Stress: 5 Strategies to Deal with Stress

Christmas has now ended and everyone is anticipating the coming of the New Year! This is usually the time we come up with New Year’s Resolutions. What we would like to change, what we would like to achieve, who we want to ditch from our lives, and how we are going to all make it all happen. This can be a particularly stressful time, especially after the excessive spending at Christmas time; added stress!

Stress is a constant and normal part of being human. The aim of this blog post is teach strategies to deal with negative stress; not to eliminate all stress. Stress can be divided in two types: distress and eustress with distress being bad and eustress being good. Distress is related to more harmful stimuli that can affect our self confidence and inadvertently make us weak. Eustress on the other hand is related to stimuli that is healthful for our growth (Ferris, 2009).  A good example of eustress is someone who is pushing you towards your goals because they know your true potential. Eustress is essential for progress and self-actualization. Throughout this blog the terms distress and stress will be used interchangeably.

Some researchers have debated the idea that the way stress impacts us is related to our interpretation of stress, while others have discussed stress as just being overall negative for our health and wellbeing (Weil, 2018). Both these points of view are valid and important. So really, how does stress affect the body and overall health?

Based on the current research we have at our fingertips, stress causes our body to release hormones (cortisol, adrenaline). Although these hormones are undoubtedly valuable, having too much cortisol or adrenaline being constantly released in our bodies can have long term  negative impact (Lupien, Maheu, Tu, Fiocca & Schrameck, 2007). Stress over an extended period of time as been linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • Depression/ Anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep Complications
  • Weight loss/ gain
  • Hair loss
  • Migraine (Weil, 2018)
  • Physical Pain
  • Stroke

The list just keeps going!

So, what can we do with stress?

Here are five strategies that anyone can use to help them deal with their stress:

  • Breathe! Yes, I know! The concept of breathing seems like the new fad diet. However, unlike a fad diet that works sometimes, for some people, breathing works and it doesn’t cost any money! Start by noticing your breath, maybe for one minute, don’t try to alter it. Just notice the breath (Harris, 2018). Then, maybe the second time try breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for five seconds and releasing it for six seconds, Do this for five minutes and notice what you are feeling in your body. Quick, Simple and Easy!
  • Journal. I remember thinking of journaling as quite boring and mundane however, I journal consistently now. Journaling is very therapeutic and doesn’t really cost anything. In therapy, the technique for journaling is considered to be a form of externalization and helps individuals to process their feelings and create new meaning(Payne, 2006). My suggestion for journaling is to make it a built in habit. Journal every night or morning but start small. Maybe start journaling once a week and increase it as the days go by and stick with a schedule. Overtime it will become a built in routine.
  • Stretch your body. Unlike strenuous exercises, stretching such as yoga is an amazing technique to help your body release built up stress. There are numerous yoga videos on YouTube that you can do at home, which is cost effective.
  • Humour. Laughing is such a great way to relax oneself and release some of that built up stress, plus it feels so good! Laugh a little and live a little. A great technique is starting a “joke jar” by cutting out short jokes and having them in a jar. When you are feeling really stress go ahead and open the jar and crack yourself up! Notice what you feel in your body afterwards. I love laughing. It’s a technique I use even in my therapeutic practise.
  • My final strategy, which probably could have been the first is recognizing and naming the feeling. All the other strategies may seem like ways to compartmentalize the feeling. However, it is also very important to recognize the feeling and where it is coming from. Sometimes is great to sit with that feeling and accept the cause of the feeling rather than trying to find a solution. Recognizing that stress is a normal feeling that all humans beings have, naming it, and offering yourself some self-compassion.

With any of these strategies that are listed, it is important for you to get into a routine and set a SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) goal. Additionally, just because these are techniques that work for me, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. Therefore, finding what works for you is very important. Lastly, whatever technique you try, have fun with it! Laugh, and enjoy every moment, a technique won’t be successful if its a forced task! Happy New Year! 


References

Ferriss, T., Porter, R., & OverDrive Inc. (2009). The 4-hour workweek: Escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich (Expanded & updated ; unabridged.). Ashland, Or.:
Blackstone Audio.

Harris, S. (2018). How To Meditate. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

https://samharris.org/how-to-meditate/

McGonial, K. (2013, June). Kelly McGonial: How To Make Stress Your Friend. [Video File].

Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your _friend?language=en

Neff, K. (2018). Definition of Self-Compassion. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

What is Self-Compassion?

Payne, M. (2006). Narrative Therapy (2nd Ed.). London: SAGE Publications Inc.

Van der Kolk, B. A. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. New York: Viking.

Weil, A. (2018). Manage Stress More Effectively. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from

https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/how-to-manage-stress/

About author: Simone Linn is a Certified Canadian Counsellor that holds a Master of Counselling Degree and a Bachelor degree in Psychology. Simone operates a private counselling practice that offers therapeutic support to individuals and families. Simone Linn is a lifelong learner that enjoys reading, golfing and socializing with family/ friends. She can be contacted via email at simonelinncounselling@gmail.com

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