It is stress awareness month, and we are looking at different situations which may put us under stress. We probably have all experienced stress in our lives from time to time – occasionally being under pressure or worried is normal but sometimes, particularly when stressful life events happen you can find yourself feeling that things are out of control and you are unable to cope. Initially you may experience worrying thoughts about an event or period of time where there’s lots going on in your life. Your body might begin to create a stress response, where you may start to suffer physically from the stress; have headaches, shake, sweat, be unable to sleep, and generally feel exhausted.
Lockdown has added to people’s life challenges and for some a sense of being trapped and as pressures have built up and we may have found ourselves in situations of increased stress. Common complaints from people in recent times is that lockdown has affected their relationship with others and some people have experienced increased serious hassles with neighbours such as witnessing anti-social behaviour, noncompliance with Covid restrictions, threats, noise abuse, damage to property, etc. Neighbours who have previously enjoyed a good relationship with each other can see this break down if for some reason change occurs and it does not suit or upsets one or the other! Even the most beautiful home in the most peaceful town can become a living nightmare if you are next door to someone you don’t get along with, or if you simply don’t see eye to eye.
If you are thrown into the situation of dealing with an aggressive or threatening and nasty neighbour, it can be very stressful.
How Does This Kind of Stress Effect You?
Some issues are easier resolved than others but if you don’t deal with what is triggering your stress, your physical symptoms soon lead to changes in the way you behave. Some signs to look out for are:
- feelings of constant worry or anxiety
- feelings of being overwhelmed
- difficulty concentrating
- mood swings or changes in your mood
- irritability or having a short temper
- difficulty relaxing
- low mood
- low self-esteem
- eating more or less than usual
- changes in your sleeping habits
- using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax
- aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
- diarrhoea and constipation
- feelings of nausea or dizziness
- loss of sex drive.
If the issue is not resolved then over time this can lead to significant anxiety and/or depression.
So how do you approach a problem you are experiencing with your neighbours practically, without things potentially escalating out of control?
If not addressed a disagreement with a neighbour is likely to become an ongoing stressful situation, and needs to be handled with care. We all see the world through a different lens to some extent, and it can be small disagreements between neighbours, like who pays for the hedge to be cut, or noisy parties that quickly escalate into something much bigger, and more stressful to deal with. Whether it’s is an issue with noise, planning disputes, or antisocial behaviour, what can start out as a small problem can quickly escalate to become an all-out war with your neighbour.
Any kind of violent or threatening behaviour must be taken seriously and if you have a situation that you feel you can’t resolve through civil conversation, there are a few things you can do to try and ensure a positive and more peaceful outcome.
Whatever it is that is happening, it is likely to become a ‘your word against theirs’ situation. It is useful to keep a log of incidents which can be drawn upon later if things escalate. Try to be detailed in what happened and when, what was said, and how it made you feel.
Gather Evidence (DNA)
It may be necessary in some situations to gather actual evidence. For example, if someone is repeatedly spitting, can you safely gather and keep samples and record the time, place, who it was, and how the action made you feel.
Gather Evidence (Video)
If you can try and gather video evidence discreetly and safely, (e.g. of damage to car) this will become useful if taking the dispute to the police. Video often works well at low light levels.
Gather information (Recordings/sound levels)
Apps on phones often help you measure sound levels so you can try and take recordings if someone is banging on your door or swearing at you. If someone accosts you outside when you are leaving your property maybe think about setting a recording when you leave.
All of this evidence gathering will be useful for you to take your case forward and to have a professional help resolve the dispute. So who do you go to for help?
If you feel comfortable, you should approach your neighbour to discuss the problem. If you have no luck in resolving the dispute, it is important to get the back up from the right people in order to resolve the issue with your neighbour safely and legally.
Some Key People to Contact
If your neighbour is a tenant, you can talk to their landlord. This could be the local council, a housing association or a private landlord.
Housing Officer- It might take a lot for them to act so it is important to keep them updated regularly. Make sure you put your complaint in writing (e.g. email and letter- not phone calls alone) and stress the fact that you feel at risk.
If there’s a residents or tenants association where you live, you could get their support. If more people complain, the conflict will be less personal and you’re more likely to be successful. To find your local residents or tenants association, contact your local council.
Police- You can call the police if a criminal offence is being committed and if you feel you are at risk of harm, and emphasise your distress, the threat that you are under and any impact on yourself or family members and the escalating nature of what’s happening in spite of Police involvement and your fear.
Other people you may want to involve;
The stress will be taking a toll on you, it is a good idea to speak to your Doctor and emphasise the impact the situation is having on your sleep, fear, others at home, low mood, distress, and hope to resolve or anything else. Your G.P. can assess you for symptoms of anxiety & depression and offer treatment options and advice if required.
MSP- You can contact a local councillor or a member of the Scottish parliament (MSP) if you haven’t been able to resolve your dispute by speaking to your neighbour or the council.
See a Lawyer- Legal action should be a last resort after you’ve tried speaking to your neighbour and taking action through your local council. Going to court might resolve the dispute but damage your relationship with your neighbours and can be very expensive.
You can send your neighbour a letter from a solicitor to show that you’re serious about your complaint. A letter from a solicitor might help to explain the legal position in a dispute, for example if neighbours can’t agree about the position of a boundary. Sometimes a consultation with a lawyer can be free, and they can advise you on what you might be able to do about the dispute.
Shelter (Charity) or Women’s Aid
You may want to seek refuge in extreme situations and to get away from the problem and keep yourself safe. When speaking to the local council, police or G.P. they can offer advice on specific place of safety or alternative accommodation support in your area.
Try to limit being out at night and on your own. Try and stay with a friend or family member if you feel unsafe. Don’t escalate things and be tempted to retaliate or respond aggressively yourself. Being aggressive or even being assertive can worsen things. Don’t directly respond to aggression- record it instead.
Make sure you talk to someone you trust about your situation. When under huge amounts of stress we can sometimes act in a way we wouldn’t normally do so, and feel like a pressure pot is about to explode. For example speak to your employer/colleagues at work, and make sure they understand the pressures you are under. Know that with the right support and action, the situation will likely be resolved one way or another and you will be able to move on with your life once again.
If you are suffering from low mood, stress or anxiety, sign up to our free well-being course at www.llttf.com
The Living Life to the Full Team.