In today’s world, it’s no surprise that we all feel stressed out and overwhelmed.
We each have our own individual stressors that come with our jobs, families, relationships, finances and responsibilities, and on top of all of these, we have societal stressors that affect all of us. However, stress and anxiety are obstacles we can all overcome if we have the tools.
The media constantly bombards us with negative information, and we’re made to feel as though the weight of the world rests on our shoulders. Technology makes our life easier in so many ways, but it also blurs the lines between work and home and makes us feel like we’re always on the clock. To top it all off, we’re told by society that we need to "do it all”, and if we can’t handle the pressure, we label ourselves as “weak” or “failing”.
Signs of stress overload
Our bodies have many different ways of warning us that our stress level is too high. Here are a few signs to watch out for:
• difficulty concentrating or processing information
• sleep issues (trouble falling or staying asleep)
• feeling hopeless, overwhelmed, or irritable
• desire to pull away from family, friends, activities or responsibilities
• physical symptoms (headache, fatigue, stomach ache)
• appetite increase or decrease
• increased negative coping mechanisms (i.e. addictive or unhealthy behaviors)
Managing your stress
Stress has so many negative affects on our mental, emotional, physical, and relational functioning. It’s essential that we find ways to manage stress and cope with all that life throws our way.
Here are a few stress-management techniques that you can try today:
1. Take care of yourself.
This should probably go without saying, but it’s incredible how often we forget to do this. When stress is especially high, self-care tends to fall to the bottom of our list. However, this is actually when it’s most important. Self-care can include time spent outdoors, time spent with friends and family, engagement in creative endeavors and a multitude of other practices. Click here for more about self-care strategies.
2. Make a list and break things down.
When you feel most overwhelmed, it can be helpful to write out your sources of stress on paper. Somehow, the big scary stressors that float around in our heads feel much less intimidating on paper. Once you have a list, it can be helpful to brainstorm some strategies to deal with each stressor. If you find a massive stressor on your list (like “relationship issues” or “crappy job”), it can be helpful to break it down into smaller sub-issues and create strategies and goals for each sub-issue instead.
3. Talk about it.
This may sound like another easy one, but there’s a lot that we hold inside when we’re overloaded with stress. You may find yourself venting to friends, family and co-workers but we sometimes keep things at a surface-level. Truly communicating to someone you trust (about the deep stuff like fear, insecurity, etc.) can provide tremendous relief and make you feel more connected and less alone. There are times that we feel like we’re exhausting our support systems, and we’re asking for more than others can give us. If this is the case, remember, that’s why my job exists. Having a therapist provides you with someone to vent to who also happens to have a great deal of helpful knowledge and experience. If you feel you need someone outside your support system, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
4. Be kind to yourself.
In my opinion, this is hands down the MOST important strategy to reduce stress. When we’re really stressed out, we often compound the stress by getting upset with ourselves for being stressed (or moody, or irritable, or whatever else) and that added frustration ends up doubling our stress! As children, we’re taught that when we see others struggling, we should show kindness, compassion and understanding. Imagine how much easier life would be if we did this for ourselves. Years ago, when I was going through a pretty difficult situation, a friend asked me how my experience as a therapist was impacting how I dealt with it. I never considered the question before, but knew my answer immediately - I’m really good at being kind to myself. Whenever I find myself being especially flighty or irritable or anxious, I just give myself a silent “you’re okay” and a little of the stress begins to ease.
Next time you’re feeling especially stressed or overwhelmed, consider giving one of these a try.
Hope you’re having a good day and check in if you need me!