If you ask yourself to list 10 things that made you anxious or stressed this week how easy would that be?
And if you then had to list 10 things that had filled you with joy, made you feel calm or happy, how easy would that be?
For most of us the first list is a lot easier than the second.
When we are already feeling a bit stressed, a bit anxious or in fact a lot anxious, it’s so easy to notice the scary, frustrating stuff.
And that makes sense – if we are looking to protect ourselves from harm, being super alert to threat so we can avoid it is good – right?
To a certain extent yes – learning not to pick up something hot is important, it’s good to be at least aware of hot things around us so we don’t get burnt.
A little stress, a little anxiety, is a good way for our bodies to tell us things might not be 100% amazing right now, it can motivate us to change for the better and look for new solutions.
We are more complicated than that and being anxious all the time can cloud our judgement, leave us feeling drained, ill, and make us avoid activities and people that are good for us.
To go back to the example above. Being very anxious about hot things could lead us to avoid hot water completely. Then we can’t have a decent cup of tea or take a shower – and that’s no fun!
So where is the balance?
Admittedly life can be sometimes feel like we are being bombarded with one tough situation after another. Hearing someone tell you to “stop worrying” or “remove stress from your life” can be irritating to say the least.
But you are allowed to take breaks – even in the worst moments.
Why – because It helps you decide if that water is boiling and dangerous or just warm enough for the perfect bath.
Something that makes you feel calmer, makes you laugh, doing something new or interesting, isn’t just allowed, it’s a way of giving your body and brain a moment to heal.
And it doesn’t need to be big stuff. In the midst of a panic attack a bit of distraction can go a long way, meeting a friend for lunch before a job interview can help you go in with a clear head, watching a favourite TV programme can help after a difficult day.
This week collect those little moments of calm, of pleasure, of humour.
Notice what doesn’t make you anxious and give yourself a break.
For more information about Mental Health Awareness Week see the link below