You’re probably familiar with the term “stress management” but have you wondered what it really means?
The way I think of it, stress management is about taking charge of your life- how you think, how you feel, and, maybe most importantly, how you deal with problems.
Stress is a fact of life for most of us; it’s just part of living. Even when things are going well, that can create its own kind of stress- think about something like planning for a wedding, or welcoming a baby. Both of these happy events can still feel stressful.
If asked, most Americans will say they are stressed, and more than 50% worry that they are too stressed. There are many things you can do to manage your stress over the long term, including seeking therapy, and making some lifestyle changes.
The goal of stress management therapy is to help you relieve the pressure you feel and regain a sense of control. If you’ve ever heard of the concept of “learned helplessness”, it’s a type of depression that results when you feel that you can’t change your circumstances, no matter what you do.
It reminds me of a client, Janice*, who worked in a very hostile office environment. She had a poor relationship with her boss, and was often blamed for things she didn’t even do. At first, like most of us, she complained and protested against the unfair treatment. But, after a while, she slowly gave up. She felt she needed that job, and that she had no choice, and that no matter what she did, it wouldn’t change anything- so she became depressed and felt helpless.
This is an extreme case, but it does illustrate how important a sense of autonomy and independence is for our mental well being.
When I help my clients with stress management, we start with the basics- sleeping, eating, and relaxation.
Did you know that sleeping one or two less hours per night can significantly increase your feelings of stress? And yet most Americans undersleep by 2-3 hours per night.
Skipping meals can also increase your anxiety, or eating meals that are very sugary or have a lot of caffeine can disrupt your system. You crash once the sugar or caffeine wears off.
Being unable to relax is another sign of stress gone too far. Learning simple diaphragmatic breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation can make a difference as well.
If you’re too stressed to sleep well, eat well, or relax- you need to make some lifestyle changes now. Too much stress, left unchecked, can harm your health.
If you feel you could benefit from additional strategies to manage stress and lower your anxiety, we can help! Give us a call at (716) 926-6009 or click here to schedule an appointment.