My name is Laura Capell-Abra and I suffer from stress.
There, I’ve said it.
A big revelation for some; barely worth saying out loud for others. I’m not ashamed of it, you see, I know that you all experience it too, you just don’t know you do or you do know you do, you just manage it well and so you don’t consider it stress anymore. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of modern life.
I don’t believe that I’m weak because sometimes I can’t sleep at night or sometimes I find comfort in eating takeaways whilst working at 11pm in the office. I also think that when I’m sitting at my desk, looking at my things to do list, finding myself thinking that frankly, my life can feel very busy and complicated sometimes and wondering what it’s all for, I’m normal, I know this is normal.
For those that have watched my webinar, you will know the incredibly big variety of symptoms of stress that people experience. You will also know that I’ve suffered from unexplained, non-itchy rashes across my limbs. Well unexplained at the time, now attributed to stress. It’s amazing how stress can sneak out in some peculiar ways.
I get referred to by friends as a robot because how well I can function on so little sleep. I don’t see this as a good thing as I’m sure it’s not good for me. The positives being that I’m ‘skilled’ at having a big night and being able to present at 10am the next morning. But the negative side being that I’m pretty sure that if I got more beauty sleep and could be bothered to go to the gym (and grow 6 inches - sleep helps you grow right?!) I would probably be on Britain’s Next Top Model and surely models don’t suffer stress as they’re too beautiful to?!
So until my sleeping patterns change enough that they allow me to grow 6 inches by achieving 8 hours sleep a night, I’m happy that for me, if disrupted sleep is the only real outlet for my stress. Well I can cope with that.
My life isn’t ‘stressful,’ I know I make my life more stressful than it needs to be. It’s my approach to work. I push myself, not because I have these incredibly ambitious targets to achieve in life, I’ve just always been told to Do Your Best.
On an average day, how many times do you feel like you could’ve done better? I think that most days. If I’m honest with myself, if I’d spent a few minutes more on each task, I could’ve probably done them all better. But you have to toss up between doing your best and doing your list. It is a balance that can be hard to find but it is there. I choose doing my list as long as I can justify to myself that my not quite best is still good enough for the other person. I’m not trying to slope off work, I’m not trying to fob people off with below-par work, I’m just trying to make sure that my world keeps moving.
I’m a talker, I didn’t use to be. (Well I did, in class but I’m not talking about inane chitter chatter!) I mean talking openly and honestly about things. I learnt the hard way that it’s important to tell people how you feel, ideally at the time but if you can’t do that, as soon after as you can.
My epiphany moment was about 9 years ago. I was feeling stressed, I’d even taken myself off for a long weekend in Scotland so I could go for long walks in the cold to clear my head and ignore the real life I had in the city. I came back and had a car accident. Nothing major but that was my breaking point. The crying then started, I cried, and cried and cried. I went into to work and I got told I was being moved to a new client account. That was it, I’d put so much effort into that client that I felt like I was being punished, not rewarded by being given a new opportunity. That was the point that I knew that I had to re-take control, I’d let the 15 hours a day I was doing at work take over my life that I had become too emotionally involved in the actual work.
I went to see a counsellor, it was the best thing I have probably ever done. That person was my saviour, a few months later, I was back on track. I still had my demons to deal with and I still felt stress at points, but I had worked through how I could deal with my stress and the most important thing that I learnt was that I’m not invincible, I’m pretty close but I can break, as can everyone.
I now tell people if I’m stressed (in fact, I’m definitely on the over-share side now), it can be my other half, one of my friends, sometimes just a taxi driver who happened to ask me at the wrong point in the day how I was doing. By saying out loud that, do you know what, I am a bit stressed, I’ve got this massive presentation or I’ve got 6 meetings today, 3 of which I’m not ready for and I haven’t eaten since last night. It helps. I’m admitting that this isn’t my normal and that I need to re-balance myself.
My re-balancing normally involves gin, writing a mammoth list and a night of no emails. Clearly not helpful during the day but a nice thing to plan into a week.
Have a watch of this video if some of this sounds familiar or if you think you maybe close to your epiphany moment. The aim is that we help you manage your stress before you get to the point where you have to do something.