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From ‘Surviving’ to ‘Thriving’: Simple Tips for Managing Stress

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aly-webster-imgBy: Aly Webster

When it comes to managing the stress of everyday life, it may seem as though we have little to no control. The bills will continue to come, deadlines will continue to pass, your professional and family responsibilities will always be demanding and there will never be more hours in the day.

With all the curve balls life can throw at us, it is common and completely understandable to find ourselves feeling overwhelmed. While we may not be able control all of the circumstances life throws at us, we CAN control how we choose to respond. By adopting tools to manage the symptoms of stress in our life, we gain the ability to enjoy and even THRIVE despite our circumstances.

Recognizing the Signs of Stress

The effects of everyday stress have a way of sneaking up on us. If these symptoms are left unchecked they can have a significant impact on our body, thoughts, feelings and behavior. The first step in managing the stress in your life is learning to recognize it. If you are experiencing these common signs of stress than it is time to take action!

Common effects of stress:

… On your body 

– Headache

– Muscle tension or pain

– Chest pain

– Fatigue

– Change in sex drive

– Stomach upset

– Sleep problems – Anxiety

… On your mood

– Restlessness

– Lack of motivation

– Irritability or anger

– Sadness or depression – Overeating or under eating

… On your behavior

– Angry outbursts

– Drug or alcohol abuse

– Tobacco use

– Social withdrawal

From ‘Surviving’ to ‘Thriving”

I understand that it can feel daunting to take time out of your schedule to take care of yourself, but it is worth it. YOU are worth it! We often put our own needs at the bottom of our “to do” list which can keep us in a state of surviving rather than thriving.

Here are five healthy techniques from the American Psychological Association that research has shown to help reduce stress in the short- and long-term:

Take a break from the stressor. It may seem difficult to get away from a big work project, a crying baby, or a growing credit card bill. But when you give yourself permission to step away from it, you let yourself have time to do something else, which can help you have a new perspective or practice techniques to feel less overwhelmed. It’s important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but even just 20-minutes to take care of yourself is helpful.

Exercise. The research keeps growing – exercise benefits your mind just as well as your body. We keep hearing about the long-term benefits of a regular exercise routine. But even a 20-minute walk, run, swim or dance session in the midst of a stressful time can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.

Smile and laugh. Our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. When people are stressed, they often hold a lot of the stress in their face. So laughs or smiles can help relieve some of that tension and improve the situation.

Get social support. Call a friend, send an email. When you share your concerns or feelings with another person, it does help relieve stress. But it’s important that the person whom you talk to is someone whom you trust and whom you feel can understand and validate you. If your family is a stressor, for example, it may not alleviate your stress if you share your works woes with one of them.

Meditate. Meditation and mindful prayer help the mind and body to relax and focus. Mindfulness can help people see new perspectives, develop self-compassion and forgiveness. When practicing a form of mindfulness, people can release emotions that may have been causing the body physical stress. Much like exercise, research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits.

What now?

Are you having difficulty managing stress in your day to day life? We’re here to listen, and are happy to help. If you’re experiencing heavy anxiety or frustration and find that the interventions about aren’t working, Contact Us. One of our trained counselors can work with you to establish new ways of living with each other and get back on track.