Most researchers and professionals in mental health recognize the role that too much stress plays in wreaking havoc on one’s well-being. We all need to be able to have a healthy stress response – one that helps us meet the short-term demands of a difficult or threatening environment. But, too often, life is so busy and overwhelming that we remain in this stressful state far longer than we should. Over time, chronic stress stress starts to break down healthy processes and functions in the body and mind. The results can look similar or different depending on the person, but common effects include depression, insomnia, anxiety, anger and irritability, relationship problems, fatigue, high blood pressure, feeling “emotional”, being easily overwhelmed, and burnt out, to name a few.
Many people don’t recognize they’re over-stressed until they’ve had symptoms like these for awhile. But what can realistically be done to lower stress? I often hear people say that they simply can’t change the busyness of their lives and so feel stuck in reducing their stress. While it may be true that some things in the environnement (e.g., one’s job) may not be changeable, it’s actually more important to learn to change how one responds to stress in the first place. Research shows that in order for a person to have stress, they have to perceive their situation as stressful. In order to perceive a situation as stressful, a person has to believe they cannot effectively meet the demands of the situation. Over time, one’s ability to manage stressful situations breaks down leaving the person feeling less and less capable, which of course makes them feel more overwhelmed and stressed. It often becomes a vicious cycle.
A part of the recovery process is to identify ways that a person is stuck in their stress-promoting perceptions and then to learn how to create healthier, more adaptive beliefs. It’s also critical to learn how to lower one’s overall stress response in the body. This also includes making intentional changes to behavior, such as learning how to relax the body and mind, increasing exercise, eating a more balanced diet, saying no to unessential activities, and having more self-care. I often use neurofeedback to help with this. It’s an FDA approved therapy to reduce stress levels.
If you want to learn more about my approach to dealing with stress, or are ready to take your own step towards recovery, please don’t hesitate to contact me.