You Don’t Have to Stress About Stress

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Written by Alexa Rives, MA, LPCC

Stress – a universal truth that has kept us alive to this day and continues to serve its purpose of getting our attention. Each of us has stressors in our lives that require attention. Some stress may feel big. Some stress may feel small. Some might think they are better at managing their stress, and others might not. The fact of the matter is, no matter the size or the cause of the stress, we cannot ignore it. To honor National Stress Awareness Month this April we want to provide some information about how stress can impact the mind and the body and offer tips to help reduce or manage stress to help move through this Spring a little easier!

Distress may be easy to identify in your life. It might look like hitting traffic on the way into work. It might be trying to get all the kids in the car and ready to go to school in the morning. Maybe it looks like finding a bill that didn’t get paid. Or maybe distress shows up as conflict between friends or family that doesn’t have a clear resolution. Think about how your body or mind tells you that you are experiencing distress. It might make sense that “bad” stress, or distress, can have negative effects on our bodies and our minds. But did you know that “good” stress can have the same impact as well? “Good” stress, or eustress, is not differentiated by our brains or by our bodies.

Eustress is often overlooked, as it pertains to events or occurrences for which we are usually excited. It is important, however, to remember that these happy and exciting events may still require us to take a little extra care of ourselves. Weddings, vacations, births, holidays (and more!), are all examples of things that might be fun but might also be causing us additional stress. The physical consequences of stress can range from poor sleep quality, difficulties focusing, changes in diet, and – in severe cases or with prolonged occurrences – negative impacts to your cardiovascular wellbeing long-term. Since we can’t avoid all stress in our lives it is important that we have some tools in our toolbelts for managing the stress that we do experience and minimizing any symptoms that may result.

One huge tip to help you manage stress is: SLOW DOWN. Whenever you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment when you are able, to stop and take some deep breaths. Even if you only have 5 minutes or 30 seconds, taking this time to pause and focus on your breathing can help your nervous system to reset and get out of fight/flight/freeze mode. Understandably, it can be difficult for some to know how to practice self-care, but there are some ways to help yourself understand what that might look like for you. Ultimately, self-care means taking care of your body’s needs, rather than ignoring those messages, i.e., taking a bath, eating a snack, or resting where possible.

Additional tips for stress relief include healthy movement, meditation, and maintaining healthy sleep habits. Try mindfulness practices or affirmations that help calm and encourage you to be present in this moment. As the weather warms, more opportunities for active leisure become available. Take advantage of what time is available to you to pause, reconnect with nature, and focus your mind to help encourage both mental and physical health.

By learning to manage stress, you can help acute symptoms and develop healthy habits that can help reduce overall stress in the long run. If you have questions about more stress management tools, please reach out to us here at Pennock Center for Counseling to help you feel better prepared to tackle that relaxation!