It seems like now more than ever, stress management is one of the most vital skills a
person can have – but how exactly does one manage stress? Here at The Mynd Clinic, we are in the practice of helping clients find the most effective strategies to cope with many issues including stress; this blog post can be a great starting point!
What is Stress (and What Do I Do About It)?
Stress is the emotional and physical response that we have to various situations in our life. Generally, when we refer to stress, we think of it in a negative sense: “I’m so stressed out”, “she seems stressed”, and the like. However, it’s important to keep in mind that stress is actually an important motivator! Deadlines motivate us to get things done in a timely manner but obsessing over deadlines often leads to procrastination – the takeaway here is that it’s about finding the correct balance of stress in your life, not about eliminating all stress (as tempting as that can
seem). There are many ways to handle stress, and the best way for you personally to handle it may change throughout your life. In the rest of this article we will explore some of the most effective first steps that you can take toward managing stress – and your relationship with it.
Take Care of the Basics
Often when we are stressed, one of the first things that slips is our general self-care practices. Ensuring that we keep up with the things that help us to thrive when we feel good can make stress easier to manage overall. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, drinking enough water, eating (consistently and relatively healthily), and getting exercise or some form of movement in our days can help to alleviate the negative symptoms we often associate with stress.
Talk it Out
Believe it or not, research shows us that there are changes in our brain when we talk through our feelings. The part of our brain that handles intense emotions like stress and anger needs an outlet– talking about your problems is one way to provide that outlet. There are many options that we can take advantage of when it comes to talking through our problems, including talk therapy or talking with a trusted friend/family member/partner. However, even simply speaking about our
problems aloud to no audience can make a difference; you could talk to a pet, favorite stuffed animal, or record a voice note on your phone. Because our brains process sound in a different area than our thoughts, this can bring new perspective even if we do not have that other person responding. Another reason this is such an effective tactic is because of a process known as “externalization” – a psychological term for processing thoughts, emotions, and other generally internal processes outside of ourselves. These factors combine and help us to experience relief
even if we do not always find a solution.
This final step you can take comes with a bit of a caveat – distraction should rarely be the only technique that is utilized, as this can lead to avoidance and the eventual worsening of the initial problem. However, sometimes getting some space from the issue at hand allows our brain the space that it needs to find new solutions or ways to approach a problem. Distraction can also prevent us from overthinking, a common tendency in anxiety which can occur when stress levels are high as well.
Whatever technique you decide to go with, it is important to not give up if things do not change immediately – brains often need some time and space to adjust from one state to another. However, with persistence and belief that these techniques can make a difference, you too can experience relief!
Need a little more support to manage stress effectively? Check out The Mynd Clinic’s Services for mental health therapy.
Written by our staff marriage and family therapist: Lauren Buroker, LMFT