Stress Awareness Month: I think objects annoy me more than people - Gaby Soutar

April is Stress Awareness Month. I don’t know if I need to be any more aware of my stress levels, thank you very much.

I try to do a bit of yoga, and attempt some mindfulness. Doesn’t help much. Therefore, this week, I have gently brought some awareness to what piques my blood pressure. There’s always people and their noisy cinema and bus habits, which are the ultimate bane of my life, but, more than anything, it’s the inanimate objects that irritate.

There’s always people and their noisy cinema and bus habits, which are the ultimate bane of my life, but, more than anything, it’s the inanimate objects that irritate. I swear that they are conspiring against us.

Here are the items that can really get in the sea.

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1 Bottles and jar lids. I can’t open any of them. I invested in one of those hand grip exercisers, but numerous reps didn’t turn my digits into mini Shwarzeneggers. When attempting to wrench the lid off a pickle container, I’ll heave - and think, if this does open, the gherkins are going to skeeter across the floor - but to no avail. The other day, I thirstily bought a bottle of pop, then wandered around as if looking for an oasis, because I couldn’t twist the cap off. I had to ask a member of staff in John Lewis if he’d help me. “Yes,” he said. “But before I do, can I ask if you’ve got any allergies, as I might have been handling nuts”. Then he opened it. That’s service.

2 When clothes fall off their hangers. This fills me with such rage. You’ll be happily browsing some spring knitwear in a chi-chi boutique, and, at your gentle touch, three jumpers will slide off their hangers and crumple onto the floor. It makes me want to tear the whole rail down, in a frustrated temper akin to that 1980s Broadband for Scotland advert. If you see someone being strong-armed out of the COS store, it’s probably me.

3 Reusable tub lids. They never match the container. You need to try on 47, before finding the right one. Sometimes it’s tempting just to chuck the leftovers out, rather than go through that blessed rigmarole.

4 Inside-out umbrellas. How many more brollies must be lost to gusty gales?

5 Laces that undo themselves. Even if you do a double half hitch followed by an Alpine butterfly knot, they’ll find a way, and always when you have your hands full with other stuff. I want Velcro fastenings.

6 Corks breaking in half in the wine bottle. This happened at New Year, because we were in an Airbnb with a cheap corkscrew. We toasted the start of 2024 with tap water.

7 End of the Sellotape. Pick, pick, pick – has anyone got nails? Eventually, you catch the end, pull it and a skinny strip comes up for three rotations, then breaks off and you have to start again. Same goes for the clingfilm.

8 Bin bags splitting. They’re all made from the finest gossamer, to ensure you get stinky bin juice soup all over your clean floor. Even better, they’ll release their effluence while you’re putting them out, and the stock will splatter your best trousers.

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9 The USB stick is never the right way up. It’s amazing to think there’s a 50 per cent chance of getting it right, when you never do.

10 Paper cuts. Even the envelopes are against you.

11 Getting the duvet cover on. There are special methods, but they often just make the experience worse than you could have ever imagined. It might be easier just to get inside it, and pull the duvet in from its depths.

12 Tricky zips. It always takes three attempts to do up my winter puffer coat. Sometimes I can’t be bothered, and leave it flapping open, so I can feel like a vengeful Batman.

13 Missing telly switchers. Why do they hide? They especially enjoy snuggling down the side of the cushions, alongside the crisp crumbs, pens and tissues, though we have one switcher that likes to ninja-style leap onto the floor and roll underneath the sofa. It has also wrapped itself in a blanket and gone as far as the footstool. This is the most vital one, of course.

14 Passwords for things. I’m so bored of clicking “Forgot password?”. Course I did. How can anyone remember G67s@pixx*CCvs!, even if it is my mother’s maiden name.

15 Contact lenses. You wear them for months, no problemo, then, one random day, your eyeball decides to rebel. It turns red, and rolls back in your head, so you can’t pinch the lens out. In a panic, you eventually manage to remove it, as asymmetric tears roll down your face. You try again. It’s fine. In it goes. Just keeping you on your toes.

16 Tiny print. I know I’m at reading glasses age, but I’m sure print is getting smaller. Also, the more important the information, the tinier the instructions. If it’s medication, the font will be the same point size as dust motes. Soon I will need a microscope just to make a packet soup.

17 Pens on the cusp. There’s a little bit of ink left. Just enough to write “happy birthd…” before you have to scribble on some scrap paper to temporarily resucitate the ballpoint. Now you can finish – “Lots of love fr…”. Gah!

The list is endless. I didn’t run out of ideas, I ran out of space.

For the remainder of this Stress Awareness Month, I’m staying well away from paper, Sellotape and bin bags.



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