Every month the associates at Aspire Too will answer your questions in our “Ask the Counsellors Feature“. Please submit your questions confidentially to firstname.lastname@example.org
I used to think of myself as a strong, independent person. I recently moved out on my own, secured a good job after finishing university, and rarely ask people for help. I used to feel content and pretty happy with my life, for the most part. However, over the past several months, I have taken on a new role at work, started grad classes, and have also been dealing with a lot of personal, family related, stress. On top of that, I have a few friends that have really been getting on my nerves. I find myself short of patience and feeling burnt out. This is unlike me. Everything seems so overwhelming and the smallest event will cause me to break down. When I have some time to address these issues, I don’t know where to start and find myself avoiding everything and everyone because I’m so overwhelmed. I feel like my go-to coping skills aren’t working, I have almost zero energy for people, and it feels like I can’t handle day-to-day life. What is wrong with me?
First of all, I would like to applaud you for taking some big steps in your life. Just because you are having some struggles, it’s important not to discount the great things you have recently accomplished. Part of building resilience is focusing on the positives. That being said, it sounds like you have a lot going on! There are very few times in life (if ever) that we have zero stress. There is often some source of stress (personal, work, family, etc) that a person experiences and, believe it or not, stress can be a good thing. Stress can help us strive to do better and reminds us we are alive and capable. However, when we have a lot going on at once or when things build up over time, it can feel overwhelming and it can be very difficult to know where to start. Sometimes, when we are in a state of stress for a long period of time and don’t practice healthy and functional coping skills, we can end up developing some potentially serious mental health symptoms. Stress is a part of life; it is how we respond to stress that makes us resilient.
A few helpful tidbits that may help you through this difficult time:
Try to differentiate between what you have control over and what you don’t, and then respond accordingly. When something is upsetting or stressful, ask yourself, ‘what control do I have over this?’ If you can and want to take action, do so. If it isn’t in your control or you don’t feel like it is worth the energy or potential outcome, try your best to leave it. We often waste a lot of our energy and emotion worrying about things that are completely out of our control to change. Try to focus the energy on things you can actually change.
When you do have control over a situation, take action! You cannot wish problems away; instead, you have to take positive and clear actions. Make a priority list and/or a concrete plan to address the situation. Nothing boosts confidence like working through problems and surviving them. Spend your time on things that are important to you and your life, not superficial annoyances.
Focus On The Positive
We are at risk of getting into slumps and feeling overwhelmed when we are focused on all the things going wrong in our lives. Leave yourself positive reminders and get into the practice of focussing on what is positive about yourself and your abilities as well as the positive things going on around you. Keeping a gratitude list or journal can assist you in keeping a positive perspective when you’re feeling low.
Continue To Move Towards Your Goals
In times of stress, we have a tendency to give up on or put a pause on things that are important to us. DON’T STOP MOVING! Even though at times you may be moving at a snail’s pace at best, it is important to keep goals in sight and continue moving towards them. This helps to maintain momentum and is a reminder to make yourself a priority. It doesn’t hurt the confidence either as it always feels good to move forward regardless of what is happening around us.
Look For Opportunities
In every situation, regardless of difficulty, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. Even though this can be painful, embrace it. Be okay with not being okay, and try to learn to be okay with needing and asking for help. Reflect on the situation at hand and try to pick out the opportunities or lessons you can take away. Reach out to someone close to you and don’t be afraid to lean on them. Vulnerability takes strength but also strengthens relationships; strong, positive relationships are important during stressful times.
Take Care Of Yourself
Everyone has heard this one a thousand times but we are not always good at actually doing it. It is okay to say ‘no’ to people and situations, especially if saying ‘yes’ means saying ‘no’ to our own mental health. Pay close attention to what you need and then do those things. Self care is different for everyone. Set limits for yourself and only take on what you can handle; this will vary depending on what is going on your life at any given time. Sounds like right now you need to cut back on a few things and slow down a bit.
These are a few strategies to help you achieve balance and learn to cope with the stress that life can bring. Feel free to reach out to one of our many skilled counsellors to help you manoeuvre through this difficult time.
Kelly Gerhardt, B.Ed, M.Ed., RPC