Stress Management

Written by Allison Bratsch, LPC, ACS

The title of this post is very intentional. Dealing with stress is not about eliminating stress from our lives, it is about managing it. Stress is inevitable, so we must learn to cope in healthy and productive ways.

First off, it is important to mention that there are different types of stress. To keep things simple, I like to first think of stress in terms of “negative” and “positive” to merely point out that there are stressful events in life that we perceive as “negative” or “bad” because these are typically unexpected and emotionally upsetting, and there are stressful events in life that we perceive as “positive” or “good” because these usually come in the form of exciting changes, additions, accomplishments, etc. More often than not, we forget that these “positive” stressors are still stress. Though they may evoke pleasant emotions, they still force our brains and nervous systems to respond and adapt to new situations. Change is still change no matter how you slice it.

After considering that there are “negative” and “positive” life stressors, it is also important to keep in mind that stress can either be “acute” (short-term) or “chronic” (long-term). All stressful events start out as “acute” stress, however if something doesn’t change either in the event itself (if it is ongoing), or in the way we approach or deal with it, the stress becomes “chronic” – this is the scariest type of stress because it has the most impact on our physical and emotional well-being. Just google “chronic stress” and you’ll see what I mean. 

Understanding what type of stress we are dealing with can assist us in being mindful of how we approach it and cope with it. It also reminds us that stress comes in all shapes and sizes, and we must be intentional about managing it. There are many different ways to manage stress, and this is highly dependent upon the individual. What works for one person will not work for another. And what works for you in one situation may not work in the next. Therefore, it is our goal to remind you of the many ways you can try to manage the stress in your life.

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers these suggestions for managing stress:

  • Exercise regularly, every day if possible

  • Eat nutritious meals on a regular schedule

  • Get plenty of sleep

  • Stretch, breathe deeply, and practice relaxation training

  • Move past things you cannot control, and don’t worry too much about small problems

  • Prepare as much as possible for upcoming challenges

  • Maintain a positive attitude

  • Talk to a friend or loved one about how you’re feeling

  • Don’t overburden yourself, and don’t be afraid to say “no” when necessary

  • Establish goals, but keep them realistic

  • Make time for fun

Though this is not a detailed or comprehensive list, it’s a place to start. And you might be thinking, oh come on, I already know all of these things. Well, repetition and reminders help create healthy habits, and also, STRESS IS SNEAKY. It is crucial to realize this and make an effort every single day to take care of your body and mind. And it’s a ripple effect – the better you take care of yourself and the more you are intentional about managing stress, the better equipped you’ll be to manage future stressful or challenging life events. For more on self-care, stay tuned for a future post!

The absolute worst thing you can do is avoid dealing with the stress in your life. Do whatever you need to do in order to face it head-on. Enlist the help of others, or talk to yourself if you have to (I do this daily… actually, anytime I’m alone… judge all you want!) – just stay on top of it!

Have a great week and stay tuned for more tips and tricks and of course many ramblings related to stress management!