I’m good at this, really good at this. I can blow things out of proportion, make mountains out of mole hills, panic and create a stressful something out of nothing. Fake stress, it’s a beggar isn’t it!

I can’t take credit for the term fake stress, a good friend and I have taken it from some of the Art of Being Brilliant books by Andy Cope (well worth a read). I like it though, me and my friend have taken to commenting on what fake stress is. I think Andy (or it might’ve been his mate Gav, co-author of Shine) explained well when he told the story of a guy getting angry in a supermarket cue because the lady in front had 11 items in her basket…in the 10 items or less checkout…what! How dare she? Really not worth getting in a pickle about is it?

It’s easier said than done though. Especially if it’s so habitual for you to panic and freak out. It’s funny though, me and my friend laugh now and turn and just say to each other, “mate that’s fake stress, get a grip” and the other usually snaps out if it…most of the time.

The key is putting things it context and rationalising it and staying solutions focused. I read an post the other day called Run the Dishwasher Twice about a lady that was seeing a therapist and went to one session unable to articulate what was bothering her, just that she was stressed and overwhelmed with life. We can all get like that sometimes can’t we? In essence she was so overwhelmed that simple tasks like rinsing the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher was too much (side note-her washer didn’t get them clean) and she just couldn’t face doing them. I’ve been there, at some of my lowest points the simplest of tasks looked like climbing Everest to me. But they’re not really, it’s just your perception. So as this lady’s counsellor said, “just run the dishwasher twice, three times if necessary, there’s no rules” now I know electric bills, water metres and the environment suggest you shouldn’t but in the short term until she felt able to handle things in life better it was a fix, because it was fake stress. News flash, it wasn’t the dishwasher at all, we all know that and deep down so did she but she was pinning her real stress onto something fake. So she was given a way to manage it.

Like I said, I’ve been there, I still am sometimes! We all put rules in place in our lives, in someways it’s necessary, as a teacher I bring a lot of work home and I put rules in place to ensure I try to maintain a healthy work life balance but this doesn’t always work sometimes I have to break them to get stuff done because it’s a busy time or the opposite I have to break them because I’m about to burn out. The key is not punishing myself for bending my own rules. It’s about managing things and accepting that fake stress will happen, acknowledging it when it does.

No one says you have to run the dishwasher only once, the dishwasher police aren’t going to turn up on your doorstep and charge you with breaching section 15.3 of the dishwasher guidelines. Just like sometimes I cut corners, I don’t always cook wonderful home cooked meals, I like to and it’s important to me that we eat good quality nice food at the table but that’s my rule and sometimes cheese on toast sat on the sofa is what’s needed just to get through to the end of the day.

It’s about acknowledging how important what you’re stressing over really is? Does it matter if bath time is skipped one night or if you leave tidying up the kitchen until the morning. Does it matter if the lady in front has one extra item in the 10 items or less cue? Does it matter if a Sunday morning is spent in pyjamas until midday when you’ve nowhere to go? Slow down, take a deep breath and put it into perspective.

Don’t succumb to fake stress, by all means getting frustrated and annoyed by it but keep it in perspective, remember what’s really important and what simple measures you can put in place to manage it. Run the dishwasher twice, in the grand scheme of things it’s no big deal if that gets you through until you’re coping better. There’s enough rules in life, don’t bring up extra ones to make it more difficult.

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