"Lately, I find myself feeling stressed out most of the time. Between juggling kids, spouse, finances, work and friends, my mind is constantly worrying. I can hardly sleep at night with all these pressures on my mind. What can I do to better manage my stress?"
Stress is an inescapable part of being human.
Deadlines at work, troubles with kids, and tight finances are everyday events that can bring on stress. While imagining the sun-chair on the beach far, far away from the pressures of daily life might be nice, we can't always escape from the things that cause us stress.
Stress, itself, is not a bad thing. Stress alerts us to the fact that something is threatening us and it motivates us to be productive. Too much stress, however, can be detrimental to the body and the mind.
There are some simple things we can do to lessen the amount of stress in our lives. When we feel stressed, the feelings we have produce a physiological response in the body.
Naturally, one way to combat stress is to calm the body by treating ourselves well. This can be done through exercise, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or even a nice, hot bath.
While these things will help you to feel better momentarily, they will not address the root feelings that caused the stress. To get to the root of the stress, we need to retrain our minds.
Stress often leads to anxiety, which is the product of a heightened sense of danger, and a lack of coping resources. What that means is that we feel stressed when we believe that the situation we are facing is threatening and we don't believe we have the strength to face it.
Most situations are not actually life-threatening but we still might perceive danger to our emotions, relationships, identity, or well-being. If we do not think we have the skills, the time, the energy or the fortitude to deal with that danger, we feel anxious.
Therefore, to address stress, we can either change the way we are thinking about our situation, or we can find the resources we need to deal with it.
When we are overwhelmed with stress, we see our situation from a narrow tunnel view and do not see the other options that are available to us. During these times, we need to enlist the help of those around us — our friends and family — to see beyond our situation.
By allowing them to step in and help look at the situation in a new light, we start to shift our perspective on the stressful situation. Oftentimes this is all that is needed to reverse the feelings of stress.
If this doesn't help, another way to evaluate the validity of your thoughts is to write them all down. Once they are on the paper, you can explore them to see whether they are true, or not.
If they are not true or likely to happen, come up with a counter-thought that you can tell yourself in the moments of high stress to validate that everything is going to be OK.
At other times, we need to gain some new "tools" to help us handle situations that we are not prepared for.
This may mean reading a helping book about the issue we are facing. It may be gathering resources from a local social services office or finding a support group in the area. It may mean visiting a counsellor for some help to brainstorm new techniques in addressing the stressor.
Whichever way you choose to find help, keep in mind that stress can be overcome.
If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Friday in the Record.