Stress

How to stop it from fuelling your life

Over the past few months, I have begun to realize how many of us are drained by the demands of modern day-to-day life. Whether this is schoolwork, family or a job, each of us I’m sure can name a recent time when we’ve been at breaking point due to an unhealthy strain on our mentality. I know that, rather too often, I am a stress-fuelled machine that uses worry to clunk my way through what I need to do in the day. Many people will say this a modern phenomenon (and to an extent I agree) because of the rapid pace at which life is lived nowadays: especially if you are somebody susceptible to feeling the pressure to have a perfectly refined life for social media onlookers.

When I knew that I had my foot on the accelerator too often (destination a breakdown I’m sure), I decided to devise my own mental agenda of things to do that weren’t aimed at getting the usual ‘things’ done – it was instead a way to hit the breaks of my machine, take a step back, and enjoy life in the slow lane for some time. I am aware that not everyone will find my way of relaxing beneficial – but I hope that in reading some of my ideas, I am encouraging someone in need of a well-deserved break to take time off from stress.

Firstly, breathe! This is hardly an innovational idea, but there is a reason why we are encouraged to remember to do this. When you are head-deep in work and worry, take yourself away from the source of it and physically relax. This means being comfortable and breathing in deeply to clear your body of the signs of stress, so that your mind is then more likely to follow suit. I tend to have a short break from work to do this, choosing a place of fresh air and relaxing my body until my mind is occupied with my present physical feelings.

Secondly: becoming in tune with what makes you happy. It is vital to get the work-life balance right in order to function adequately. For me, this means taking time out, whether it be for a few hours or an entire weekend, to occupy myself with something fun and care-free. I like to think of it as catering to my inner-child – which we all have deep down! This can be taking a trip to a theme park, walking your dogs or painting a picture – anything will do if it doesn’t involve the stress of intense work.

Spending time with the people that matter to you is important. In western culture, we live in a rather individualistic society that focuses on the importance of autonomy; and while it is important to focus on yourself and your goals, it is necessary to stay connected to the people around you. This way, stress is less isolating (as I know it can be for me) and you have a support network of important people who can likely spot when you are in need of a break. Independence is good: but so is human connection.

Ideally, time management is an excellent skill to hone, in order to stay relaxed and organized. Doing ten straight hours of work simply isn’t as effective as doing two; followed by a break; then resuming it for another two. Scheduling in the ‘life’ half of the balance mentioned earlier would be a good idea to break apart long hauls of work. Time management includes allocating yourself proper relax time in the evenings so as to get a good night’s sleep: think of work as a healthy cycle in which your mind and body need to sufficiently refuel in order to perform effectively the next time round.

Those are just a few general pointers that have helped guide me into a better headspace where I am happier and healthier. I am sure that in today’s current climate, we are all aware of the need for good mental health along with physical health. It was my awareness of this that encouraged me to find a new fuel, rather than stress, to drive me through everyday life and its demands.

Thankyou for reading,

Fran

Scars

Learning to live with them: learning to love them

Scars are the body’s natural way of healing and replacing lost or damaged skin. We all have them: some big, some small, some bold or some slight. Either way they are reminders to us all of something that we have experienced in our lives – meaning that they are not just part of our external identity, but they may also shape our thoughts and feelings in our day-to-day life.

I’m sure that we all have that one mark on our knees or chin from when we took that bad fall when we were children; it serves the purpose of being our first lesson in taking more care of ourselves. I feel that these faint types of memories that we have accumulated on our bodies do not make us feel as self-conscious as other things we have. I know that I have never covered up my chicken pox scars, because I know that vast majorities of people also bear the same mark. It is a childhood memory after all – a fond part of early life. Up until 2015 therefore, I was not self-conscious of my scars. But in that year I gained a rather severe looking red line running up my back, that for the next couple of years would hinder me in many more ways than I ever could have guessed it would.

I was diagnosed with scoliosis (curvature of the spine) when I was 12 years old. After what felt like a sprint of hospital appointments and tests that are now all blurred into one, I had undergone spinal fusion surgery in order to correct the shape of my spine. I had always been a straight thinking and optimistic person, but in the chaos of my operation I felt as though I lost all my concepts of how I felt about my body, and these were instead replaced with a singular feeling of sullen resentment towards the scar upon me. I could sense it constantly. It acted as a mean looking frown whenever I glared at it in the mirror. It bitterly annoyed me, despite how many times I was reassured that it was “fine, it’s so neat!” – ‘neat’ being a word that I wasn’t too sure about.

Because unlike the mild scratches, marks and spots that I had always bore, this scar acted as a reminder of a time where I was at my most vulnerable, and when I had acquired a rather brutal new perspective on my physical appearance. Ultimately, the scar was not just physical; it was psychological too. It was like a pathway from my body to my mind, a route of self-conscious anxiety that thrust to the front of my life a constant awareness of how I looked to the outside world. Was somebody staring at the red line on my back? What were they thinking? It is human nature to be aware of yourself in social situations, but when it was preventing me from relaxing amongst friends, my self-consciousness about my scar grew into a festering ball of stress that I knew I had to confront.

What I realized in a cliché light bulb moment when looking in the mirror one day, was that it was not the physical mark that I was so saddened by. It was the event that it symbolised – the one where I was vulnerable, scared and confused. And so, I resolved to confront the issue of my operation with the force at which it had hit me back in 2015. I began discussing the experience with the people who I trusted, enclosing all of the negative emotions tied to it, and the difficult memories I had previously repressed. I would write down new, hopeful ways of thinking about the event and I would repeatedly tell myself that it was not a negative thing about me. The sense of relief and peace that eventually came from sharing and exploring my experience is best likened to a gushing flow of water being released when a bolder has been removed from it’s path. Learning to live with scars that we have is a journey, an emotional and thoughtful one that many of us have to embark upon in our lives. Of course, not everyone will struggle to live with his or hers scar. But I feel that in this often scrutinizing society, it is becoming harder for many people, such as myself, to not feel self-conscious about the marks that make them unique.

As of today, I am proud to say that I love my scar. It is not a source of sadness, but one of strength. I have chosen for it to symbolise a time that I underwent a major physical change that empowered me, along with a positive mental alteration that now allows me to view in a sensitive way other people with their own unique physical characteristics. Learning to live with the experience that shaped the person who I am today has contributed to a greater sense of self-love that I can only hope we all get to have in our daily life.

Thank you for reading,

Fran