Managing Stress

December 16, 2019

Managing Stress

Did you know that stress is a good thing? Stress is a primitive response in the body to life-threatening situations. For example, when you are driving and a car suddenly pulls into your lane; stress tells you to slam on your brakes. Stress, however, can become a problem when the brain interprets daily, modern-day situations as life-threatening.

Many of us experience stress over our jobs, relationships, finances, and other daily parts of life. Maybe you’ve felt your heart thump violently in your chest before that final exam. Maybe you suddenly feel ache-y and fatigued when your family comes to visit. Maybe your palms become sweaty every time you pay your monthly bills. There are many different ways that we experience stress, and they all take a toll on our health.

We sat down with one of our licensed clinical social workers, Betsy Frasier, to learn some tips on how to manage stress in the short term and long term.

Short-term Stress Tolerance

As joyful as the holiday season can be, it is also a very stressful time of year. Students are battling final exams, families are visiting, and end-of-the-year reviews are rolling out. More likely than not you will be caught unguarded with stress and anxiety.

“The best way to reduce stress in the moment is to practice mindfulness,” Betsy suggests. “When you are feeling overwhelmed, stop what you are doing and focus on the present.” One way to ground yourself in the present is to self-soothe with your five senses.

For example, let’s say you have a cup of tea in front of you.

Vision: Look at the mug. What do you see? What color is the mug? Are there patterns on the mug? What different shapes make up the mug? What is the color of the tea? Is there steam rising? What patterns does the steam make?

Touch: How does the mug feel with you hold it? How do the curves feel? How does the rim feel? Is the mug warm? Smooth? Are there crevices? How do they feel? Sip the tea. How does it feel in your mouth? How does the tea sit on your tongue? How does it feel going down your throat?

Hearing: Tap on the mug. What does it sound like? Ceramic? Metal? Plastic? Hollow? Heavy? What does the sound of sipping your tea sound like? Is it more of a slurping noise? Is is quiet? Can you hear the tea travel from your tongue to your throat?

Smell: What does the tea smell like? Can you smell the mix of herbs? Can you picture the herbs from the scent?

Taste: What does the tea taste like? Does it have an aftertaste? Can you make out the herbs that you smelled? Which flavor is the strongest?

Spending even three minutes mindfully drinking tea will help your body relax and abandon it’s fight or flight response. It’s important that you observe items nonjudgmentally. You are simply stating facts during this exercise, not opinions.

Long-term Stress Management

“If stress is a daily experience, I encourage you to seek a medical doctor and therapist for help.” Betsy sees many clients who struggle with severe stress and has found that their therapy sessions significantly reduce the frequency and intensity that her clients experience stress. “Medication, exercise, healthy-eating, and meditation are great mechanisms for preventing and managing stress long-term.”

If you are experiencing stress on a daily basis, we encourage you to book an appointment with Betsy or one of our licensed therapists. To learn more about our clinical services or to book and appointment please click here.

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