The people's voice of reason

STRESS? No Worries, We Have a Toolbox for That!

Coping with day-to-day stressors such as marriage, kids, work, finances, and life in general, is an important topic to examine. We all go through some type of struggle in our lives. I think the key is to remember that how we respond to those stressors has an impact on what happens next. Most of us tend to focus on what we cannot do and not what we can do. By that I mean, we focus on how horrible the situation is-how we will not be able to get through the problem. We tend to have a negative mindset. When we focus on the negatives in a situation we get angry, frustrated, our concentration worsens, our tolerance for others reduces; we may exhibit psychical symptoms such as headaches, body ache, or back pain, just to name a few. Internally, our body feels the stressors, and we increase the likelihood that we will get ill. If the stress continues and the body is unable to cope, there is likely to be a breakdown of bodily resources. It is in this stage that there may be a reduction of the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine in the brain, a state related to depression.

Learning how to deal with change can be a very difficult task to complete at times; it can be so hard that it affects how one performs their job, or it can impede relational efficacy with family and friends. It can also cause elasticity in the family to reduce and become problematic if the appropriate resources are not utilized. When we encounter problems, it is important for the individual or family to get the proper education on the issue and the resources including support services like counseling, medical support, and other resources. Transition in an individual's life can be an arduous and a pain-staking task that all of us face routinely. All these metamorphoses can cause distress or other unplea-sant feelings such as anger, alienation, confusion, and discouragement, while others may tussle with the impact on one's social life, financial stability, medical accessibility, emotional health, and familial integrity. Accessing all the resources available can provide the individual and/or families the help that is needed to get through the current stressor. This is why it is imperative to gain additional tools and resources to cope more effectively as a family.

Having numerous years of experience as a medical provider, I have worked with children, families, and individuals with unpredictable life cycle situations. First and foremost, one needs to recognize, that in order to take care of other people's needs, one must first take care of his or her own needs to be of any assistance. Here are five gadgets from my toolbox that I have found to be helpful to people with similar problems.


1. Express Feelings. Talk, laugh, and cry. Many people feel better just by talking or expressing their feelings. Calling, emailing or texting a co-worker to let them know what is bothering you may help you feel that you're not alone in dealing with the stress. Talking to family about your perception is another great source of relieving stress. Having someone who can actively listen to your concerns makes many feel wanted and appreciated. I have had so many clients talk the entire session without me speaking a word. They later inform me that just being able to express themselves via the ability to communicate fear, disappointment, and laughter reduces or completely alleviates the stress.

2. Relax. Too often people do not take a break to rejuvenate. By that I mean sitting down reading a good book, listening to music, or participating in an activity that one enjoys or a hobby that takes the focus away from the problem. This gives the mind an opportunity to rest and calculate concurrently, by natural succession, a possible solution to the event that is causing the stressor. Two healthy ways to relax is simply having a siesta or, even better, taking a nice vacation when possible can aid the mind to replenish itself. Learning some simple relaxation methods such as breathing exercises or guided imagery can be very helpful in dealing with stress. Countless of my clients have stated that once they grasped the relaxation techniques, they were able to implement the relaxation approach into their everyday life, thus creating a healthy routine. If you have a spiritual belief, whatever it is, use it more often. Believe in it. What can it hurt? Nothing, it can only help. Spirituality, like relaxation techniques, puts the individual in a state of mind that is healing and helps the individual understand that he or she is not alone in the current situation. I have had numerous clients report that practicing their spiritually made them look at the problem in a positive way, and we all realize that there is light at the end of the tunnel!

3. Utilize Resources. Most people would rather try to solve their difficulties on their own. That is the best method in most cases in solving stressful situations; however, we do not always have all the answers. I have seen a multitude of clients come to me, after spending years spinning their wheels before seeking professional help to deal with stressful situations, only to find they had the answers to their problems but needed some guidance. Everyone needs help once in a while. A majority of one's normal resources are family, friends, co-workers, and employers.

Periodically, we may need professional assistance other than one's normal support system. Specific professionals that are utilized depend on the stressor. For example, one would see a physician when one is sick with a virus or broken bone. Each profession has a particular expertise that can help you with specific dilemmas. It is important to learn how to use the support resources before crises occurs, so that one can focus on the stressor.

4. Exercise and Healthy Diet. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started. Even everyday activities such as housekeeping or lawn mowing can reduce stress. Stretching can also relieve muscle tension. Eating three meals a day with a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat helps maintain a proper balance in the body. Drinking plenty of water keeps the body hydrated and assures all organs have the H20 conducive for proper functioning. Consulting with a doctor before starting any diet and exercise routine is also an important task to complete to ensure if any medical issues are present.

5. Maintain a Positive Attitude. Tomorrow will be a better day attitude brings about hope for the future and what will positively come next. The natural tendency is to think about what has negatively affected you such as losing a job, anger at friends, or wondering what you did wrong. When you focus on the negative events in your life, you're not allowing the seed of opportunity to be planted in your thoughts. Just think of it this way--instead of spending the energy on things that you cannot change, spend the energy on things that you can change such as your future, goals, and dreams. Take each situation as a learning experience in which you become stronger and more resilient.

Food for Thought

We will all experience stress at some point or another, however, we all can utilize healthy tools to deal with the stressors when they come up. If you ask me what I do to reduce stressors, I often use exercise as a stress relief, as it releases toxins and other chemicals that the body has built up that are harmful. Additionally, the body also produces healthy chemicals that have been associated with happiness and improved health. I take that negative energy or thoughts out on the treadmill or weights. You don't have to be a member of a fitness club to use this method. I often tell clients to do something outside like walking or riding a bike that does not cost anything. In a recent article published on "a research team noted that the only factor that affected participants' moods was the amount of sunlight they were exposed to on any given day. More sunlight meant better moods; less sunlight led to symptoms of depression." (Sunlight: A Natural Way to Fight Stress by Tayla Holman).

I want to also mention I utilize my spiritual beliefs. I learned quickly growing up watching my mother pray during difficult times. I saw how it made her feel better afterwards, and I saw too many times unexplainable healing in areas of my family and personal life that I cannot explain as a clinician and that's okay with me. It works for me today, as much or even more than it worked for me growing up. When I cannot fix the stressors or have some sort of relief with research based approaches, I go to God as I know Him. To this day, He has not let me down. God may not answer me like I need Him to, but He makes it work how it should be!

Remember, the key is to do something that is healthy and positive. It's okay to take care of yourself. I often work with single parents who say they do not have time to utilize the tools described above. I have to help the individual see how this self-care can be beneficial, not only to the parent but to the family, if the parent takes care of himself or herself. Frequently, individuals tell me, "I don't have the time." Make time for yourself! You deserve it; your family needs you to take care of yourself! If you don't, who will? Ultimately, the individual pays the price for not taking care of themselves with health issues like high blood pressure, sore muscles for no apparent reason, and headaches that seem to linger on. Take it from me, practice self love and use the toolbox.


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