‘Mind Yourself’ – Mental Health & Wellbeing with Martin Furber

April is ‘Stress Awareness Month’ in the UK. So, I thought it would be a good idea to make that the topic for this month’s column.

You may have heard the expression ‘stress is a killer’, and that can be true. Too much stress can be very bad for us. Virtually any medical condition can be exacerbated by stress. Things can take longer to heal and repair if we are stressed. Too much stress can also prevent us from sleeping well, which is essential when our body needs to rest, especially if we have been unwell.

Put simply, when we encounter a stressful situation, our bodies enter a “fight-or-flight” mode. This automatic response, orchestrated by hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, is designed to help us deal with immediate threats. This is really useful, when we are facing potential danger, and need to act without thinking about it, such as running away from someone who may wish to harm us.

Problems can arise if we are constantly on high alert, perhaps because of an ongoing stressful situation, be that at home, work or elsewhere in our lives. Living in an area where we feel vulnerable, or if we feel constantly under threat because of an unpredictable partner, are two examples which can keep us on constant red-alert. Feeling insecure at work, or facing financial uncertainty are also major causes of stress in many people’s lives.

So, what happens to all this stress? In therapy, we talk about a metaphorical ‘stress bucket’, that we all have. Put simply, we say that when we encounter stress, or have negative thoughts, we collect them all in this bucket. Problems arise when the amount of stress going in there exceeds our ability to deal with that stress, in other words, when the bucket overflows.

We can also carry a lot of stress with us in the bottom of that bucket, if for example we have been subjected to long-term stressors such an early life bullying, or discrimination. Something which applies to many of us if we identify under the rainbow flag.

One of the ways we naturally deal with stress is during the REM part of our sleep. It is when we detach the emotion from our memories, and ‘file things away’ in our mind. This is one of the reasons why, if you have ever had an argument or disagreement with someone, you may feel differently about things, once you have slept on it. If we are particularly stressed, leading to a lack of sleep, things can seem even worse the next day. It’s also one of the reasons why we might wake up in the middle of the night, wide awake, feeling totally miserable, with many things on our mind, and unable to get back to sleep.

It’s not all bad news though! In fact, some stress can actually be good for you. Think of that jolt of adrenaline that gets you going in the morning – that’s stress hormones kicking in, sharpening your focus, and preparing you for the day ahead. This “good stress,” also known as eustress, can be a powerful motivator. It can push you to meet deadlines, ace that presentation, or train for a race. It fuels our ambition and helps us achieve our goals. This sense of accomplishment can be incredibly rewarding, boosting our confidence and self-esteem.

Facing new challenges can be stressful, it takes us outside of our comfort zone, and we perceive most change as a threat. If you think about all the major things in our lives, which we look forward to, they are also the most stressful for many of us. Things such as buying house, moving to a new area, changing jobs, learning to drive.  However, these things also trigger the release of hormones that enhance memory and learning. So, carefully stepping outside your comfort zone can lead to significant personal and professional growth.

You may well be asking then; how do I sort out the good stress from the bad stress? How can I tell the difference between the two, and what can I do about it?

The trick is finding that sweet spot, the optimal level of stress that motivates us without overwhelming us. We also need to find ways of getting rid of the unhelpful stress in our ‘stress-buckets’.

Getting into a healthier, and more positive mindset, in order to reduce stress is something you can actually train your mind to do. It takes a little bit of time, but it can be like a mini-workout for your mind.

Cast your mind back to the last time you unexpectedly felt really good. For example, when someone gave you a compliment when you weren’t expecting it. Or, perhaps when you were waiting to turn right in the traffic, and someone unexpectedly flashed to let you go. Or perhaps when you received some good news in the post, out of the blue. When this type of thing happens, we automatically generate a hit of ‘feel-good’ chemicals in our body. This is an automatic response to something, and it feels like a little reward in the brain.

If you take a quiet five minutes, and really think back to the last time something like this happened, you can generate a similar feeling. It can settle the mind and reduce stress. Try it! Think back to the last time you really laughed, and try to place yourself back in the moment. This technique is really good for quieting the mind if you are feeling particularly stressed.

Martin Furber is a therapist qualified in various modalities and an Instructor Member of Mental Health First Aid England.

If you would like me to cover any other subjects to do with mental health and well-being please get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.

Please feel free to send me an email with SAHIR HOUSE in the subject line to

If you would like to know more about the private treatments I offer then please check out my website

Or find me on social media


Facebook: Martin Furber Therapist