It starts as a gentle murmur at the base of your skull, and soon spreads upwards, quickly consuming your mind and filling your head with an unrelenting buzzing that cannot be halted. Your eyes blur over and the sound disorientates you, you feel light-headed yet at the same time like your head weighs a ton.
I personally have always felt that I handle stress very well. Growing up I never got as overwhelmed as my friends seemed to when it came to exams or schoolwork, and I wouldn’t usually panic myself over results or achieving certain things. I used to think I was just a more laid-back and relaxed person than those around me, perhaps just more comfortable with going with the flow and letting things play out by themselves.
It’s only really in recent years that I’ve learned a lot more about myself and how I cope with stress. This time period was the one with the biggest changes and the most pressure to achieve things and be successful, both in University, at work and in my personal life. I started to realise that all of this time I’d been convincing myself that I was handling things well and that I wasn’t getting stressed, when actually things were building up inside me.
I would never really confide in people about things I was stressed about. It was rare for a friend to ask me how I was and for me to reply with anything other than “good thanks, how about you?”, or for my Mum to ask me how my day was and for me to respond “fine thanks”. I could have had the worst day possible and yet I always felt like confiding in people or letting things off of my chest was putting a burden onto them. I’ve always been someone that people to come to with their issues- the “mum” of the friendship group, the one who gives good advice, the sensible one…The list goes on. And I love being that person for other people and being able to help people where I can. But I never took the time to understand that holding all of my personal feelings in was unhealthy and impacting me a lot more than I realised.
Writing and expressing my feelings has always been my secret outlet. I would write diaries, note down song lyrics, write little poems on my phone, write blog pieces like this just to make sense of the things I was feeling. It never felt like anything more serious than a hobby or just something to keep me busy, but it was only during the last few months when I completely stopped doing all of these things and having an outlet for my thoughts that I truly felt the impact. I would feel all of the stresses of the day, no matter how big or small, building up inside my head and I would feel so down and low, or angry and frustrated. I took it out on the people around me and would cause arguments or be overly emotional, or just close myself off and not want to talk to anyone. It was only once I started getting back into the habits of reading and writing for myself that I started to sense that the feeling was easing.
Having an outlet for your emotions and feelings is so important- and it doesn’t have to be something creative. It can be as simple as going for a walk, putting in headphones and listening to a new album, exercising or reading. We are seeing record numbers of people, particularly young people, struggling with their mental health and to cope with the pressures of life today and its important to realise that just because you ignore the stress or worry doesn’t mean that it won’t affect you. Take some time for yourself every day to do something that you love, and be sure to encourage those around you to do the same.