Q: I am not sure what to do about all of this. It seems that I am wired up most of the time. I don’t know what to call it, whether it is stress or anxiety, tensions, pressure or what have you, but whatever it is, it is driving me crazy. I am so restless some nights that I get next to nothing for sleep, and then I’m tired and cranky the next day. I get impatient, angry and sometimes just plain rude to my family, the most important people in my life.
I would like to relax, to sit back and enjoy things more. What do you suggest that I do?
A: Let’s talk about two of the more common ailments that may be bothering you — stress and anxiety — and see if we can come up with some suggestions that might help.
Imagine that inside your head you have a heavily armed platoon of soldiers. The tasks of these soldiers are to protect your well-being and to lead the charge in making things better for you.
There are other soldiers out there. The weatherman has his army, out to catch your soldiers in unpredictable summer storms or in frigid temperatures in winter. The commodities markets are well-armed with their fluctuating daily prices, as are the revenue offices for those tax collectors bearing down on your bank accounts. There are soldiers fighting for your children’s schools and soldiers protecting the basement for your Sunday morning church services.
Stress comes when too many soldiers are gathered out there for your army to protect you. Your guys start running around, keeping you awake at night, shoveling in as much food as they can at suppertime, and just generally being afraid of all of those other armies.
To overcome stress, you would best reduce the numbers of soldiers challenging your soldiers. Maybe you can resign from the school board and let those soldiers torment someone else, or would it be better to step down from coaching your daughter’s hockey team?
Anxiety is something a little bit different. People get anxious when they lose confidence in their soldiers’ ability to ward off the other armies. It does not matter how many armies are out there, or whether or not you are able to reduce the number of soldiers getting set to go after your guys. You don’t believe in your army’s abilities and no matter what they do, you are convinced that they will lose.
You need to build up confidence in your own army. That is not easy to do. You might well have spent a lifetime being beaten down by your parents’ armies, your Grade 7 science teacher’s army and more recently those deployed by an intrusive father-in-law. Building that requisite confidence in your own army is difficult.
The good news is that you can get help. Your family doctor will talk to you about support and medication and your mental health team can direct you to some exercises to fortify self-esteem and self-confidence.
Your task is to figure out what kind of support you need to garnish for your armies. Are there too many battles out there for your guys to pursue all at once? Maybe you need to cut back a bit. My guess is that whoever is your life-skills coach will have great suggestions for you.
It is possible to turn things around and to be proud of your soldiers and march into victory. Just get a little help.
Jacklin Andrews is a family counsellor from Saskatchewan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.