Author - Betty Ashman
As a mum and a businesswoman, I've been under all sorts of stress lately, from both home and work. The only upside is that I've inadvertently discovered new ways to put stress aside. Let me share my journey of discovery and some tips with you on how to overcome that overwhelming pressure.
My husband and I had attended a friend's birthday party. We'd looked forward to a night out with friends after being worn out by our 4 year old during the day. We had a great time, left for home around midnight - my husband had a little too much to drink, so I was the designated driver. We got home safely, everything was fine...
...then it happened.
I opened the gate to our place, and was followed by my husband. Before I got into the house, there was a big bang! He had tripped on the steps, fell head-first onto the hard floor of the paving and even left some bloodstains on the ground. He was unconscious but still breathing - I don't know if it was the alcohol or the fall that knocked him out, perhaps a bit of both. There was a huge lump on the side of his head and scratches from the fall. I anxiously woke our helper and we iced the bump, hoping to ease the swelling. Just as I was about to call an ambulance, he woke, giddy and weak. Nevertheless, he was moving, and managed to get up and get to bed with our help. I had to wait and see what would happen the next day.
The following morning, he complained of a severe headache, nausea and giddiness: it wasn't just the lump, but also a bruised rib. He rested most of Sunday and recovered a little, but was still feeling the effects of the fall on Monday. Though unable to work, he absolutely refused to let me take him to a doctor for an X-Ray.
Refusing medical attention was one thing, but his hashing club was another. Hashing refers to non-competitive social running clubs, and my husband was the co-hare of the day's race, tasked to help lay out a paper trail to guide the runners. He had to leave at 4.30pm to set up for a 6.00pm run, near a cemetery, designed to end in laughter and beer. He was feeling weak, but insisted on going.
I pleaded him to promise not to drink after the run, but men can be weak when it comes to alcohol...and he had the car too. Did I worry? I certainly did. However, after some reflection and struggle, I put that worry aside. I couldn't change his decisions or actions, and that anxiety would not accomplish anything.
Instead, I took my son out to the nearby supermarket while his daddy was running in the dark. I ran into a good friend just as my mobile phone ran out of battery. We went for a quick bite together.
My old - normal - self would have frantically attempted to find a charger, checked my phone for texts from work or friends, and tried to call my husband to make sure he was alright.
This time, I did none of that. Instead, I decided to go with the flow, and refused to stress out. We played a word game with my son, laughed, enjoyed each other's company, and had good fun waiting for daddy to come home.
My husband returned in one piece, unscathed. He told me how good the run was, how great the turn-out was, and even shared a joke with me. There was no nagging, no negative comments - in fact, we all went to bed early, 9.45pm on a Monday night.
On Tuesday, I amicably convinced my husband to see a GP. The doctor confirmed he had a mild concussion, developing a blood clot and breaking two ribs.
I'm glad I didn't know that earlier. I also forgot to mention that my husband is 70 years young.
After this harrowing and yet cathartic experience, I wanted to share with you these lessons learned on handling stress:
1. Stress is a self-inflicted emotion
Choose instead to welcome stress that is positive - like that of meeting new friends, working on your business and celebration - to minimize the negative stress from worry, anxiety and nervousness.
If I had chosen to focus on worrying about my husband, I would've ruined the family's evening, and complained incessantly to my friend instead of enjoying his company.
2. Do what you can do, then go with the flow
You only have a limited ability to control what's going on - do what you can, make your contingency plans, then trust that whatever happens will happen. Pinning any negative emotions on potential events is a waste of energy.
In my case, it certainly wasn't easy to stop worrying, but I chose to literally put that worry away. There was nothing I could do to change my husband’s actions and I can’t worry over things that haven't happened. It's pointless and only drains your energy.
3. Be in the moment...
...whether it is a task to complete or a moment to enjoy with loved ones. Enjoy that moment without disturbances.
If I chose to worry instead of enjoying the company of my son and friend, I would have missed the delight and laughter. I would have missed out on a lovely experience to cherish.
4. Be pleasant and positive
Have a positive and pleasant attitude takes you a long way in overcoming difficult situations. Even in deep fear and desperation, positive thoughts and hopes are crucial to one's emotional well-being. That well-being impacts those around you, especially children. They are emotionally sensitive and able to sense the feelings of adults even if they don't necessarily understand what's going on.
By being upbeat and positive about my husband's night run, my son sensed that I was relaxed and that I was paying attention to him.
Last but not least, find some humor, and share a joke or two with friends and family.
The family and atmosphere at home was better when I didn't nag at him for going on the run, and didn't overload him with my worries. I shared his jokes. His head still hurts, but we had a good laugh.
I hope these tips help you in your times of stress, and hopefully those times will not involve a husband with a concussion and cracked ribs!
Do you have any more tips to put stress to rest? Tell us in the comments!