Stress is what we feel when our mind and body are in the process of responding to demands to change. Stress is a subjective state meaning that it is our perception of the trigger for change or the process of change that determines how much stress we feel. It is this subjective experience that gives us the greatest opportunity to manage stress. Indeed, some stress is important to ready our body and mind to engage in the change process and to focus our attention on the need for change and possible ways to change. However, stress can also become overwhelming and quickly leave us feeling exhausted, helpless, and anxious and / or depressed. Whether it is an exam that we did not study for until the last minute, or a job change that brings uncertainty, or an unexpected life event that requires us to commit already overstretched time and energy to manage, the stress response can quickly overwhelm an unprepared mind and body.
Stress management strategies are an important life skill that some are fortunate enough to learn and practice while others may not have had the same good fortune. It is never too late to learn about stress management, the skills needed to effectively manage stress, and receive support in the practice of such skills. These skills include relaxation exercises, physical exercise, mindfulness practices, and ways of thinking about the situation that make it less stressful. Diet and other forms of self-care are also important in one’s stress management arsenal. It is important to note that managing stress is different from resolving the situation to get rid of stress. While we may not always be able to resolve the situation, we can do things to reduce how stressful that situation is seen to be.
Preventing stress is one important measure that we can take to limit the negative effects of stress and use our body’s stress response to enable us to meet the challenges of our day. The regular practice of any of the above mentioned strategies forms an important part of how we can prepare ourselves for the stressors of life. While never guaranteeing that we can handle everything, preparing oneself to manage stress can significantly reduce our stress levels and allow to better cope with the various stressful life events that we may experience. Some ways that we can prepare ourselves include the development of useful habits such as regularly practicing breathing strategies, or get into the habit of making decisions rather than worrying about them. Awareness of our stress triggers is also an important preventative strategy because it is easier to prepare for what we know than what we don’t know.
The image above is a Kaleidoscope rendering of the four stones seen on the About Us page of this site. It is a reminder of the importance of a different perspective that therapy can offer that may lead to different options than previously considered.
Stress is a subjective experience that results from our mind and body undergoing change. We can learn about and practice strategies that help to reduce and better manage stress. This is also an important preventative step that we can take.
Some signs of stress:
- difficulty sleeping
- change in eating habits
- things that were funny no longer are and may even cause you irritation
- have difficulty making decisions
- get angry easily or over small things
- social isolation or tendency to keep everything inside
- spend a lot of time and energy pursuing unrealistic goals
If you experience any of the above, it may be time to examine your stress levels to see if you are over stressed.