Dealing with stress, before it deals with you.

The monkeys in my head. Constantly so busy. ‘Was this done? Was that done? What will I do when?…’  Rarely are they concentrating on what I’m doing now. Thankfully writing this, I’m in one of those rare moments. I’ve got that unfamiliar feeling of bliss, where all that matters is this moment so relax and enjoy it and live life in a ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly in Swahili) way.

I can come up with a million and one reasons as to why it’s easy to relax here in the calm, simple and beautiful Tanzania compared to the work centred, hectic Ireland. But are they reasons or excuses?… I will hold my hands up and admit that “I’m so stressed” was a sentence I’ve used on a daily basis this year. And it’s a sentence that has been ridiculously overused in the past few years that it has now become trendy.

Skinny chinos, new red cons, a matching shirt that’s buttoned all the way to the top, and a story about how much of a stressful week I’ve had. I’m going to fit right in.’

So how do we break the trend? Well that is entirely up to you. Three suggestions I have however (and three things I will change about my own life) are as follows:

  • Take time for reflection

Reflection is something I’m forever preaching about but until now I’ve put it on the back burner and haven’t truly practiced it. Ask yourself this: How much time do you spend alone per day?… Yeah? Well I call bullshit…We think we may be alone, but we’re on our phones to our hundreds of Facebook friends or in an imaginary land of ‘Game of Thrones’ fighting for our lives with swords. How much time per day do you actually spend on your own, with nothing but your thoughts?

If I was to answer honestly, REALLY HONESTLY, the only time I spend alone thinking, is when I’m sitting on the jacks. And that is why, when I get into bed, my mind starts trying to catch up with itself, and I’m lying there asking myself, why the hell can I not sleep?

But not for long. Once I get home, I will be leaving the iPod behind when I go for a run on Bettystown Beach. I will also start to follow Kolb’s ‘Cycle of Reflection’ when reflecting on specific tasks I’ve completed. I’m looking forward to a time soon when I’m doing no thinking in bed, only sleeping ;-).

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  • Talk to people about feelings

Unfortunately every one of us knows somebody who has been seriously affected by a suicide. Suicide is the devastating atomic bomb at the end of a tragic journey that starts with stress. Suicide is also more common with young males in Ireland. One of the key reasons behind this is because we are afraid to about our feelings.

                ‘Do you want to talk about your feelings?’

                                ‘Huh no, I’m not gay.’

                ‘No you’re an idiot.’

We cannot continue to fall into that trap and lock up our feelings and emotions until they engulf us and explode out in the form of something so crazy like suicide. So whether it’s friends, family or even total strangers, talk to people. Remember you’re not weird if you do. In fact quite the opposite. Talking to each other is one of the most natural things that us humans have engaged in since the beginning in time. We just belong in a weird society where young men talking about feelings is somehow portrayed as a sign of weakness. Well it’s time to stop worrying about what people around you think of you and just do what feels natural.

Which brings me along nicely to my final point.

  • Stop trying to fit in and just be yourself

Stop looking around you for inspiration on what you want to become and look within instead.

Do you ever look in the mirror and see a stranger looking back? Next time you’re in front of a mirror, look eye to eye with yourself and ask ‘Who am I?’ When you find then answer from the inside, that is the person you should be on the outside.

I have had a tendency to pick a public figure I admire and try to clone myself into them. I’m ashamed to say, the only reason I got my eyes tested is because I thought Louis Theroux looked absolutely dapper with his glasses and to my initial delight, it turned out I’m blind as a bat. What an eejit…

If everybody becomes who they truly are, then normal will become the new weird. If you want to wear shorts on your head, do it. If you want to sell your car and move to Spain, do it. I know for a fact lads will slag me over posting a blog but fuck it, it’s just me being me. (Actually one of the lads used to keep a blog about how he tried to get with girls so surely they’ll just remember that and slag him again.) So make sure you take all the opinions that society throws at you with a pinch of salt and say “I am who I am”.

So everybody, please find your way to deal with your stress before it gets any worse.

David A. Kolb, 1983. Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. 1 Edition. Prentice Hall.

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