STRESS: What is it and What do we do about it?

STRESS: What is it and What do we do about it?
Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Stress is something that is commonly present in all of our lives; varying in both frequency and intensity depending on what is going on in our life. Stress affects both the mind and the body, and while a small amount can help us perform daily tasks, too much of it can wreak havoc in many, or all, parts of our lives. Stress affects everyone differently, but some common signs can include: muscle tension, difficulties with sleep, low energy, increased irritability, anxiety, and a general feeling of being unable to cope. If left untreated to build, it can have significant impacts on our mental and physical health. 

Stress can come from both internal and external factors- meaning from our environment or from ourselves. Examples of external stress are work, children, traffic, rising cost of living etc. Internal stress can come from our negative self-talk, our life choices and our personalities. Some things we have control over, while others we don’t- this difference is how we need to approach and minimize them. 

The way we respond to stress makes a big difference in our overall well-being. At times we may turn to things that allow us to forget about the stress we are dealing with, only to find that the stress is still waiting to be addressed. Some people turn to unhealthy coping strategies- alcohol, drugs, food, or complete avoidance of things that create stress. These things may feel good short term, by do not resolve the issues. 

Given the physical and mental impacts of stress, it is important to utilize strategies that can provide both the mind and body an opportunity to release the weight of life’s problems, before we are ready to evaluate and create lasting changes.

Any type of exercise, whether it be an intense aerobic exercise or following along with a stretching or yoga video, is beneficial to providing the mind and body an opportunity to release the cortisol (stress hormone) pumping through us. Breathing exercises, while seemingly simplistic, can be extremely powerful. We may at times be adding to the stress we feel by forgetting to focus on the positives, evaluating needs versus wants, and practicing self-compassion. 

It may be beneficial to do an activity that allows you to identify these things; whether it be writing, drawing or creating a visual representation to ground ourselves in. While we may not always be able to control of our sources of stress, we can definitely make choices that can decrease the impacts that stress can have on our lives. 

If you or someone you know is struggling to find ways to decrease stress in their lives and you live in Ontario, we at Peachey Counselling are always here to help. 

By Cassandra De Oliveira MSW, RSW and Stefanie Peachey MSW, RSW, AccFM