Today on #IrishWritersWed I am delighted to welcome Cait O’ Sullivan, author of a number of books, the most recent being Taming The Tango Champion.
Cait has written a post for all of us today entitled ‘Stress!’. I’m sure many of us can relate to this in many aspects of our daily lives.
I’ll hand you over to Cait….
Thank you, Mairead, for having me here on your wonderful blog! Big congratulations on winning second place in the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards in the category of Best Book Blog Award. That’s fantastic! I feel honoured to be here.
That’s what I want to talk about today. Stress. Why? Two reasons:
1. I am under a bit of stress
2. Because of number 1, I can’t actually write about anything else.
Why is the phrase ‘under a bit of stress’? Is it because stress is like a large, looming cloud following you around, sometimes head-level, at others floating a bit higher so that a ray of sunshine can peek through as the pressure is alleviated for a fragment of time (leading to the phrase light-headed with relief?)?
But if that were the case (i.e. the phrase reflects perfectly the situation), perhaps the phrase should be ‘living with a bit of stress’. Because it is like that, isn’t it? Stress sneaks insidiously in, taking root, in the stomach (in my case) or your head—a parasite you don’t quite notice at first because heck, a lot happens in your stomach/head, right. I call it a parasite because you feed it with worry. One or both of two things happen:
1. Time goes by and the situation isn’t alleviated
2. Exacerbating factors contribute.
This parasite invites all his pals in and it’s party time! Cue headaches, aching shoulders, churning stomachs, backache.
And I don’t know about you, but I tend not to give in to stress at first. Perhaps it’s a matter of pride; I’m a strong, independent woman; this isn’t a problem; I can cope. Then you notice that you’re snapping a bit more than usual or the volume with which you berate your children seems to have risen, or maybe you have sprung a leak. You know the way; feeling that familiar prick behind your eyes and you inwardly berate yourself surely I’m not crying as the tears gather force and spill silently down your cheeks, wreaking havoc in black rivulets. The more you try to block that leak, the worse it becomes as your face slowly turns red, then angrily crimson. Great. (And this when you’re talking to your youngest’s school teacher, who herself happens to be about twelve.)
All the advice is to learn the first signs of stress in order to combat it. But with so much going on in our lives, how do you know whether it is the parasite taking root or just excitement or nerves. And how do you stop the I’m a strong, independent woman etc. in order to admit to yourself that you’re stressed in time to start to counteract it? Is it the classic ‘pride comes before a fall’? So not just learn to spot the signs, but also learn to leave your pride at the door.
Oooh all so easy, right.
Once you spot the signs, you then leap into action!! You join the gym, you start a spin class, you pump weights.
In an ideal world.
If you’re like me, the road to a stress-free existence is paved with exercise intentions. Time seeps away amidst all the sheer worrying you do. And worrying is exhausting. Don’t you need energy to exercise? (To be fair though, I do walk everywhere and that does help a lot, not requiring huge bursts of energy. Slow and steady wins the race, for some.)
Yet, in a paradoxical way, stress provides energy. Just weird energy, the one liable to emerge in slight hysteria in a ‘if you don’t laugh, you cry’ type way. In a ‘i really can’t believe this is now happening, aren’t I stressed enough already’ type way. If we had spotted the signs of stress and followed the advice, this energy would probably stand you in very good stead in a high-impact aerobic class, a class that always brings its buddy, serotonin which makes you feel so good in a ‘sock it to ‘em’ kinda way. If you can spot the signs, and start to harness that energy, then you’re onto a winner.
Another way to combat stress is to read. Apparently, reading alleviates stress by up to 68%, better than listening to music or drinking a cup of tea (hmmm, maybe all three together?). My problem with this is the fact that I feel like the book is, say a lake and I am a duck (swan, obviously, but my newly acquired lack of pride forbids me to say this [can you acquire a lack of something?]) paddling away on the surface.
Below me are all the emotions and beauty that goes into a book, yet I am engaging with it on an entirely superficial level. Yes, an odd phrase will suck me in and I will mentally cheer myself on I’m reading and I’m actually engaging with the book and dive into this lake. But all it takes is one little distraction and I’m floating back to the surface again *. And get this; absurdly I get a brief flash of pleasure to be back to worrying. Because our brains actually think we are doing something about our worry, by worrying. Get that for a paradox; initially, worrying makes us feel better. And I thought our brains were clever.
So whilst I’m paddling away on this lake, there’s a great big paddle steamer at one end, inexorably dragging me in and I watch each large wooden paddle rise, dripping with water, some with pond weed snarled up in it. And there, the area it churns up and spits into is where I’m avoiding. Because it’s big and scary and will drag me under, away from my stories and escapism. Into the unknown.
But I remind myself, I’ve been here before. I have gone under. And Alleluia and ta daaaa and all other ‘behold it’s a bright new morn’ type thing, I emerge stronger and fitter for life than ever before.
But that was then…
In order for this to be an acceptable length for a blog, I have to stop here. But there are so many other things to say about stress; how it affects your health, your memory, your loved ones; how to make decisions for the best when under a lot of stress; whether to cut your losses and compromise or carry on fighting for the perfect scenario, lots and lots and lots of other points to make. Feel free to add any thoughts or remedies (rescue remedy, anyone?) in the comments below.
* for some fabulous escapism, wrapped up in a quick read, check out Taming the Tango Champion; a fun, easy, sexy feel good read!
Cait O’Sullivan has a deep love of words, music and magic, having had the good fortune to grow up in Ireland.
The wanderlust in her blood sent her out to travel the world and then, reluctant to give up on following her dreams, Cait gained a degree in English and Creative Writing.
Now, residing in the beautiful English countryside, it is her thoughts and memories that journey far and wide in order to create her stories.
There’s passion on the Dance Floor
On return from a trip around the world, TV presenter, Ava Whittaker, has a baby by Matthias de Romero, Argentine Tango champion, hacienda owner, and the man she loves. The problem? He doesn’t know.
Fast forward two years, and Ava reluctantly agrees to be a contestant on a new dance show on TV, but to her shock, Matthias – the man she never expected to see again – is one of the judges.
Matthias de Romero is leaving his beloved stallions in Argentina to assuage his pride. Two years previously, the one woman he thought he could care for walked out on him after just one glorious night. He arrives in London ready for revenge.
Will Ava’s secret cause their intense feelings to burn out, or fan further the flames of love?
Purchase Link ~ Taming the Tango Champion