Have you ever had a stressful day that ended in tears? Have you ever wanted to cry but didn’t? Yeah, I’m right there with you. Both scenarios happen to me and I know I’m not the only one. But is it because of the job stress, my mental health status, or both, that I sometimes break down in tears?
Feeling the Pressure
Whether your job is to be a caretaker at home, whether you work at Starbucks or whether you have a fast-paced corporate job, you will always have days that just seem like too much to handle. At times those days might be so bad that you feel like saying “I just want to kill myself” even though you have no urge or intention of doing so. Saying that relieves the pressure somehow. Is this pressure which you are putting on yourself or is that pressure coming from the outside? More often than not if you look at your situation closely, the pressure is coming from you. We are so hard on ourselves. Does the pressure ever lighten up? Maybe only when you go to yoga, I don’t know. But we all need to find ways to cope. My coping mechanism is going to psychotherapy twice a week.
Going to therapy really helps me. As soon as I’m sitting curled up in front of my therapist in the familiar setting which I know so well, the soft lighting, the pictures on the wall and the bookshelf, I know that I can let all guards down. I know that I can be utterly and truly, unabashedly me and no one but me is going to judge myself. The day has wiped my energy so I don’t have the bandwidth to be judgemental of myself right at that moment. This is my safe place. It’s a place where I can go and express all of my unexpressed emotions that need out. They need somewhere to go, they always do. And there he is, in his office: my faithful, reliable therapist. I know that I can count on him to be there for me when I need him.
You Don’t Have to Tell Everything
Have you ever at the end of a stressful day set about doing a task and, upon realizing that the task doesn’t actually need to be done, exclaimed “God loves me” out loud from pure relief? That happened to me today. When I sent an email to my boss about the fact that I am feeling overwhelmed, being unable to face her in person about this, she asked later how I was coping. My response? “I’m using my coping skills.” Because it’s true: crying is one of my coping skills, but I don’t have to tell my boss that. If I can have a good and hopefully private cry, then the overwhelming emotions get released and I feel better afterwards. The task then is to figure out how to not get overwhelmed like this again any time soon. But if it happens again, it happens again.
Shit happens. It always does, especially when you are least expecting it. You come across a trigger, that trigger could even be the state of being overwhelmed, and you need to release the tension of that trigger. Hopefully, you have healthy ways to do that. Hopefully, you can abstain from alcohol even though a glass of red wine seems very appealing after a stressful day. My alcohol substitute? I discovered kombucha. It’s fizzy and you have to adjust to the fermented taste but it comes in all sorts of flavours like apple, guava and mango. You just have to find your “kombucha.” It might be a treat at the end of the day like watching an episode of your favourite show. It might be drinking hot tea or putting lavender oil on your pillow at night, a shoulder massage from your partner, or cuddles with your pet. You could even do all of these things at once in the same evening!
Identifying Your Feelings
At the end of the day when I enter the safety of my therapist’s office, I am able to let my emotions out. It turns out that I am feeling angry about the fact that I had a stressful day. I am also feeling angry about other things but those remain yet to be uncovered in therapy. Underneath the anger lies anxiety and sadness. Who knew? That those emotions were even there?
Sometimes the hardest thing is trying to identify your feelings. Once you have discovered the underlying reasons for your stress, then you can begin to talk about it and deal with it. It is in the virtue of this process of understanding where we heal and then the uncomfortable feelings begin to dissipate until they are no longer there. One thing that I need constant reminders of is that “feelings come and go but I remain.” I am quoting my therapist and I’m sure numerous other therapists out there who teach their patients the same thing. Feelings will never last forever; they always go. They come and then they go. It’s a cycle. This means I won’t feel angry forever, and as it turns out, I am no longer angry!
It’s About How You Handle Your Stress
In the end, I discover that job stress affects my mental health status and vice versa. Sometimes there’s never enough time in the day to get things done. Sometimes the day crawls by and at other times it flies by. If my workload starts to stress me out, negative thoughts begin to circle around my mind and it would take considerable emotional regulation skills to find my way back to baseline. Luckily I’m not a therapist and therefore I do not have to worry about suffering from compassion fatigue. See? There’s always a positive in everything. You just need to open your mind to see it.
Giving Yourself Permission
The next time you are feeling stressed, do what I do. Look away, take five deep breaths. Tell yourself you won’t feel like this forever, that the uncomfortable feelings will end. Remind yourself that you have survived and therefore conquered moments like this before. Plant your two feet on the ground and tell yourself that everything will be okay. Repeat that a few times in your mind or under your breath just to let it sink in. Reach out to friends if necessary. They are your support system for a reason. And lastly, please know that you matter. You matter greatly, to me, to your loved ones, to the world. Even if you can’t fathom it in the moment. It’s okay to experience emotions. Give yourself that permission, the permission to live.