“Stress” is a word that we hear a lot.
It’s caused by numerous and seemingly endless events, both good and bad: an impending deadline at work, bills arriving in the mail, high school graduation, starting a new job, etc. Additionally, stress can be caused by demands we place on ourselves whether they are real or only perceived. Stress, then, can be lurking behind any phone call, letter, text, e-mail, or thought.
So, now what?
First, let’s understand what stress really is: “Stress is an imbalance between your current coping abilities and the expectations or demands placed on you (Mager)…”
Stress, therefore, is the pressure we feel that has not been attended to by the things we do to manage it. Managing this stress can feel like a luxury we do not always have time for. We have things to do, people who count on us. We belittle the self-care needed to manage stress thinking that it is selfish to take the time to do it. Plus, who has the extra time?
However, if I told you that stress makes you more likely to become ill, have emotional imbalance or disease, and can exacerbate current or cause medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, and hypertension, do you still think of self-care as an indulgence?
What if you knew that it can start you on the path of the overuse of drugs and/or alcohol, or cause relapse for those who are in recovery? These are just a few of the effects stress can have on your body and mind.
By this paragraph, I hope you have invested in the importance and need for self-care. In order to reduce stress, you need to self-calm (a.k.a. help yourself relax). Perhaps the most popular is deep breathing. Take five deep breaths and relax the muscles you are unconsciously clenching. This is easy to do and takes very little time. There are many options for practicing self-calm that have varied time commitments and skill levels: walking, meditation, yoga, talking to a friend, intentional breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, getting a drink of water. Experiment with what your interests are and how much time you are able to carve out.
Aside from self-calming activities, it is also important to self-care through how you are managing your days. Know your limits and only take on what you are capable of handling (learn how to say “no”). Get the amount of sleep YOU need (forget the adage that everyone needs eight hours; figure out what you best function on). Eat what makes your body feel good (that is, food that provides needed energy, and I’m not talking about energy drinks). Decompress throughout the day (see those ideas we talked about above). Do things you enjoy (read a book, have dinner with a friend). Get to know yourself (figure out what makes you stressed and the best ways to make yourself feel better).
Heart and Solutions can help you on your self-care destressing journey through our three services: mental health therapy, behavioral health intervention services (BHIS), and marriage and family therapy. Through these three avenues, we can help you build up your coping skill arsenal and help you identify the stressors in your life, understand how stress is affecting your body and mind, and how to create the balance for a more self-cared for life.
Self-care is not for the rich or for those with loads of free time. It is vital to everyone’s wellbeing, and can be done through simple exercises throughout your day, so do it! Nothing is more important than your mental health!
Baratta, M. (5/27/2018). Self Care 101. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/skinny-revisited/201805/self-care-101
Mager, D. (8/29/2017). What you need to know about stress and self-care. Psychology Today.https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/some-assembly-required/201708/what-you-need-know-about-stress-and-self-care