to proofreading to designing and I’m very proud of this one. It’s about using rhythm and ritual to make your life a gentler, kinder place. Writing it has been part of my recovery this year. If you prefer the paperback version, it will be out later this year as well.
I don’t monetise my blog. I don’t run adverts, take sponsorship for writing posts or use affiliate links. I want everything I do on this blog and in my hygge life outside to be truthful. If I promote a book it’s because I’ve read it and like it, if I point out an item it’s because it’s impressed me on its own merits and not because the publicist has talked me into it. It does mean I don’t run giveaways and I’m not chasing followers, but the drawback is that I need to find a way to support myself.
That’s why I write books. My thoughts are that if I ask you to buy a book not only does it support me, and let me keep writing as an independent writer, but you get something back for your bucks. I’ve written several books, some on hygge, some on Christmas. If you like what you read here, or in the Hygge Nook, and you’d like to support a struggling writer, would you please consider buying a book? Ebooks give you the best value, since for 2 or 3 pounds you get the whole content of the book without paying the extra for paper production, but I’d be a pretty poor writer if I didn’t appreciate the beauty of a real book in the hand. If you buy just one book, it all adds up in the end to support me, and I’d be so grateful.
If you already have my books, or just want to support me as an independent writer, you can always just send me the price of a cup of coffee as a friend, to paypal.me/HyggeJem . I tend to use a lot of my spare cash on books that I review for the website, so every penny donated goes towards building my happy hygge life.
My first three books are hygge related, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way was my first book, and is available in Paperback and Kindle version. It’s a simple look at ways to feel more hyggely in life and at home even though we’re not Danish and don’t have it in our DNA.
Happier is my fourth book. It’s about how I boost my own happiness levels. It’s full of hints, tips and ideas for you to use and adapt to suit your own situation. It is available in ebook and paperback version from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.
I have three Christmas books,
Have Yourself a Happy Hygge Christmas was released in September 2017 and is available again in paperback and ebook version. It looks at keeping the Christmas season warm and cosy, with ideas for activities and routines to keep Christmas happy.
A (Hygge) Christmas Carol is my look at Dickens’ immortal classic and the many lessons we still learn from it today. It contains the full text of the book as well as hyggely thoughts on the story.
Enjoying a Self Care Christmas is only available in ebook version. It’s about keeping Christmas simple enough and healthy enough to keep you sane in the process.
If you buy any of the books or some of the items through the links on this page, I get a couple of extra pence per copy, as an Amazon Affiliate, in Amazon vouchers which go towards buying more books to review for the blog. I’d really love it if you’d support me monetarily, but I quite understand that cash is tight for many people, and I just love having your support via reading and commenting as well.