Confessions to My Shoulder Angel
When is it appropriate to mind your own business, and when is it not? But what if you’re the person whose “business” needs minding?
Life is stressful, and grumbling about how busy we are is a badge of honour to some. But what happens when our time is so focused on solving other people’s problems, that we do so at the expense of our own psychological health, and we forget that there’s only so far we can stretch ourselves like a rubber band?
Are we sometimes so caught up in what’s going on around us that we miss the signs that something’s not right within ourselves? Do we ignore the angel on our shoulder, telling us that we need to stop and look after ourselves when the devil on our other shoulder is telling us we simply don’t have the time?
Stress is an all-encompassing phenomenon, and Australia’s Biggest Mental Health Check-In, conducted by mental health technology company Medibio, recently found that a third of corporate Australia is feeling stressed, anxious and depressed.
We all experience stress every day and at various levels, and not all stress is harmful. Some stress can, in fact, be positive, challenging people to act in creative and imaginative ways. But when stress is chronic, it can be damaging and leads to serious health problems that even the busiest of us sometimes choose to ignore.
According to Beyond Blue, 3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression, and roughly one in five individuals will be affected by the illness. And while it’s not always possible to avoid stress, it is possible to look at both the causes and how we respond, so that we can deal with both ends of our burning candle.
Being aware of your psychological well-being is a continuous process of seeking to thrive positively in all dimensions of your life and deserves your time and attention, no matter how busy you are. Our professional, emotional, social and physical needs all overlap. It is a rare person who can compartmentalise their life and not take their stresses of work back to their home and vice-versa.
Signs and symptoms of stress that we need to pay attention to include:
- Memory problems or forgetfulness
- Poor concentration or attention span
- Constant worrying
- Moodiness or short temper
- Feeling overwhelmed
- A sense of loneliness
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Lack of sleep, dreams, nightmares
- Isolating yourself from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
Balancing the demands of a busy lifestyle is not an easy thing to do but by noticing how you respond to stress, you can manage it in healthy ways. Here are a few ideas to help you strike a good work-life balance:
- Manage your time effectively—evaluate your activities, priorities and success factors
- Create a boundary between work and personal time– try to leave your work at work
- Enlist a good support system and learn to delegate, because you don’t have to do everything yourself. Truly. You don’t!
Coping strategies are very individualistic and may include:
When life gets tough, getting help doesn’t need to be, and there are numerous self-tests and treatment programmes accessible online. Visiting a GP or mental health professional may open your eyes to alternative things you can try to help manage your stress from day to day and assess if you need medicine or further help. Treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy can be useful in improving mood. And if you have a mental healthcare plan from your doctor, you may be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual or 10 group appointments in a year with some allied mental health services.
Don’t be too busy with life to overlook making your psychological health and well-being. Let’s be honest – you won’t find the time unless you make it a priority to find the time. And accept that it’s a continuous process as your life changes so as to make sure you’re keeping on track. The ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life is essential for the well-being of us all. Listen to the warning signs and remember, those who matter won’t mind if you’re taking care of your own business. And those who do mind, well, they don’t matter.