Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – few spaces left and I’m not doing it again!

The after-effect of bottled up stress

Like water, stress will find a way. It might seep out undramatically in small and unexpected places, making you snappy, forgetful, clumsy, less focused. Or it might build invisibly behind the strong wall of your mind, until one day it bursts its banks and your defences are shattered.

That is what happened to me the other day.

I thought I was OK. I knew I’d been dealing with a lot over the last few years, even ignoring Covid. I’d dealt with the too-sad death of my younger sister, my older daughter having a premature baby, my father dying (leaving me with unbelievable complexities to deal with – FOUR companies were so bad that they had to pay me compensation), my other daughter being rushed to hospital on Christmas Day with sepsis after having her first baby three weeks early and, two weeks ago, the day the Queen died, my older daughter having another premature baby. The terror of your daughters going through events like this is enormous. Life-changing. (They and their babies are brilliantly fine but that doesn’t lessen the terror at the time.) There are some other immensely stressful things going on but I could easily become boring on this…

I’m strong but no one is superman/woman. And trying to be is not a clever idea.

So stress found its way out. I’d set off on a run. Wasn’t feeling particularly great but I don’t usually exactly feel raring to run when I set off. But this time, only a few hundred metres in, I was overwhelmed by emotion and started crying. And couldn’t stop. I turned round and walked back, fighting for breath. (Hoping no one saw me.) I spent the rest of the day barely able to speak and certainly not speak without crying.

I cancelled going out with some friends to the cinema that evening. I was in no state or mood to be any kind of good company. And if someone had asked me how I was, the floodgates would have opened again! Not a pretty sight. I think I did some gardening but in a part of the garden where no one could see me and stop to chat. And I definitely picked some veg from my garden…

What I’d learnt is that stress does NOT necessarily work in the following way:

  1. Stressful or upsetting thing happens
  2. Person reacts, feels stressed etc
  3. Stressful thing fades
  4. Person feels better
  5. Stressful thing disappears
  6. Person is fine

It might happen like that but it might not. Actually, I knew all this already but I needed to experience it myself in order properly to understand, in my heart as well as my head.

Instead it might happen like this:

  1. Stressful or upsetting thing happens
  2. Person feels stressed but keeps a lid on the stress and appears to be coping
  3. Stressful thing fades
  4. Person feels a bit better
  5. Another stressful or upsetting thing happens
  6. Person feels stressed but keeps a lid on the stress and appears to be coping
  7. Another stressful or upsetting thing happens
  8. Person feels stressed but keeps a lid on the stress and appears to be coping
  9. Stressful things disappear and person feels relieved
  10. All the stress that appeared to be dealt with surges from its hiding place and overwhelms the person

Is there a way to avoid this type of delayed reaction?

Not completely but there are ways to make it less likely and also less bad.

  1. Be aware that stress can come out later, that how you feel now is not the end of the story.
  2. Find someone to share your feelings with at the time. Sometimes that’s hard – sometimes it might not be possible – but if you can find someone to whom you can say “I’m really struggling with this horrible thing going on” and they say the right things back to you, you might not get the after shock. Or it might not be so bad.
  3. When you’re going through something bad, do everything possible to try to keep up with the things you like doing, the things that make life good and your heart sing: friends, gardening, running, walking, cooking, whatever it is for you.
  4. Don’t try to keep the lid on the stress: instead lift the lid a little to let some of it out at a time. Each time you use one of the positive coping strategies I talk about in my books, you release a bit of stress.
  5. Be your own best friend, the voice you need to hear. Go easy on yourself, just as you would with a friend.

It’s OK to go under sometimes. You’ll come up again because you can swim – I’ve taught you. My books and talks teach you. It’s what I do: I teach swimming and sometimes I go under. But if you can swim you’ll always come up again and find dry land. And feeling the warm sand between your toes will make it all worth it.

My message:

Huge life events change you. Some things stay the same but the sands shift beneath you and it takes a while to find your feet and walk steadily again. Remember: you’re not superwoman and nor am I. You’re just a human being trying to grow stronger. And I’m here to help.

Resources for families and schools

I have a lot of things to help you. These are my favourites:

On my shop you’ll find some things at a reduced price but these prices are about to go back up so hurry!

Subscriber to my website? Don’t forget to use your discount code for your first purchase. If you’ve lost it let me know.

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