Don’t forget that I’m on a ‘break’ until September, so I’ll mostly be featuring some of your and my favourite posts from the archives.


Every day, I hear from readers who just can’t figure out what they feel, why they feel it, or even why it feels like a big deal, even though it doesn’t seem like one. One of the greatest examples of this is having doubts, no matter how “small”, that keep niggling, but that you just can’t put your finger on. Or, even worse, having doubts that you can put your finger on, but you keep ignoring or attributing to something else. In fact, you may not refer to them as doubts. You might call them “misgivings”, “insecurity”, “low self-esteem”. Or you might even blame doubts on a past relationship or a parent instead of on what’s actually happening.

It then becomes I’m not having these doubts because I’m making choices that work against me or am experiencing a current stress or have a current concern that I’m ignoring. No, it’s because I’m not good enough /they’re amazing, and I’m just a very insecure person. Or my parents did XYZ. Or it’s my previous relationships that make me scared.

The thing is, some of these perceptions might be true or may highlight things you need to address. The problem, though, is that whatever you attribute the stress (or insecurity, misgivings etc) to, it will remain a stress as long as you keep thinking about or putting it to the back of your mind but not actually addressing it.

It’s also important to note that if you’re denying the cause of the stress and blaming it on something else, the cause will remain a constant factor no matter what.

Hence, if you keep playing down those niggling doubts about a partner and blame insecurity and a previous relationship, but they behave in ways that give just cause for doubt, the problem (and doubts) will continue. You won’t be addressing these doubts while hurting yourself in the process.

Having the immune system disease sarcoidosis and then vertigo, tinnitus and TMJ taught me that when you get used to dealing with stress, whether emotional, work pressure, physical stress, or whatever, you become acclimatised to it. At its worst, like when I had sarcoidosis, you don’t even know where to begin when you have to figure out what’s wrong because “everything” is. It’s only when it becomes intolerable, or you get a proverbial boot up the bum, that you finally change.

That’s why I ended up addressing everything–health, work, family, relationships, etc– which balanced me out. My actions also all had a knock-on effect on each other.

Ignoring, dismissing, and overriding ourselves is a habit.

In my post, Broken Windows Theory applied to boundaries and relationships, I explain that where you’ll ignore one thing that you shouldn’t, it paves the way to ignoring another. Ignoring, delaying, rationalising, denying, and minimising are habits. And we can adapt and break our habits.

If you’ve ever found yourself putting up with stuff in your relationships that, on later reflection, has you wondering if you were on crack; or if you’ve felt like you practically have to learn a new (healthy) language postbreakup, it’s because you normalised shady behaviour.

What you might not have realised is that you’ve also normalised treading water in stress instead of resolving it.

In fact, being used to or even numb to stress can lead to you failing to realise that you’re knee-deep in an unhealthy relationship until you’re immersed in it.

You’ll find that it doesn’t take much to tip you over when you hit ‘capacity’.

I think there’s a certain amount of stress we can all manage, otherwise, we’d be wrecks. After that, we can become very sensitive to stress. Then, little things that genuinely aren’t that big can throw a monkey wrench in the works and throw you into a tailspin. Or you start seeing rejection, problems, “flaws” in yourself, and a lack of options.

You become indecisive, panicky, anxious. Maybe you struggle to articulate what you’re pissed off about. Or you can articulate it but won’t action it. Or you compare problems. You try to identify which one is the “biggest” as if that will change the nature of the others. Or you might inflate the size of the wrong stress while continuing to ignore the core stress that needs addressing.

While surfing Pinterest for wedding inspiration, I came across a factsheet on stress. The first line flicked a lightbulb in my mind.

“Your body doesn’t care if it’s a big stress or a little stress.”

