Merly Kammerling is a stress reduction and mindfulness teacher, chef who has worked at restaurants such as Temper, Caravan and The Modern Pantry and is now training to be a qualified therapist and coach. Her business – Me, Myself in Mind is passionate about educating the hospitality industry on stress, how to identify it and finding better ways to cope aiming to raise awareness around mental health issues and that stress and self-care are nothing to be ashamed of.
Stress isn’t abnormal or bad…it’s how you deal with it that counts.
The above statement may shock some of you, but the truth is that stress is almost impossible to avoid. The good news is that not all stress is bad and being able to tell the difference between them is an important lesson.
Most people spend a lot of time worrying about stress and that’s very understandable, but instead of worrying, being ashamed or trying to bury it, what if we acknowledged, accepted it and gave thanks to our stress? It may sound a little nuts so let me explain why….
First of all, there is good stress. Really, it does it exist! It’s the stress that you find during an enjoyable shift along with that thing called adrenaline pumping through your veins, mixed with a little anxiety when you are in full throttle of a bar or kitchen service. It’s super-busy but you’re powering through, you know what you’re doing, you’re in control and ‘in the flow’. This kind of stress is called eustress – a positive form of stress that encourages performance, motivation and agility. It’s also what keeps you going when playing sport or challenging ourselves with a hurdle we see as beneficial to our personal growth or something that gives us that pleasure-pain sensation like having a new tattoo or skydiving.
But it is distress that is the negative form of stress and leaves the deepest, darkest impression on our memories and behaviour. And seeing as us humans tend to remember the negative experiences over the positive ones, it’s not surprising that this is the one we are most familiar with.
Distress is formed from rather opposite situations to eustress, it decreases our performance, the ‘in the flow’ feeling and it comes in different sizes. Large stressors in life could originate from childhood trauma, bereavement, financial issues and break-ups. Smaller stressors may come in the form of commuting during rush hour, awkward customers on an evening shift or social media trolling which makes you feel rubbish about yourself. Distress is what you are feeling when you are overwhelmed and anxious at work, or worrying about /dealing with situations that you don’t enjoy or want to participate in.
It is not surprising then that too much distress leads to mental health issues such as depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), addiction and anxiety disorders, which can then lead to physical issues such as burnout, low immune systems and panic attacks. This type of stress is the one we are understandably most afraid of, therefore we try and push it away whenever we can, cover it up and decompress it as soon as possible with a quick-fix feeling rather than deal with the root of the cause.
But we should be grateful that nature is giving us a sure clue that something is wrong and is trying to gently remind us of our mental state. If we ignore this stress it can turn aggressive and comes back time and time again with no compassion or solution. Stress is a normal reaction to what our mind and body is sensing is an abnormal situation and it wants to let us know that it is finding it difficult to cope… say a huge thanks to yourself for the heads up as this is where we can begin to make small changes for the better.
The solution may be found in finding a productive way to relax which helps to counteract and heal all the mental and physical damage that negative stress has caused us. Mindfulness, meditation, gentle exercise and listening to music are all great ways of relaxing, as well as reading a book or talking with a good friend. Proper relaxation is also the foundation of a decent night’s sleep and that is golden as our sleep is so precious to our wellbeing. To name a few, relaxation elicits clarity, emotional stability, boosts the immune system and is even found to be anti-ageing! This is why relaxation is so important and should not be seen as a luxury but a well-deserved recharger and stabiliser that can help strengthen our coping mechanisms.
Also think about filling your tank up with more eustress, the good stuff that will nourish you. Think about what you really enjoy in life and do more of it, even the smallest pleasures. It’s easy to forget what those things are or feel guilty about doing them when we are engrossed and blinded by our own distress.
And if all this doesn’t sound effective enough then maybe something deeper needs to be addressed? We all owe it ourselves to have self- compassion, seek help and talk about our issues, big or small. You deserve to be heard, an opportunity at figuring it out and living the most manageable and content life you can.