Stress takes up time and space
Stress can do funny things to time, and when we’re feeling overwhelmed it can make us feel like we have no time. It can make it hard to break things down into moments, or manageable chunks because we just feel lost in our anxiety.
Stressors can, in that way take a life of their own and sometimes it can be hard to think of anything else aside from these stressors. I often find when something particularly stressful is coming up, time is split into before and after that particular thing and I’m not able to think of a lot else. As I write this, I feel stressed about getting everything done, I have an appointment coming up that I’m nervous about, it splits my day sharply in too. I play the appointment over and stress on what will happen, and I replay the appointment after, unsure how to make sense of it. So that suddenly an hour-long appointment takes up the whole day in my mind.
Slow your mind
So how can you slow down your mind and bring it back to tasks at hand? How can you only experience things as they happen rather than experiences them over and over in your mind through your anxiety.
The truth is it can be really hard. Sometimes it takes a lot of energy to fight your natural instincts to slip back into negative thinking patterns around stressors. It’s worth the fight though, it’s worth taking a moment to question how you are and to be aware of your thoughts. Remind yourself that often we’re making something more stressful than it needs to be and that the deadline or event is not life or death.
Accept your thoughts
It’s important to also accept your thoughts. Someone recently said to me you can picture your thoughts like trains going past a platform. You can either watch the train go past and stay on the platform or sometimes, particularly when we’re stressed, we might board the train. Run with the thought, use the thought to fuel negative thoughts about ourselves and lose ourselves to anxiety rather than what is actually happening to us right now.
So, try and practice, recognising a thought, a stressor, being aware of it and then letting it go. You don’t have to berate yourself for having the thought, just be aware and then let it go, let the thought train leave without you.
Check in and keep track of moments when you do lose yourself in the moment.
If you’ve been feeling stressed a lot, sometimes that can be all you remember. Sometimes when someone asks, I might say I’ve been anxious all the time but in reality, there is usually moments of comfort or distraction. Make a note of these times and what the things were that brought you comfort or distraction. So that when you next feel stressed you can go back to that list. For me, it might be things like having a cuddle with my pet bunny, playing animal crossing on my switch, scribbling in a journal or re-watching a favourite tv show.
In this way then, take notice of yourself, and what matters to you and what helps you even if only for pockets of time, that still matters even if doesn’t ‘solve’ your stress and anxiety.
Need more support?
If you feel your anxiety is getting overwhelming and too much, you can talk to you GP who may then refer you to other services. It can nerve wracking talking to them, so we have a page on making that step to talking to your GP about your mental health.
If you want to understand more about anxiety and what support might be available you can explore the Anxiety UK webpage. Anxiety UK have a textline on 07537 416 905 and a helpline on 03444 775 774 as well as group support and live chats.
If you feel a lot of your stresses are mainly around school you can read our page and resources for stresses at school.