STRONGER TOGETHER: Sweating the small stuff

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Last updated: 24/07/2023

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses TOPIC

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It’s rare that I get rumbly or ruminate about stuff, however this year has left me waning. Feeling like the year should be closer to November than July (yep, it has been one of those years), I have somewhat surprised myself at the level of equanimity that I’ve managed to maintain through some challenging, and at times unnerving moments. Staying upright, composed, self-assured and all the time reminding myself that I’ve got this.

Interestingly, it’s often not those big moments – the chaos, disappointment, loss, trauma – that tip us over the edge. Those are the moments we often take in our stride, head held high, dignity and confidence in check. Instead, it’s those seemingly insignificant yet irritating moments that send us into a tailspin. Like last week, when my husband accidentally spilled some water from a saucepan onto the cooktop. Oh my, in that moment I completely lost my mind.

Like a cork being released from a champagne bottle, my emotions spilled over, and my poor husband stood there, mouth agape, while I reminded him that if he didn’t clean it up straight away it would bake onto the cooktop. Hands in the air and yelling at him “Don’t you understand, if you don’t remove it now you’ll never get it off!!!”

There was so much pent-up frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness and hurt that spilled over in that moment. None of it had anything to do with a bit of spilt water, or my husband. So often it’s the small stuff that ignites the switch, the stuff that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. These small, seemingly insignificant things have a way of sneaking up on us. Snowballing, layer upon layer, increasing in size and significance, slowly gathering momentum until suddenly… BOOM! Out of nowhere, the lid is lifted and whatever we’ve been stuffing down is released, like firing a ball from a cannon.

Life is full of tough stuff we need to navigate, and at the end of each day, we have a choice. We have an opportunity to pause, reflect and recover from whatever has been thrown our way during the day. The reality, however, is that we don’t always make this choice, and instead get consumed in routines and habits that don’t always support us.

Numbing ourselves from the day with alcohol, TV or other activities like online shopping that enable us to ‘take our minds off things’. Refusing to open up about our day, or in some cases, not having anyone to share it with. Reneging on social engagements with friends or family or ditching our usual exercise routine because ‘I have had a big day and really don’t feel like it.’

We must find ways to re-energise from our day, find things that support us to rest and recover so those small things stay just that – small and insignificant. Get an early night, do some breath work, meditation or journalling, maybe even end your shower with cold water (I promise this works, even if you only do it for 15 seconds you’ll see the benefits).

My recent outburst was a great reminder that some of my daily recovery practices may have slipped, or perhaps I have simply not realised the effect some of the events of this year have had on my mental wellbeing. I therefore encourage you to use this as a reminder to check in on how things are going for you.

Anything happened recently that resembled my ‘spilt water on the cooktop’ moment? Anything that in the big scheme of things, you look back on now and think was probably an overreaction?

If so, what’s one thing that you’ll start doing today that will better support you next time?  

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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