October 2017
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How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed: the Don'ts and Do's


icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

Several people have been concerned and reached out to me lately, as I'm dealing with a lot of stress due to still not having a job. I never really know how to answer when people ask "how can I help?" so I decided to tackle the issue by writing reference material, of course. I wrote a little bit on this before: what I need to live, to cope, and to thrive: notes for self-care and usermanual reference.

How to Help Belenen When They are Stressed


The Don'ts:

1) Don't offer advice or try to problem-solve with me unless I explicitly ask for it.
I'm almost always stressed by one of two things: my bodily needs, and the needs of people I love. These stresses have been a constant companion for many years and I have chased every cure. You cannot fix these problems (unless you have a job to offer me). Accept the stress as a fact of my life, and don't stress me out more by making me prove to you that I've tried all possible fixes. Especially don't give me job hunting advice.

2) Don't ask "how are you" or "how are you feeling." Instead ask "any changes in [the source of stress]?"
I feel like I must respond in detail to these questions, which involves reflecting on the overall tone of my life. If the overall tone is stress, that is a depressing and stressful thing to do. Asking only about changes allows me to dismiss the stress immediately if there have been no changes, and if there have been changes, I can process only a piece of the stress rather than the whole thing.

3) Don't be very sympathetic or mushy. Be matter-of-fact. Don't ask how I'm feeling.
You being really emotional or sympathetic makes me move more into the emotion of being stressed. My main coping skill is by shutting that down, and when you sympathize it opens it up. I feel relief when I mention being stressed and the person responds with "oh yeah, sorry *changes subject*"

4) Don't give vague affirmations.
When someone gives me a vague affirmation like "it will get better," that has no positive effect on me and sometimes it stresses me out, because I try to believe them and I cannot.

The Do's (easy):

1) If you sincerely feel them, give specific, descriptive compliments.
Unrelated to the source of stress is actually best. Specific like "I love the patterns in your eyes, they look like tree roots" (probably my favorite compliment I have ever gotten). Also, I'd like compliments that aren't related to social justice work because I often feel like that is the only thing people notice about me. Sharing links to my work, commenting and liking/reacting on facebook feels like a specific compliment, also. It doesn't get less special if you do it a lot, either.

2) If you interact with any of my art -- writing, fractals, photos, etc -- tell me about how you process it, in detail.
Examples: "this post made me reflect on [specific aspect of my life]" or "I have a similar experience to what you wrote about in this post [explains experience]" or "this photo makes me feel warm in a summery way" or "this fractal looks like an angry ogre or a creepy cave."

3) Remind me of successes I've had, if you know and remember them.
I have a truly dreadful memory, so even if it happened last week I've likely forgotten it. A success can be anything, large or small, where I tried to make a thing happen and it did. "Remember when you figured out how to save the code for your fractals even though the program won't do it?" (this makes me realize I need to write down my small successes)

4) In person, if I'm describing possible reasons for a source of stress to be the way it is and you think of other reasons, tell me them.
This is ONLY in-person, because when I write I don't list all the ones I can think of.

5) In person, if I describe a situation, respond by talking about your own experience.
So if I say "I'm feeling hopeless about [thing] because of [situation]" reply with "the closest thing I have experienced to [situation] is... [tell the story]" or "my experience with [thing] is..."

6) Show curiosity about the things I love and the things that nourish me.
Read my journal entries (and in some way mark that you have done so). Ask for details about things I share. Ask about specific projects (don't ask "what are you working on" because I can't remember, but ask "how is [specific project] going?")

The Do's (difficult):

7) Offer to feed me, if you can.
This relieves stress from worrying about money, and it means that I eat without having to spend energy on planning or preparing food, which are usually high-stress for me because I hate that I have to think about money every time I eat. It is extra helpful if it is food I like, but as long as there is no meat, highly-processed bread (such as wonder bread), artificial sugar, or soy sauce, I will eat it.

8) Take a responsibility or share one, if you can.
Going with me to social things or scary appointments, making phone calls, keeping me company while I tidy, doing dishes, doing laundry, helping me with bills, or keeping me company while I do paperwork stuff.

9) Pick me up or come to my house.
I am nourished by being in my house and by being with my people, but usually I have to choose. Social is far more nourishing to me when I don't also have to drive lots and be in spaces that are not comfortable to me (and most people's spaces are not comfortable to me).

10) Help me do things that nourish me by doing them with me.
Going to social events where I will meet new people who might care about social justice, walking in nature, going to natural places where I haven't been before, doing mixed media art, taking photos, writing, doing ritual, going to concerts, listening to my music with me, breaking taboos in public, prolonged eye contact, smoking hookah, drinking coffee, cuddling, sharing stories of growth and self-care, responding enthusiastically when I am enthusiastic, etc.

