Mental Health

Mindfully coping with stress

Today I want to talk about mindfully coping with stress, something that I fight most days as I have an anxiety disorder. It might help you to do these things as well.

mindfully coping with stress
Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash
Image description: A man is seen sitting on a rock in the sea watching the sunset

Stress is a part of life, certain things make it worse, but we have all dealt with stress at one time or another in our lives. I grew up not knowing that I had an anxiety disorder, and honestly wondered how people coped in life if everyone was as scared as I was every day.

Often I would be sick before school, and hated having to go anywhere alone as I was afraid I would get lost. As I got older and had to do more things on my own these fears only got worse, until I threw myself in the deep end by going to university!

These years were some of the hardest for me, I gained confidence, but my anxiety came out in other ways. I mostly coped with alcohol and tried to ignore my brain, which led to a lot of migraines, the stress of my life leading to more mental health issues.

When I became sick and came back home, I tried lots of jobs, I wanted to work and bring in money I didn’t want to give in to my chronic illnesses. However, it soon became apparent that I was unable to do any of the jobs I tried so I stopped trying to work.

This decision led me to starting to concentrate on my health, and as well as doing yoga to keep my body moving, I started to practice mindfulness. This is a decision to not focus on our thoughts, not to be caught up on thinking of the past, nor worrying about the future.

It is something that is constant work, a ‘practice’ and nobody can ever be 100% mindful all we can do is keep trying. For me, the patience and practice is worth it because it can stop me spiralling into my depression and anxiety too much. They are always there, this is not a cure, however it is a way to make life easier to cope with.

The holidays are coming, Christmas is difficult for many of us, and I have struggled with this time of year ever since my grandparents passed away. The pressure of buying gifts and seeing family as well as the fear that the weather will ruin everything is always stressful.

On top of that, the press is full of the governments new plans to try and save £4 billion by trying to get more disabled people off benefits and back to work! This is terrifying, honestly I have been so afraid because I have tried so many jobs from office assistant, to dental nurse and been unable to keep any of them.

The DWP is well known for lying and twisting what we say to take the small amount of benefit from us leaving us no choice but to get nothing while we fight to get it back. It is a very scary position to be in when you have not got the choice to get a job because your illnesses make it impossible!

This is even worse when we are still dealing with Covid and the pandemic which has left so many people unable to work because of long covid! People get sick to the point of being unable to work through no fault of their own, we need support and money to live on, not go back to work you are just using it as an excuse!

Nobody who is currently receiving disability benefits thinks it is an easy option because it is not! In fact there is currently an investigation into deaths caused by the DWP! It is not easy nor fun to be on these benefits so I highly doubt there are so many people thinking otherwise just sitting pretending to be sick to get them!

Anyway, my point is the world is a scary place, and it is easy to get caught up in reading about these things, and hearing about Christmas and get overwhelmed. I have found however that there are strategies related to mindfulness that can help.

Mindfully coping with stress

  • Know your triggers – Many of us do not know our triggers, we blissfully move through life wondering why our thoughts have suddenly turned dark. However, practicing mindfulness means we can see those thoughts that start the descent and can work on them earlier. A big trigger for me is the news, both watching and reading it so I don’t anymore! If I see a headline that is relevant to me I will send it to my hubby who gets stressed about nothing who will give me the gist of it without the button pushing the press love. Knowing your triggers and avoiding them is a game changer!
  • Let it go – (did you sing that in your head) In mindfulness we are taught to watch our thoughts go like a cloud on a summers day. Let it pass by without judgement, or latching onto it; something that takes a lot of practice! Learning to let go of the worries and stress is so important to keeping your mind and body from being affected by worry.
  • Just breathe – Anxiety and tension can really affect our physical health, so to lessen this a big help can be to pause, and just breathe. Closing your eyes and just concentrating on your breath, even for a minute will do so much to relax you. There are many meditations and breathing exercises you can find on YouTube for free, but it can just be as easy as taking some slow, deep breaths for a moment.
  • Control your environment – This is a big one, because let’s be honest, we have choices in life, and though wars and government decisions are out of our control, we can find supremacy in our lives. So, if it is the news, don’t watch or read it. If it is Christmas presents, give to charity instead or buy for fewer people. We can make decisions and changes at any time that make our lives easier, so make changes where you need and live your best life!
  • Be here now – Mindfulness taught me that now is the only truth, the past is skewed by our biases and the future has not happened yet. Right now is the only place that matters, so let go of worries and fears and stop letting the now be robbed from you. Find happiness in this moment, the run up to Christmas can be enjoyed too so slow down and find the joy in today. And changes have not happened yet, there are already charities and the EU speaking out and they have more chance of helping than you can by worrying.

Mindfulness is all about letting go of our thoughts, letting them pass by and instead making changes so you can enjoy and appreciate the present moment. Less stress, if you are anything like me, means less fluctuations in our bodies flaring which can only be a good thing.

So, I hope that mindfully coping with stress will help you to cope with stress that always comes at this time of year. Enjoy the run up to the one day we are forced to celebrate, and let go of political worries.

Thank you xx

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  • Flowersstorms

    Oh Beverley, I thought of you and my other friends with ME/CFS etc when the news dropped yesterday about trying to force disabled people who need benefits into work. This government is so cruel. I’m glad you’ve got strategies that help you manage your anxiety – I know how much anxiety sucks and I have to be constantly aware of my own anxiety triggers too. Awesome hubbies definitely help a ton!

  • Kaz

    I find some days are harder than others to practice mindfulness when having an anxiety disorder and yet is still worth doing. I gave up on the news in 2020 so rely on others telling me what I find relevant. That news was shocking and I thought of you.

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