Oh boy, where do I start? Stress. Nobody wants it. Everyone will suffer from it. Surprisingly, we can all benefit from it. Failing to manage stress can leave you feeling incredibly anxious, unable to sleep, irritable and generally like an emotional wreck. There have been a couple of times in my 22 years of life where I have felt stressed. One bout of stress was caused by a job. The other was caused by a difficult situation at home. That coupled with me trialling the contraceptive pill, which I am never, for the life of me, going to do again.
Work-related stress can be caused by many different factors: a manager, a commute, being overworked, poor/too many working hours or a combination of everything. My 6 months of work-related stress started when I got a work placement in London. My daily commute was around 3.5 hours per day (ridiculous, I know) and I was an intern. A third of my salary was spent on train fares alone. I would also travel back to Devon on weekends to see friends and family. It killed me. 3.5-hour commute + 9-hour working day = recipe for disaster. My immune system barely existed. I suffered from 4 bouts of tonsillitis over the 6-month period and always had a cold or some sort of illness. If you’ve suffered from tonsillitis at its worst, you know how horrific it can be. I was also so tired ALL THE TIME. I was running myself into the ground for very little pay off.
Aside from the long commute, I felt undervalued and undermined by my management, which is never how you should feel when you are doing a good job. It got to the point where I was so low, one day I had to take myself into a booth away from everyone to do my work because I was worried I was going to cry in front of my colleagues. A lovely manager from another department noticed that something wasn’t right and came over to check if I was okay, and I burst into tears. He literally said to me, “Nobody has got you by shackles and chains.” *Lightbulb moment* I had to resign. I suffered one more episode of tonsillitis after this then thought, yep that’s it, goooooodbye. I haven’t had tonsillitis since and it’s been 2 years.
The key lesson I learned here was: DO NOT, under any circumstances, allow yourself to be undermined, condescended, patronised, humiliated and undervalued by your management, especially if you are perfectly competent and putting yourself through hell just to be there. They have employed you, they should have faith in you. If not, you will find a job where you are valued and respected by everyone including, most importantly of all, your manager.
Another thing to remember is that there is always another option. It may be difficult or harder to spot at first, but it’s there. You do not have to put up with a situation that is causing you stress and making you unhappy. I understand that the more mouths you have to feed and responsibilities you have, the more there is at stake. This is when you have to confide in people. Talk to whoever you are closest to and ask for advice. You may come to a better solution than you could have possibly imagined.
The other period of stress was caused by a tricky situation at home. I won’t go into too much detail here but it was a situation that wasn’t going to change or get much better. This period in particular was difficult because I was also on the contraceptive pill. The pill made me incredibly anxious and emotional all of the time. I would have nights where I would not fall asleep. I would lay awake the entire night because I was so anxious, worrying about everything in the world. I was also unable to deal with any minor issue without getting very stressed and emotional. This significantly affected my relationships with those around me. I realised something had to change so I stopped taking that pill and slowly, things improved. It saddens me to think how different I had become. Whereas now, stress seems like a distant memory and I can’t remember the last time I felt really anxious.
“Many of the women we’ve spoken to didn’t make the connection between their declining mental health and their pill until years after they experienced the side effects. Some of them, like me, were also prescribed medication for mental health problems which, like mine, went away when they stopped taking hormonal contraception.”
— Vicky Spratt, 2017.
It took 6 months of crying, laying awake at night, and constant anxiety for me to realise that actually it wasn’t me and my personality causing this behaviour, it was all the extra hormones I was pumping through my body on a daily basis coupled with what was going on at home. Our minds are simply not made to handle the sheer volume of hormones in contraception. Mine definitely wasn’t. No amount of scented candles and fairy lights got rid of my contraception-induced anxiety… (more about that in part 2). My word of advice here is to really think about what contraception you want to take. As soon as you notice any abnormal and out-of-character behaviour, come off it!! I think half of the issue is that the hormones take a while to kick in. Then suddenly 6 months down the line, you’re having a full on breakdown because the sink is blocked…. It really isn’t worth it.
I wanted to share these two experiences with you because they have been so significant in my life. Hopefully you can relate to some of it. My experience with stress held the key to my passion about wellbeing. In order to avoid that low place I was once in, I make a continual effort to better my health and wellbeing, emotionally and physically. I’m going to share some tips and techniques that I’ve learned to help combat everyday stress in part 2.
I hope you enjoyed this rather personal blog post. Feel free to comment or reach out via email if you’d like to talk about anything that I’ve mentioned. Thanks ✌🏼