Wednesday 18 December 2013

The Toddler Strapped to my Chest

World Health Organisation

So this toddler strapped to my chest is not a real toddler.  It is my way of describing how I feel when I’m a bit stressed.

I was a bit stressed some time back.  A good bit.

There.  I’ve admitted it.

The toddler I mentioned above was the pressure I felt and the vice grips that sometimes made the breath catch in my throat and rendered me unable to speak.

I had been feeling this pressure ever since the boys went back to school after the summer break.  I would wake in the morning and within five minutes of rising, feel the steady and ominous tightening starting up.

It relaxed a little after the school run but returned at the thoughts of going home.


To the kitchen.  The cooking.  The cleaning.  The fights.  The noise.  The relentless serving of others.  The next school run.  The school bags.  The homework.  The snacks.  The changing of the uniforms.  The cleaning up.  The next school pick up.  The lunches.  The fights.  The demands for food. The bedtime.  The pairs of pyjamas.  The teeth cleaning.  The washing of faces and hands.  The uniforms again.  The laundry.  The last minute bed time snacks.  The bathroom visits.  The bedtime stories.  The eventual silence.

But my mind would still race. 

I would spend the day watching the clock so I could finally get to bed to catch up on some sleep; knowing the next day would bring it forth again.

So when I was in my GP’s I noticed a poster for a 6 week course in How to Control Your Stress. 


It was great.  The counsellor giving the lectures spoke a lot of sense.  A lot of common sense.

Be comforted in the knowledge that stress is important.  We need a certain amount of it to function. 

It is when it gets out of control and we begin to ignore the elephant in the room, avoiding social events, meeting with people and isolating ourselves, that it becomes a problem.

Know that everyone suffers from stress.  Everyone. 

But everyone is affected differently and not everyone deals with it the same way.

I learned not to over-analyse everything.  When something happens, feel it, deal with it but move on.

We cannot change the past, have no power over most of our future and only to a certain extent, can we alter the here and now.    

On a personal note the things that tend to cause me the most stress are unavoidable.   

Those things would be my kids and their noise levels and the fact they are time consuming leaving me with little or no free time to enjoy my own hobbies.

Like a lot of things, all the hints and tips looked great on paper but didn’t translate so well in real life.

But that was my problem and I just needed to find a way around it.

So I wrote down a list of everything I do and listed them all in order of importance.

Then I removed the bottom three from my life.  It helped me enormously.

Unfortunately some stresses cannot be removed from our lives and in situations like these, we need to learn how to manage them.

Ultimately we are responsible for ourselves.  But I also think it is vitally important that we are kind to ourselves. 

Incidentally the toddler on my chest seems to have clambered down at present.  As much as I enjoyed the course and found it hugely helpful, it occurred to me that perhaps it was the ninety minutes of alone time I benefited from most.

Looking back I also found the transition from summer holidays to back to school difficult.  I seemed to be busier and always in the car.  Maybe it took a few months to adjust.

Either way, my chest feels a lot less tighter at the moment.

Long may it last.

I would like to leave you with a little clip about The Black Dog which is another metaphor for depression.  This came up during the course of my 6 week course and a lot of people identified with it.


  1. Spot on Gwen! Sound idea to take the non-essential stuff off your plate but also really important to remember that a little wriggle room for you is not a luxury - it's just essential. Stay sane and remember to not sweat the small stuff (even when they are life sized and loud!)! x

  2. I left a comment last night but I had a feeling it wouldn't make it, I did it from my phone and didn't have to outwit the captcha!!!!! Anyway, if you get two just delete one. You wrote this so well and have done a really good job on acknowledging that something's not right and dealing with it. I often find the inevitability of the day ahead overwhelming, you've described it really well. I have only just implemented the one-hour-a-week-to-myself rule in our house and even that has been hard to manage but I'm determined to enforce a larger time allowance in 2014. Take care of yourself. x