Last week I talked about how 2018 was a crisis year for me - which meant I got to road test standard coping techniques. I'm sharing my experiences with you, in the hope that you find it useful.
Note: I started making a video, but Swooner came in and threw up and now it's raining. I'm taking it as a Sign to Wait For Tomorrow.
Last week was about organizing and minimizing; today is about socializing and support.
We are social creatures and we need to feel connected. However, being around people when you are over-stressed, is tricky.
Stress affects your emotions. You may be a little too quick to anger, or cry, or to see the negative side of a neutral or positive comment…
Also, people who know you are in mid-crisis tend to ask questions, like, "How are you?" and "You poor thing. How are you coping?"
They mean to be kind, but it their questions can lead to you reliving the trauma that comes with crisis, instead of taking a break from it.
Plus, if you are lucky enough to have lots of friends, you may end up having the same conversation over and over. I become impatient when tired, and so I find this issue particularly difficult.
Then, there's 'advice'. This is very popular, and it's well meant. Friends don't like to see you suffer, and so they tell you how they cope or think they'd cope, and they frame it as "you should" or "have you done this?"
However, even if it's good stuff, unasked for advice can come across as second-guessing or auditing. Too much unasked for advice can have you questioning yourself and your coping strategies, thus further racking up the stress.
In short, being with people, even when they try to be helpful, might add to your stress in a time of crisis.
So, how do you manage it?
The first thing I do is to limit my socializing.
I draw back completely from social media. Stress affects my temper, and with cross cultural text communication being a challenge, I think it's best to take a break.
Next, I only speak about the crisis to my family and my closest friends. I can say anything to them, and they are sane, sensible and supportive.
I also connect with people who've been through the same crisis experience. Sometimes, just sharing with someone who's been there and done that is a relief.
At the same time, I up my face to face socializing. I lunch with writers, researchers, lawyers and academics, colleagues and acquaintances who don't know about my personal life. It's a great way to switch off from my troubles while giving me fresh things to think about.
Also, I have some pub buddies who are perfectly happy to talk about this that and the other, without treading on sore topics. We call it 'decompression' and it's lovely.
By carefully curating my social interaction, I get the best out of my support system and I cut down on the negatives. I think the concept is an important part of managing stress but the details of your approach have to be tailored to your personal experience.
If you want more details, take a look at the post on Support System Mapping. It's sensible, not psychology, but it's very, very useful!
Next time, we'll talk about saying no and setting boundaries.
Thank you for listening, and do leave a comment or come and talk to me on FB. And if you have an issue you want to discuss with a mental health professional, do contact me. The first 20 minutes are free.
Image by TeroVesalainen from Pixabay