24 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: I’m struggling with stress

It sounds like you literally need to give yourself a break

Russell Hemmings.
2 Sep 2016 | 12:00 am

I’m a mum of two kids and I also work part-time, and at the moment I feel like things are getting on top of me. I think it’s stress; I struggle to keep anything in perspective. The smallest irritation or things not going to plan throws me into a spin and I find it hard to control how I react. Is there a way I can learn to be more laid-back?

I think you’ve gone a long way in identifying what the problem is yourself when you talk about stress. Juggling work and being a mum not only takes an awful lot of energy, it requires huge amounts of organisation, and this can leave you feeling you have very little time for yourself.

Throw tiredness into the mix and you have the perfect stress cocktail, and when our stressometer is always bouncing around at the max point, emotional reactions can become more extreme. Part of this is about not being able to see the bigger picture. When you lose sight of the relative importance of events and your reactions reflect this, it’s a sure sign of something else going on under the surface, and it is this that you need to address.

You mention you have a tendency to become very angry, and I feel this is why you have written to me as it has probably made you feel concerned. If you are reacting angrily to everyday situations, such as normal childhood misbehaviour, it’s worth considering seeing a counsellor to help you manage your stress more effectively.

It sounds like you literally need to give yourself a break. If you can, get a relative or friend to look after the children, and take some much needed me-time. It could be a few hours, or even a few days, and this will give you the space to think about how you are really feeling.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help; we all need it sometimes and it’s a sign of strength rather than of weakness if we can admit to it. Looking at your daily life at a distance and in a more relaxed frame of mind will help you develop the objectivity you need to see what is causing you to feel such a high degree of stress and how you can change things to bring your life and perspective back into balance. So I would urge you to reach out for support and share your feelings with those you trust.

When it comes to perspective, there are some strategies you can use to help you regulate your emotions when stressful situations arise. Understanding what triggers these responses you refer to is a good start. When something arises that sends you into a spin, if possible get into the habit of taking yourself away from the situation for a minute or two to give yourself time to think about just how bad it is compared to all of the things that have happened, are happening or could happen in your life.

Being able to rank events objectively like this will help you to re-engage with what’s truly important.

A negative outlook on life tends to snowball and bleed into all areas, so catching yourself having negative thoughts or using negative language over and over again can allow you to reframe things more positively.

Take some time out, give yourself permission to have fun, laugh and enjoy the important things, like your family. Don’t aim for perfection; it’s not attainable. Rather aim for balance by simplifying things as much as possible and from this you will develop a broader outlook that will allow you to see the wood and not just the trees.

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Email your queries to

Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.