11) Relieving some of my memory stress by offering me memory markers.
Take photos of us and what we are doing when we are together, and afterward send them to me. Write down a summary of what we did and what we talked about afterward, and send it to me. Remind me to add the nice thing you just did to my love memory bank.

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Comments
feladrone ══╣╠══
"4) Don't give vague affirmations.
When someone gives me a vague affirmation like "it will get better," that has no positive effect on me and sometimes it stresses me out, because I try to believe them and I cannot."


Usually I'm pretty careful not to say things like "it'll get better" or "I'm sure [bad thing] won't really happen" because I can't know these things. Instead I tend to say something like "I hope you find peace of mind" or "sending good vibes your way". I try to phrase these things in a way that doesn't blame the person for their situation, or blame them for not finding a solution to their situation, but just show that I'm thinking about them and hoping for the best.

But now that I'm thinking about it, those things are pretty vague. Do they bother you at all, should I switch to saying something else?
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
Good wishes are wonderful! so expressing your hopes or vibes is always helpful for me because I don't find it hard to believe that someone could wish good to me (just hard to believe that the good will happen). Good wishes can be vague with no problems ;-)
wildrose ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣artless╠══
No worries! It's really only "emotional and sympathetic" reactions in-person or in real-time conversations (like on messenger) that are a problem. Otherwise I can still keep my distance from focusing on what I don't want to think about.
fairytaleguise ══╣╠══
Thank you for this, it's very helpful - especially as I can see some behaviours that we might tend towards, so now we can be mindful of those.

In a similar vein to feladrone I would like to ask if it's ok to say things like "I hope you feel less stressed soon" or "I hope you find peace / closure soon"? Also, we frequently tend to say things like "I'm sorry you're feeing that way / dealing with that thing", and again, just wondering if that is ok?


belenen ══╣artless╠══
expressing your hopes for me is always helpful for me because I don't find it hard to believe that someone could wish good to me (just hard to believe that the good will happen). The "I'm sorry you're feeling that way" is okay, but it is not nearly as helpful as positive wishes.
fairytaleguise ══╣╠══
Thank you, that's very helpful to know!
tarakins42 ══╣pic#126393471╠══

I would just like to say that this is very insightful because I don't know (no, I do know) that I'm not even in a place to know what I need and don't need. For you to have written this is just amazing to me!

belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
well thank you!
ragnarok_08 ══╣NGE ★ beacon of hope╠══
Thank you so so so much for this - this is both helpful and very insightful ♥
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
you're most welcome!
cactus_rs ══╣Cancer╠══
I wish I knew you well enough to give those kinds of specific compliments, but in time! I do tend towards that "let's problem solve!" habit—funny enough, I do it because my natural inclination is usually to talk about my own experience. I've cut down on that (except with people I know well-ish) because I don't want to come across as "~all about me~", so I'm glad to know I can do that here. Thanks for the heads up!

Do you enjoy getting care packages or little things in the mail?
belenen ══╣artless╠══
I love when people talk about their own experience! and I love getting things in the mail! That has never lost its magic for me *smiles*
cactus_rs ══╣gunther╠══
If you like, you can send me your address and I can send a postcard or some such from Stockholm now and then. :)
wanderipity ══╣╠══
#3 of "The Don'ts" is my favorite one. I can identify with that.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
*nods* It can be very tiring!
volamonster ══╣descent of man╠══
Thank you for sharing this! Not only is it helpful for knowing how to help you when stressed, but it also makes me think/consider how I am best helped.
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
awesome!
volamonster ══╣descent of man╠══
Thank you for sharing this! Not only is it helpful for knowing how to help you when stressed, but it also makes me think/consider how I am best helped.
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
I'd love to read your version of the dos and don'ts!
kiwi ══╣╠══
1) Don't offer advice or try to problem-solve with me unless I explicitly ask for it.

A million times yes. I've gotten to the point where I will specifically say to my partner "I am going to vent because I am upset and I do not want you to offer any suggestions or try to fix it for me, I just want you to listen". It is by far and away one of my biggest annoyances. I completely agree.

I like this list.
belenen ══╣dammit╠══
*nods* I find it really helpful when someone frames a situation like that, because even though I find it annoying when people do it to me, I can get caught up in thinking about the situation instead of the person and try to problem-solve *embarrassment*
writing2exist ══╣╠══
Thanks for sharing this! I can relate to many of these things.
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
welks!
meri_sielu ══╣hawkmoon╠══
These are good things to know, having someone give you advice when it's not necessarily wanted is so difficult isn't it because you know quite often that it's just born from good intentions but it can be so difficult to process. :(
belenen ══╣effervescent╠══
*nods* exactly!
darkestgarden ══╣╠══
Thank you for sharing, I'll refer to this entry in the future when needed. It's really nice to have references like this available.
belenen ══╣giving╠══
thanks! *hearts*
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.