Ways To Decrease Stress And Anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Teresa Mulvena, CBT Cert, MA Counselling, MBACP (senior accredited)
3rd March, 20140 Comments
Improving Individual Resilience
Life is stressful. It is impossible to eliminate pressure, but stress occurs when the demands upon us outstrip our capacity to cope with them. Clearly strategies include looking at reducing stressors, along with building personal resilience.
Sometimes it is about demands placed upon us from external sources, but at other times the pressure comes from within us e.g. perfectionism and fear of failure. Unaddressed enduring stress can lead to burnout and depression.
What does stress look like? Would you pick up the signs in yourself?
We all react differently, but common symptoms include irritability, feeling anxious, not being able to concentrate, withdrawing and isolating yourself, and trouble sleeping.
Strength or vulnerability?
Seeking professional help is not an easy step because of the stigma attached to emotional problems. If you link your value and self-worth with being independent, strong, and someone who always copes, it can be hard to admit when things are difficult. But everyone has limitations. It is normal to have a mix of strength and vulnerability, and it is a strength to admit your vulnerability. When one person begins to talk about their anxieties they find they are not the only one, it’s just that no one else is talking about it either! Some people suggest being able to be vulnerable is the heart of relatedness. Without it our relationships don’t work, don’t have depth, and don’t last.
Challenge the belief that friends won’t want to be with you if you’re not entertaining. Some of the best moments of connecting with someone can be when you are able to be honest about how awful you feel. It is great to feel someone else can understand that, without pretending everything is OK, without feeling you have to be cheerful, or entertain. Being able to admit your vulnerability and treat it like it is an ordinary part of being human is the first step to good mental health, and not feeling alone.
Face it and Deal with it
Dealing with the problems you are avoiding can make an enormous difference to feelings of stress. You might think they are to the back of your mind but they will still be causing you stress no matter how much you try to deny them. Having stressful problems hanging over your head can make the most saintly person feel irritable. Invest some time in thinking through strategies to handle difficult problems, and talk it over with someone you trust.
Get it in perspective
People who’ve had an experience of a life changing or life-threatening event like bereavement, or being involved in an accident or serious illness, often report that the effect is that they no longer sweat the small stuff. Compared with these larger issues the smaller irritations feel irrelevant. Adopting this attitude, - without having to endure the trauma that leads to this realisation can reduce stress.
Create positive experiences
You may not have much control over some of life’s irritations but you can do something about putting some good things in, having fun, making time for friends and the things you enjoy. Making one small change to give you something positive can help. This might be relaxation, yoga, putting your feet up, a weekend break.
Get a natural high
Exercise is as effective at countering depression as anti-depressants are. When you are stressed or depressed it can feel like an effort but it worth it. Also you’ll feel better that you’ve taken the initiative and done something for yourself. This is empowering and gives a sense of being in control and helping yourself.
Connect with others
It’s not just about the support networks that are available to you, but also about your ability to let people know what is going on for you.
Self-worth comes from both achieving and feeling loveable. If you define yourself through your work and you get your sense of self-worth through the achievements associated with this, and neglect your relationships what happens when there are problems at work? You have nothing else to fall back on. Connecting with others and having good relationships prevents burnout.
Someone recently said to me “What is the point of talking about my problems, it’s not going to change my situation; surely I’m better to just get on with it?”
On one level this is an understandable attitude. Can talking change anything? There is a saying in psychology “I don’t know what I think until I say it out loud”. This refers to the fact that talking with another person is a completely different process than having worries spinning around inside your head. Talking with someone you trust can be an enormous relief.
If you don’t have friends that you can talk it through with seek professional help.
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