Counselor Connection Blog: Stress (part 2)
Megan Demianiuk, MS, LMFT
Welcome back! In the last blog entry about stress, we began discussing the impact of stress in our lives. We looked at some of the common symptoms of stress and noted that stress comes from both external and internal sources. Since we all feel stress at times, how do we deal with it? First, it’s important to note that we can’t totally eliminate stress, but we can learn to manage it and reduce the negative effects it has on us. Here are a few helpful techniques and tips:
- Trust God! Our sinful nature allows us to believe that we have sole control over our own problems, but we need to let go of control and put it in God’s hands. The Bible tells us not to worry but also reminds us that this life will not be easy.
- James 1:2-3: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
- Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
- Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
- Isaiah 41:10: Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
- Take Care of Yourself!
- Eat well. A nutritious diet can counteract the impact of stress by boosting the immune system and lowering blood pressure.
- Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, which releases adrenaline, increasing tension, irritability and insomnia.
- Get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation states that most adults need 7-9 hours per night.
- Exercise! It increases chemicals (endorphins) that make you feel happy, increases oxygen circulation, can increase your self-confidence and improves sleep.
- Have Better Time Management
- Prioritize between essential and non-essential tasks.
- Allow extra time to complete each task.
- Overcome procrastination.
- Learn to say “no.”
- Identify Your Negative Thinking and Self-Talk and Challenge It. Remember that much of what we feel (stress) is caused by what we say to ourselves. Unfortunately, most of self-talk is automatic, and we aren’t even aware of it. Challenge your negative thinking by asking yourself:
- What’s the likelihood of this happening?
- What evidence do I have for this?
- Could there be another explanation?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations. With much of our stress, it’s not the event itself that upsets us but how it compares with our expectations. When those expectations are unrealistic, we’re almost certain to feel upset or stressed. Some of us assume that we should never make mistakes or never have a bad day. But in reality, we can’t do it all, we can’t please everyone and we will make mistakes!
- Relaxation and Deep Breathing
- Practice slowing down and taking long, deep breaths. This improves circulation and digestion, relaxes tight muscles and releases neurochemicals, which elevate mood.
- Other Techniques May Include:
- Art therapy, yoga, hobbies, journaling, massage, music therapy and imagery
The key to remember is that stress isn’t just the demands placed on us but our response to those demands. Unresolved, stress can lead to physical, mental, emotional, behavioral and spiritual issues. However, we can take action and reduce our stress by turning to God; using healthy eating, sleeping and exercise habits; having better time management; challenging our negative self-talk; letting go of expectations; and practicing relaxation and deep breathing.