When you hear the word “STRESS” what is the first thing that comes to mind?
A thought of someone or an activity you would like to avoid, a life event, a feeling of tension somewhere in your body, panic, regret, anxiety, sadness, anger, insecurity, low-self esteem? Stress, as we well know is multifaceted. It affects us in many different ways, both positively and negatively. It is all around us!
Stress often gets its bad wrap for the negative effects it has on our mental and physical health. Stress involves a flight or flight response. You may feel panic from the news that you are going to lose your job due to budget cuts. You may feel anxious about an upcoming presentation you have to give or frustrated with the lack of communication with your spouse that leaves you feeling like you are walking on egg shells. Regardless of the stressor, our bodies react.
Our sympathetic nervous system wakes us up causing our hearts to beat faster. This causes us to breathe differently which in turn causes an increase in our blood pressure. As you probably already know, the research is pretty extensive on the negative effects stress can have on our bodies. I am not going to go into all the science behind what is going on in our bodies when we experience stress other than to say this type of a response on a regular basis is not great for our mental or physical health. There are ways to help us cope to where we can better handle stressful situations in a healthy way.
As a therapist, I would like to point out that the research is also equally extensive on healthy ways to cope with stress. Stress can be good for us too! You are probably sitting there thinking that is absurd – how can something that makes me feel bad be good for me? Think about how we learn, grow, develop, and mature. We respond both positively and negatively to specific life situations (stress). Our bodies give us information that causes us to react. It may be our body telling us that we are cold and need to put on a jacket. Maybe we are hungry and need to eat, or our heart is pounding really fast due to being nervous about something. You may be experiencing an adrenaline rush from being startled. Our bodies give us clues and information about ourselves. One such area is how we respond to stress. We all have things that stress us out. However, the good thing is that by listening to how our bodies respond we can then begin to find ways to lessen the stress response. I know you are probably thinking “I have tried everything!” You may also be thinking it is just easier to push the stress aside and feel numb. You may feel it would be easier to take a pill or illegal drug to relax than listen to what your body is trying to say and discovering ways to lessen the stress effect. Sure those things can work, but for most only in the short term and for others with major consequences. Then the stressor begins to scream even louder causing more stress and hence the cycle continues.
As I just mentioned, the research is pretty extensive on ways to cope with stress that benefit out mental and physical health. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some specific techniques that you may find helpful in managing stress. Having said that I know that reading a blog can be helpful but for some it may take seeking guidance from a trained professional to sort through the things that stress you out! I know the thought of stepping into our office stresses you out right? Well let me put your mind at ease we are here to help not stress you out more. Life gets messy but the good news is that you do not have to go at it alone. Andy and I at Turning Point are here to help!