A friend of mine has suffered from a number of mental health issues for a long time.
The problems would vary over time and their severity would alter too, often resulting in him having several months off work and intensive therapy.
I would often speak with him and try to help as best I could, most of us in our team tried to help him.
It’s the nature of our job that it can get very stressful and this takes its toll over time, grinding you down, but it’s how you manage this stress that is important.
We would deal with jobs in which there had been terrible neglect or abuse. It’s always hard dealing with incidents like this but it was certainly harder when I involved children.
One thing I noticed was how children just got on with life, often living in terrible conditions. It was as if they didn’t know any better so just got on with it.
Sometimes, you walk through life, through town maybe, and you are witness to people breaking down. An elderly person accidentally gets knocked over in a busy shop, someone loses their bag with everything in it, something quite mild and they appear to go into shock, unable to handle the circumstances. Before doing this job, I would look at them and wonder why something so seemingly tame could have such an impact on someone.
It was only over time, through experience, that I thought about why this could be. How could kids take so much abuse and fight on yet other be floored by something so innocuous. Speaking with my mate, I had my idea and floated it to him.
It’s cumulative. Each person has a lifetime capacity for bad experience and the older you get the more likely this capacity is being reduced.
I likened it to everyone having a cup, a container of some kind. Over the course of your life, your negative experiences add to this and positive ones reduce it. You may, at some point experience serious trauma which not only add greatly to the level but permanently affects the capacity of this container as if it was damaged or broken.
Ultimately, at any one point, your cup has a maximum capacity and once you reach that level you are in the danger zone. You are at the limit.
This is the only thing I could think of when explaining it to my friend. To explain why I thought it could be that sometimes the smallest thing would tip him over the edge – the straw that broke the camels back.
None of this is new thinking, I am not a doctor or shrink.
I tried to think how I deal with my stress and how I stop things affecting me so deeply it could make me ill.
Managing stress is vital and it seems, these days, needs to be taken more seriously.
You can drink or overeat but, long term, these will start to impact on you negatively too. I do drink but rarely to excess and I probably eat too much but I also run, a lot, outside. It’s good exercise and helps manage stress though the release of endorphins (apparently) but it also gives me time to think through things in my head, to work things out. Being outside is usually a positive thing.
The other thing I would push my friend to do was to care less. About as much as possible. So people worry about everything and this can be a massive impact factor too so care less about t things. I am not advocating not caring – that goes against what I believe but there has to be limit.
I would generally say to worry about that something that actually affects you or that you can have an actual affect on – I’m not talking about a protest tweet, actually doing something, getting involved.
You are going to take hits in your life, some bigger than others so unnecessarily worrying about things you have little to no control over will only impact you in a bad way. If someone is talking about you behind your back either tackle them about it or move on, don’t let it fester – things like that will eat you up.
So, care less.
You might just live a longer, happier life.