What can we learn from a Lobster? 5 tips to manage stress while in lockdown. | NALA
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What can we learn from a Lobster? 5 tips to manage stress while in lockdown.

On Thursday 12th August, the NSW Chief Psychiatrist, Dr Murray Wright made the following statement:

“This is probably the most sustained and serious stress that many of us will face in our lifetimes and how this impacts on us and how we manage it is going to be really important in minimising the well-being and mental health impacts of the stress. What people need to do is to have a plan to manage their stress and to monitor it and review it on a regular basis.”

Truth.

BUT

What do we do with this statement?

How do we tackle this once-in-a-lifetime-prolonged-stressful-period-with-no-end-in-sight?

Emma Pratt, one of our co-founders and Clinical Psychologists at Nala Hub has put a two-part series together to unpack what to do with this statement and what steps to take moving forward.

PART 1

Let’s start with a story. It’s a story about Lobsters.

What can a lobster teach us about stress and growth?

A lobster is a soft mooshy animal that lives inside a rigid shell. That rigid shell does not expand.

So how does a lobster grow?

When a lobster outgrows its shell it becomes very confining. This discomfort and pain triggers the lobster to hide under a rock, shed the shell and wait until a new one grows.

This process is repeated again and again. This means……….

The trigger for the lobster to be able to grow is discomfort.

We have to realise that times of incredible stress are also times that can bring about incredible growth and change.

What can a story about a Lobster teach us about this once-in-a-lifetime-prolonged-stressful-period-with-no-end-in-sight?

 

  1. Discomfort is a signal that something needs to change so we can grow some more.

Don’t write off that feeling of discomfort. Explore it. Are there some things in your life that you can change right now that will make it more comfortable and less stressful?

Do you want a break from social media?

Do you want to get outdoors some more?

Do you want to reach out to friends or family?

Do you feel inspired to make some bigger life decisions such as moving/selling houses, changing jobs, saying goodbye to a relationship that is no longer serving you?

Knowing what you can control vs what you can’t control is completely empowering. It’s also a great way to turn the tables on what can feel like a stuck situation.

 

  1. It’s ok to go under a metaphorical rock when you’re stressed.

One of the silver linings of Covid, is it gives us a great excuse to not have to go out and do things we actually don’t want to do. But what about all the stressful demands on us at home? There are going to be days where you have to work, or have to be a parent, or get things done that you just don’t have the energy to do.

 

One of our staff members let us in on a term they have coined in their family. They call doing simple little tasks “positive procrastination”. It means that instead of punishing yourself for not achieving a big goal, try and do some small tasks that help you to feel productive. The kind of tasks that don’t erode the precious energy you have. Give yourself permission to make the bigger things wait till tomorrow or the next day, when you feel more equipped to tackle them.

 

  1. Our relationship with stress in our life can determine how much we suffer.

In the lobster example, the lobster accepts the stress and let’s its body do what it has to do.  Now, how about I stop comparing you to a lobster and instead use another example of a teacher and student, as it’s something we can all relate to.  If a teacher does not spend time building a relationship of trust and respect with the student, when they try and manage the student’s behaviour or emotions, it is unlikely to be effective. If the teacher makes the effort to understand the child and make them feel accepted and understood, the child is more likely to listen when the teacher is trying to manage them and give feedback.

 

The same goes for our relationship with stress.

If we try and stop our stress without first making space for it or understanding it, it often snowballs and gets worse.

 

Try and show your stress some understanding. Give it some air-time before you jump into trying to manage it or problem-solve.

Name it to tame it:

“I’m completely overwhelmed today.”

“I am being so critical of myself today and it’s making me feel on edge”

“I am really over being a parent/teacher/employee today – this is hard.”

 

This can be as simple as admitting to yourself what’s really going on. You don’t even have to talk it through (although that can definitely help!). This isn’t a solution for tackling the source of the stress, but it can help us become acquainted, or maybe even befriend our stress which can bring some relief.

 

 

  1. We are all mooshy on the inside just like Lobsters.

At the moment, there are a lot more incidents of people projecting their stress onto others. There are some prickly people in our society right now (and for really good reasons that I don’t need to list here).

 

I’m sure there are a lot of you agreeing with this statement. It’s not hard to think of recent collisions you’ve had with some hard-shelled people. We need to expect that people are going to be extra defensive and feeling more sensitive at the moment. As much as possible, we need to remember that it isn’t us that is the problem. We need to remember that in situations where people begin unleashing on us, we have a choice to lock horns or to disengage and move on.  Now, this is a hard one to accept. And in the moment, even harder to manage. However, the more people practicing compassion and trying to see beyond unhelpful behaviours from others, the less stress we will all have to contend with.

 

  1. A lot of us are walking around without our shells because we haven’t completed our natural stress cycles.

 

What is a stress cycle?

When you become stressed, you experience a surge of emotion and physical tension. This is your body activating its built-in survival mechanism, known as fight, flight or freeze. When this happens there needs to be a physical release so that the body can go back to a state of equilibrium.

Have you ever seen footage of a baby deer after they have been chased by a predator? Once they are in the clear they vigorously shake themselves, which allows their bodies to complete the stress cycle.

How can we complete a stress cycle when the stress seems to be never-ending?

Life still goes on and there will always be other things that stress us. When those other things arise, make sure you try and complete those stress cycles. Otherwise, they will collide into one big stress ball.

 

What does this look like?

Feel the pain/stress, know the discomfort will pass, and then shed the stress by taking physical action. Whether that is to cry, breathwork, laugh (the more hysterical the better), or try vigorous physical activity or exercise.  If you have trouble crying, listen to music or watch something that you know will help you cry.  Ever noticed that after yelling at someone you feel rotten but there is a release of energy in your body? I’m not recommending yelling, just pointing out that it does serve some purpose. There is probably a whole other article just dedicated to this topic!

 

 

To learn more about Emma and her work click here. To learn more about how our league of psychologists can support you, click here.