By Joanmary Baker, MSW, RSW
Does it ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get caught up – with work, at home, with family, and so on? You wonder, When will it slow down? How do I manage it all? These types of feelings and thoughts can be indicators of stress. When we have too much stress or when we can’t cope with the stress we have, it can stop us in our tracks and even turn into anxiety. It’s helpful to have some strategies to handle stress when it makes an appearance.
Everyone has stress and many people use self-care to alleviate it. Self-care generally falls into four categories: exercise, nutrition, rest, and leisure. These help decrease your body’s stress hormones while increasing chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins, which are linked to well-being. Unfortunately, many of us try to deal with stress by ignoring our self-care needs: “I couldn’t sleep last night”; “It’s too much eﬀort to go out with my friends”; “I haven’t got time to go to the gym”; “I’ll grab some cookies instead of a meal.” Does any of this sound familiar?
The nice thing about self-care is that it’s easy to improve. You don’t have to go from being a couch potato to a marathon runner overnight, but you can go for a short walk a couple of times a week. If you skip breakfast every day, you can start with a slice of toast or a piece of fruit instead. Think of it as adding fuel to your vehicle so you can get to your destination.
When your body is under stress, it produces adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals let us act quickly. Under stress, our brain goes into reaction mode. It sends signals to push oxygen up into our lungs where the body can access it quickly in case we need to react quickly. This is great if you are being chased by a tiger, but I haven’t seen many tigers lately, have you? If you are having a bodily reaction to stress, take a deep breath, or several. Force the air down into your belly and breathe it out more slowly than you breathe in. This tricks your body into calming down by sending messages to the brain that there is no crisis. Breathing won’t change your situation, but it will give you a little more control of your thoughts and your feelings.
Get ’er done!
Procrastination and stress are great buddies! Procrastination tells you to avoid the stressful situation. The longer you put it oﬀ, the more stressful the situation becomes, making you want to avoid it even more. Avoidance may make you feel better in the moment, but is it helpful? Does it make your life easier? Most of the time, the answer is no. Putting things oﬀ usually makes tasks bigger and more unmanageable. The only way to relieve the stress is to accept the uncomfortable feelings that go along with the task and do it.
Keep in mind that stress isn’t always bad. It can be a great motivator; it helps us act when we need to get things done, and it can let us know when something is important. But like any tool, it’s only helpful when it’s used appropriately. If you would like my help managing your stress, feel free to get in touch. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joanmary Baker, MSW, RSW
Joanmary is a therapist/counsellor in private practice in St. John’s. With over 20 years experience in the field of mental health, Joanmary helps support and empower people to live the life they want. Her approach to client work is pragmatic, creative and compassionate. She specializes in anxiety, stress, and managing life transitions but also works with other mental health concerns and workplace issues. Joanmary believes in lifelong learning and is always trying to build on her skills and expand her perspective to ensure she is offering the most effective service. Joanmary works with adult individuals and couples, in person or by video.