Why you shouldn’t dismiss the signs of stress.

I am not the person I thought I was.

I thought I was someone that ‘got on’ with things.

I thought I was someone who could keep a cool head in the face of adversity.

I thought I was someone who, when faced with a particular challenge, would put their head down, work through it and move on.

I thought I was someone who was resilient, determined and independent.

When life give you lemons, make lemonade. Isn’t that what they say?

But I am not the person I thought I was.

It turns out that I’m more fragile than I thought.

It turns out that I’m stressed out. So stressed out in fact, that I’ve been having anxiety attacks.

So stressed out that I feel low and worthless.

So stressed out that I broke down in tears with my doctor last week.

Stress is a funny old thing. It’s a word we can throw around flippantly and so readily, it’s easy to brush it aside and not take it seriously.

But it is serious. And it can be debilitating. I know this now.

When stress becomes a problem

It is difficult to pinpoint an exact moment in time when the stress and pressure I felt went beyond what might be considered ‘normal’. What I do know is that it has been building for a long time.

I don’t want to go into details about why I feel the way I do, but let’s just say that my work-life balance hasn’t been in equilibrium for a while.

The result has been that I’ve found it near-impossible to stop thinking and worrying about work. I’ve felt increasingly anxious whenever I thought about it and I’ve had trouble sleeping.

Concentrating on tasks has been difficult too. I’ve had what can only be described as a ‘mental block’ when it comes to writing anything. For the last few months, whenever I’d sit at my computer to write a document for work or a post for this blog, no words would come.

Things eventually came to a head last week – it was always going to happen at some point – and I found myself sitting in front of my doctor. I broke down in tears telling her about how I felt and explaining the reasons why.

I told her that I felt silly coming to her and crying about feeling stressed. After all, I said to her, stress is a natural part of life. It’s why I hadn’t asked for help before: I worried that I would be seen as weak and unable to cope at work.

My doctor, thankfully, was great. She explained that stress and anxiety is common and told me that she sees roughly 2 people each week with the same problem as me. She gave me a note to say that I was unfit for work for a little while and also recommended a course of online CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy).

Before last week I felt like I was drowning. Stress was affecting how I thought, felt and behaved. It affected my work and my blog, but worse of all it also affected my family. It made me distant in a way that I hadn’t realised; consuming my thoughts and controlling my mood.

Now I feel like someone’s thrown me a life jacket.

And that, right there, is my whole point to this post.

Stress is very real. It affects people’s lives more often than you might think. Left unchecked, it can easily develop into anxiety and depression, 2 of the most common mental health problems in the UK.

Stress shouldn’t be ignored. It shouldn’t be dismissed. It isn’t something you should feel ashamed about.

If you’re feeling stressed out, please don’t sweep it under the carpet. Help is always there.