Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page
I don’t know if it’s the same for you but when I’m driving on the motorway I have a tendency to speed up. I may start off with the good intention of driving at the speed limit, but as I settle into the drive, my concentration tends to waver and my speed gradually increases.
To keep my speed in check, I will periodically look at my speedometer and, if I am driving too fast, slow down to a more sensible speed. During my journey there is therefore a constant process of monitoring and adjusting my speed that goes on to enable me to keep things under control.
I was talking to a client about this in relation to her stress levels. She said that she felt that, like my speed on the motorway, her stress gradually increases as little things that annoy her accumulate. So a difficult interaction with a customer at work, a disagreement with her partner, breaking a glass, her children “playing up”, – all life’s normal little annoyances – for her they would build up to a point where she would have to let the stress out somehow, and often that would happen in an uncontrolled and unhelpful way. Taking the analogy with my driving further, it seemed that she didn’t have a monitoring process – the speedometer check – that would prevent her speeding up to 120mph and crashing the car.
So we talked about putting that check in place. How could she monitor her stress levels without an external gauge? Well, once she thought about it, there were signs. In particular she talked about what she could “see” when she shut her eyes. Was it quiet and peaceful in her head or was it nervy and anxious? And she could talk about scoring her stress level at a particular time from 1 to 10 . Then, given that she couldn’t hope to live her life entirely without stress, what was an acceptable level for her to be running at? What was her speed limit? And then, what could she do to reduce her stress level, to take her foot off the accelerator?
This sort of monitoring can be used with all our emotions, I think. Particuarly with stress and anger, but also with fear and sadness – “I’m feeling down, what can I do to cheer myself up?” And also, I suppose, with moods like excitement or boredom or restlessness. What can you be too much of? What is too much for you or those close to you? How can you be less of it? All very individual questions with individual answers.
I think (though passengers in my car may disagree), that monitoring and controlling my speed is sufficient to keep me safe and avoid too many speeding fines, but it doesn’t actually solve the problem, it merely controls it. Why do I speed up in the first place? Can I stop doing that? If we think about the emotional parallel to my driving it may be important to get to the root cause of the problem. Why does my client get stressed? Can she stop doing that?
And that feels like a topic for my next blog….