This was only a few days after writing about How I Learned To Listen To Myself. In that blog post, I share my realisation that bouts of tinnitus, vertigo and TMJ (Temporomandibular joint dysfunction–causes pain and stiffness around the jaw and ear) are triggered by ignoring myself and stress. That stress was a combination of work stuff that I was privately ruminating and shaming myself about, plus some family clashes, and even, at times, child-induced sleep deprivation.

Hours after reading the fact sheet, I spoke to a friend who was feeling panicked. She was experiencing stress symptoms but insisting she wasn’t stressed about anything “big” or “new”. I suggested that maybe it was just some freakish thing and not to worry about it. Remember, worrying adds more stress. It’s like praying for what you don’t want! I then asked if there was anything she could possibly be stressed about. Man, that list couldn’t stop coming!

The way we humans live makes us very programmed to take stress in our stride. While this has its uses, we’re not supposed to take it so much in our stride that we can’t have a quality life or figure out what we feel.

You know you’re too acclimatised to stress when you struggle to identify what’s bothering you or you reel off stresses as if they’re your grocery shopping list. You’re used to Staying/Talking and Complaining.

It’s like Yes, I’m stressed! So what? I can’t do anything about it. It’s just groundhog day around here! You may even think Well, this is nothing compared to other stresses I’ve had. Hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to work or dodgy relationship I go!

By being emotionally available and feeling all your feelings and taking your time to address stress in your life (whatever the source) rather than letting it run and run, you can differentiate between your sizes of stress.

Because our bodies don’t differentiate betwen stresses, it’s crucial to not let stresses pile up. When you hit capacity, so you’re effectively over your bandwidth, the unresolved stress has a knock-on effect. For instance, suddenly, even though you thought it was just a relationship issue, now you’re struggling to concentrate at work. Or you’ve become sensitive to certain foods or are experiencing physical symptoms of stress.

If you’re experiencing stress or doubts, anxiety, or whatever you want to call it, and you can’t nail their source and so you keep going round in circles, you know that you’re too acclimatised to not listening to yourself.

If you keep wondering Is it them or is it me?, aside from always looking at whether it’s internal or external fear talking, what you immediately know is that if you can’t figure out which one, it’s because you need to address both.

Our natural inclination is to focus on others or external factors because that puts action in an area that’s uncontrollable. It’s no wonder, then, that our stress increases.

Learn to listen to yourself. Keep a Feelings Diary. Have an honest conversation with yourself. Make decisions. Take the focus off others and bring it back to you.

Your thoughts?

Holiday Update

  • Awkward moment alert! I was slightly tipsy when I thought I saw Bradley Cooper sitting across from me. I froze and stared for a few seconds (oh, the shame.) Then I could hear my brain going, “Isn’t that the guy from Corrie (English soap opera) that flew off with Becky into the sunset?” Then, I regained my composure. Turns out Jeremy Sheffield was also in Holby City.
  • I haven’t eaten quinoa in over a year, then I had it for breakfast yesterday with spinach, peas and poached egg (surprisingly yummy). Then we turned up for a barbecue, and the hosts had made it for me as an alternative to couscous (I don’t eat wheat). Plus, I also had it for lunch today. Looks like this will be my holiday buzz food! And chocolate buttons…
  • Went to a dinner party on Saturday night which turned into dancing around their apartment to nineties classics. We all attempted to pretend to swing our hair like in the Back To Life video. My neck is still paying for it now!
  • I’m off up t’north to Hull on Wednesday to visit one of my dearest friends Nac. It’s well overdue, but it’s also to help her ‘birth’ her business. After I had my first daughter, she came and stayed with us. This is my opportunity to help out with her ‘child’. There will be much dirty laughing. We might get out the ‘ole Sex and the City box sets just like when we lived together at university.
  • The Girls series two box set arrived today. I need to put aside some holiday time to absorb myself in it. I’ve had a break from Breaking Bad as Netflix finally put on series seven of The Office US.
  • We leave for Italy next week. We have a wedding over the bank holiday weekend and are driving via France.

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites