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To think being told to avoid 'stress' is a useless piece of medical advice?

(25 Posts)
Myearhurts Thu 27-Nov-14 09:43:22

I was reading the thread about Perimenopause and it got me thinking about the whole situation. I decided to do some research about how best to prepare for it.

There doesn't seem to be anything you can actually do, which is fair enough.

However a few of the articles I have found say that you must 'avoid stress'. One of these articles was written by a doctor.

How on Earth do you avoid stress? Does anyone go around deliberately throwing themselves into stressful situations?

I find this really frustrating advice and I've been told it before in relation to other medical conditions that I have. To me, it's like being told to avoid oxygen or avoid time.

Then I end up feeling stressed about the fact that I can't avoid stress. I'm a very anxious person and stressed is pretty much my default mode! So I end up worried that I'll drop dead by 40.

I wish I was a grand Victorian lady who could take to her bed at the slightest provocation and have the servants do it all - but alas it's not to be.

I'd rather be given no advice at all then this.

NormaStits Thu 27-Nov-14 09:49:58

Yanbu. It would be more useful to be given tips on how to cope with stress better, surely. Short of removing yourself from life, you can't avoid stressful situations, but you can change your responses to them, with guidance.

ssd Thu 27-Nov-14 09:52:43

thing is, you are how you are

I'm a worrier, no amounts of "dont worry" said cheerfully, helps

to say avoid stress is a load of crap, thats like saying go live in a cave

TheBigBumTheory Thu 27-Nov-14 09:52:46

Stress is part of life, which by necessity throws the unexpected at you. Even good times can be stressful, like having young children.

You can learn to deal with stress, I'm sure this is the intention of the advice. CBT, mindfulness and exercise have all been shown to help anxiety.

The is a Zen proverb about being hit by an arrow (stress) then removing it and sticking it back in yourself (dealing with stress by overreacting, wishing things hadn't happened, getting angry, telling everyone, getting revenge etc..). The second arrow can be got rid of by learning how to respond to a stressful situation better.

Mindfulness for Dummies is a good starter book.

hackmum Thu 27-Nov-14 09:56:28

Completely with you, OP. But I think it's a thing doctors do to avoid taking responsibility - it makes it seem as if any worsening of the illness you experience is then your fault because you've failed to avoid stress. This naturally makes you more stressed.

I've also found that if I've been to the GP with symptoms they can't diagnose, they'll tend to say, "Have you been under stress lately?" I've learnt always to say No to that question.

radiobedhead Thu 27-Nov-14 09:56:36

I think they should day 'deal' with stress rather than avoid it. There are lots of things you can do to lower your stress and anxiety levels.

And tbh judging by threads on mumsnet there are lots of drama llamas who seem to seek stress! Maybe the advice is aimed at them wink

hackmum Thu 27-Nov-14 09:57:42

Just another thought on this - a useful piece of advice from doctors would be how to avoid (or at least manage) stress - I think TheBigBumTheory's post is probably right, actually, that things like mindfulness and relaxation are pretty useful. But a blanket "avoid stress" is no help at all.

ssd Thu 27-Nov-14 09:58:29

so how do you avoid stress then?

ssd Thu 27-Nov-14 09:59:56

mindfulness stresses me out, in the back of my mind I'm going BUT BUT BUT......when trying to concentrate on the moment

BlackeyedSusan Thu 27-Nov-14 10:01:45

I suppose you can avoid some stress... like planning weekends to not have too many things to do in them, not takng on extra responsibilities... some things are unavoidable though.

MillionToOneChances Thu 27-Nov-14 10:02:54

My neighbor was telling me last night that - after his stroke - his GP told him to just hang up the phone on clients/suppliers who stress him out because it's not worth making himself ill over. I'd imagine there's some satisfaction in that grin

ssd Thu 27-Nov-14 10:07:02

blackeyedsusan, your post is a total contradiction...plan to avoid stress...oh but things happen...

anyone else?

skolastica Thu 27-Nov-14 10:09:54

'make lifestyle changes that support you in limiting stressful experiences/help you to better deal with stressful experiences' might be a better way of putting it.

andsmileitschristmas Thu 27-Nov-14 10:12:40

It may help to identify what are you stress triggers and either avoid them or try to condition yourself to have a different response. I am in no way saying this is easy.

I get stressed when Im running late - normally to get DC somewhere so I've worked on my time management so I'm much more relaxed when driving to whereever, have eveyrthing I need and I'm not shouting at the DC.

I do appreciate there are meny things that are beyond out control so you have to try and change your response. Exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress hormones.

redexpat Thu 27-Nov-14 10:13:30

Depends on how it's delivered. Saying avoid stress isnt helpful, but asking what stresses you out, what could we do to reduce that is actually quite helpful. Some stress can be avoided by better planning and being prepared. eg getting everyone up and out of the house in the morning is made easier by everything being ready the night before. But sometimes you're blinded by your own situation and then you feel a fool when your GP/HV points out the bleeding obvious

TychosNose Thu 27-Nov-14 10:13:32

You can identify stressors that you can avoid. Does that make sense?

For eg I get really stressed in the mornings when I'm rushing to do the school run and I can't find my keys, dd's school stuff, ds's hat etc so I have a little basket next to the door with all the things I need ready and waiting for me. That way I'm avoiding the running around in a panic that I used to be in. (I realise that sounds trivial but I have a lot of mh problems so for me it's a big deal)

But, yes, there is stress in our lives that we can't avoid and that's a bit of a bugger!

andsmileitschristmas Thu 27-Nov-14 10:16:05

We have to really examine our habits and cycles: abc happens then leads to xzy, try to change these.

Do less, plan in times to relax - be selfish.

dreamingbohemian Thu 27-Nov-14 10:17:09

I don't think any doctor expects people to be able to avoid stress completely, but it's useful to get people to focus on whether they might be able to reduce stress in their lives. Stress IS a killer and

TychosNose Thu 27-Nov-14 10:19:15

blackeyedsusan's post is not a contradiction

Some stress can be avoided by careful planning, and some can't.

Serenity prayer springs to mind!

radiobedhead Thu 27-Nov-14 10:20:13

There are loads of tips online for dealing with stress so I won't bother linking to them, easy enough to google.

A couple of things that help me though:

1. Worry time. Choose an hour in the day to worry and stress. If you worry outside of that hour, mentally park it and come back to it during that hour. Make a list to come back to

2. When you get to worry time, or any other time, think through what the issue is. Can you do anything about it? No? Then leave it. Very consciously tell yourself there's nothing you can do so try to move on. Can you do something about it? Yes? So do something, even if all you can do at that point is plan to do something, for example make a note to call the bank in the morning if you're worried about your overdraft.

3. Avoid caffeine, booze, get more sleep

4. Relax. Here are some relaxation audio files glasgowspcmh.org.uk/downloads/audio

SaucyJack Thu 27-Nov-14 10:20:21

There is plenty you can be taught be a therapist to do to avoid stress and/or cope better with unavoidable stress.

Just saying "avoid stress" on it's own is a pretty unhelpful piece of advice tho.

dreamingbohemian Thu 27-Nov-14 10:24:19

oops posted too soon!

Stress is a killer and doctors would be remiss not to tell us that. I agree they should offer more concrete suggestions though.

I think a starting point is to really figure out what stresses you out. And then think: is there any way to get this out of my life entirely? For example, I see a lot of people stressed out because they can never say no to people. Learning how to say no is a great way to reduce stress. Or some people just take too much on and need to cut back.

Then there may be things you can't get rid of but can learn how to deal with differently, by being better organised or getting people to help you out, etc.

CBT is very good if you are permanently stressed, because it helps you think and react differently.

Obviously none of this will work if your stress comes from being really ill or having no job or money, being in an abusive situation, things like that. In those cases, the advice is really insensitive.

TheFriar Thu 27-Nov-14 10:30:37

Well reducing your stress levels us the best thing you can do for your health and well being.
However you can't avoid stress (even though if you know for example that listening to the news is going to annoy you/make you angry, maybe reading the paper every other day is a better alternative than sky news switched on all the time).
What you can do is reducing your stress and there are plenty if things you can do:
- exercise
- having a calming activity once a day (reading, painting, singing, coulouring, meditating....) for 10mins a day.
- learn to modify your reaction to events around you. One good way is to out yourself at the place if the person who has annoyed you and try and see things from their pov.
- laugh everyday
- and for that matter, smile everyday.
- learn to be grateful.
Tbh none of this is straight forward or easy. But it does make a huge difference to your day to day life, lower stress, leaves more happy and also helps with your health

radiobedhead Thu 27-Nov-14 10:38:06

OP if your ear does hurt (hence your name) it could be TMJ which stress causes.

And there is some stuff to say stress is good! Make it your friend. A TED talk www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend?language=en

Callani Thu 27-Nov-14 10:44:05

I think you can avoid stress to a certain extent by adapting your reaction to stressful situations (similar to BigBum's post) which is what CBT teaches.

So you can minimise how much you worry about certain things by acknowledging that they are intrusive thoughts and not constructive rather than by allowing yourself to focus on them to the point of anxiety.

You can train yourself OUT of perfectionism and learn to be happy with a "job well done" even if it isn't perfectly done. You can choose whether you want to spend energy on impressing other people when you're happier suiting yourself. You can learn to say no to people who take advantage of you, become more assertive.

So yes, you can't avoid stress fullstop, but you really can do something about how you react to it and that can go a long way.

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