Emily is a multi-award-winning writer, presenter, blogger and vlogger, and a married working mum of two children. In 2011, she launched her blog, A Mummy Too (www.amummytoo.co.uk) – the place to come for daily recipes, tips and video guides for busy working parents who want to get the most out of family life.
1.) Do you suﬀer with stress frequently or occasionally?
Occasionally. I’m a parent, so I’m not going to say my life isn’t stressful, but it does seem to continue to improve with age.
I was a relatively anxious person when I was younger and I would worry about things and play them over in my head ad nauseam. These days, I’m much more content to let things be what they will be.
I can still be hard on myself, but I’ve learned to let much of what would have upset me 10 or 20 years ago mostly wash over me today. It has made a big difference.
2.) What sort of things cause you stress?
For me, it’s simply a case of overwhelm, so it could be anything – family, work, an issue at school.
Often, my body recognises overwhelm before I do, so I could be happily tapping away at my computer as my adrenaline levels silently creep up, ready to let me know I seriously need a break.
3.) Does anything in particular make stress worse for you?
I thrive on being busy. To me, normal means having almost too much to think about, almost too much to do. I love the thrill of jumping between challenges and being productive under pressure.
But that doesn’t mean I want to feel stressed, or that I enjoy it. I walk a fine line, and as any working parent will probably know, when you’re that busy, it only takes a few unexpected hiccups to send your plans into disarray and that can lead to very rapid onset stress, which is not pleasant.
4.) Does stress have an impact on your physical health?
I’m prone to migraines and they seem more frequent when I’m under pressure.
5.) What do you do to alleviate stress?
Mindfulness has been amazing for me. It isn’t about changing the thoughts in your head, it’s more about choosing which lines of thought to devote your attention to.
Being in hospital 18 months ago and fearing I wouldn’t see my kids again was probably the most stress I have ever felt but even then, mindfulness helped me to quiet the intrusive thoughts and focus on a hopeful outlook. It was a huge comfort.
At work, if I’m pushing myself too hard, it’s tempting to stay up late to try to claw back some extra work hours, but that just leads to exhaustion, which means concentration and productivity starts to break down and stress levels increase.
Recently, I’ve been trying to go to bed an hour early and get up early before the kids are awake. That way I get some much-needed sleep, plus a chance to focus on work and still enjoy time with the kids once they wake up.
And for family stress? That’s a funny one. As we all know, parental-guilt can be a huge source of stress. I absolutely need time with the kids for my mental health, and I also need time apart from them. To feel calm, I need to switch off work when they get home and enjoy family time, but I also need them to be in after school club three days a week so that I can get everything else done.
All in all, for me it’s about balance and an acceptance that things will ebb and flow. And if all else fails: cake.
6.) Do you think more needs to be done to raise awareness of what causes stress and the impact it has on us and those around us? If yes, what would you do or like to see done?
I think a lot of people probably won’t speak up seriously about stressed because in 2018, we’re all “stressed”, right?
But of course, there’s a difference between being a panicked because you can’t find your purse or you have a deadline that day, and experiencing levels of stress that leave you chewing your nails to the cuticle, or sitting in a toilet stall at work waiting for your heart to slow down.
The ubiquity of the word ‘stressed’ is what has caused it to lose its meaning a bit, I think, and that’s a real shame.
Stress can make it hard to function in all aspects of your life and it would be great to a) see greater awareness of what stress really means and b) see employers taking positive steps to support those who are struggling.
7.) Do you have any tips for anyone dealing with stress?
Find someone to talk to. It doesn’t need to be someone with all the answers, they just need to be a great listener.
Talking through your worries can help unpick them and even if you don’t find immediate solutions, just letting it all out can be incredibly therapeutic.
Crucially, if stress is affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your GP. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is a health condition like any other and they may be able to help in unexpected ways.