Don’t crack under stress!
Have you ever tried to cook hard boiled eggs only to be frustrated because the egg cracked, or it was over or under-cooked? The right degree of heat and the amount of time to boil an egg can elude the most masterful chief.
Stress can be the same way; the perfect amount of stress can get us going and lead to a productive day.
The cracked or leaky egg:
Too much stress can lead us to crack under all the heat and pressure. Being prepared to handle stress and having strategies to manage life when it starts to feel overwhelming is very helpful. Dropping an egg into a boiling pot without careful attention causes it to break and leak out. We need to prepare the egg correctly just like we need to plan to manage our stress.
The undercooked egg:
Some may think no stress leads to happiness but with no stress we wouldn’t want to get out of bed in the morning or have the drive to be productive, work, or strive for goals. This is like an undercooked egg, it can result in not achieving the “hard boiled” status, producing little or no results.
April is stress awareness month so let’s look at ways to recognize when our stress levels are out of control and possibly moving toward a chronic problem.
Signs of chronic stress
Like an overcooked egg that loses nutrients, chronic stress can lead to major losses in your life. Some signs that stress has become chronic and is getting out of control could be lack of sleep, health issues, and unhealthy coping. Consequently, stress can even lead to mental health problems and interfere with your quality of life. If you are losing sleep over stress, this is a big sign that you need better strategies to manage stress.
Too much of the stress hormone in our bodies over a long period of time can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. Stress can also have a major impact on your health which includes cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, digestive issues, frequent illnesses, headaches, and stroke.
Making the decision to change your lifestyle and behaviors is usually the first step toward increasing overall health and avoiding chronic stress. The first key to managing stress is recognizing it. From there it is important to change the behaviors that cause stress but changing your behavior can be challenging. So where do we start if we are reluctant to change?
Change can be hard for most of us. We get comfortable in the way we do things and it can feel painful to do things differently even if we know that it will benefit us in the long run. If you are in a job you hate, and it is becoming unbearable in your life, what is stopping you from looking for a new job? Is it fear? Do you not want to deal with the work that comes with looking for a job? Pinpoint exactly what’s scaring you about the situation. You can ask the following questions:
- If I make this change, what would be different?
- What scares me about this change?
- What could be great if I make this change?
Some stress is unavoidable. If you get laid off at work or have a personal illness, these are stressors that you cannot have complete control over. In fact, many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people. In high stress times, be aware that you need to take more care of yourself using outside resources like support systems, counseling, and community resources.
The other side of the coin is “self-induced” stress which we can recognize and start to plan to reduce. This includes our own feelings of perfectionism, excessive rumination about things in our life, emotional depletion, being around taxing people, unhealthy lifestyle, self-doubt, physical exhaustion, and fear of failure. Do any of these feel familiar to you? If so, you can begin to make a personal plan on how to manage these worries.
At Turning Stone Counseling, we are here to listen and help you figure out better ways of dealing with personal stress.
TOP 10 ways to reduce stress – You don’t have to do all 10 but pick those you think will work for you!
Write down all your worries and stressors:
Get it out of your brain and onto paper! Writing down your anxiety and stress helps you see it more clearly. What can you control? Are there situations where you can take actions to change the outcome? If so, what can you do? If you cannot control the outcome can you let those worries stay on the paper?
Support me please:
Grabbing lunch with a co-worker to unload about work stress can be therapeutic. The act of talking out your problems and stress with a trusted friend or partner that understands can have huge benefits to how you feel. Often you can solve your own problems if you have a person empathically listening and supporting you.
Just say no:
Learning to say no can be the best way to set personal boundaries and reduce the stress of being overwhelmed by all the tasks that you must do. It can feel uncomfortable at first to say no, but it helps you manage one of your most precious commodities – time! Focus on the things and people that matter most to you.
A simple but often overlooked way to reduce stress is to simply breath. Intentional breathing can bring down your heart rate and signal to your body that it can relax. Inhale for a count of four, hold for four, and exhale for four. Keep repeating this pattern.
Start the day without technology for at least the first 15-20 minutes. Grab your coffee and head outside to breath in the air. Use your five senses to look, hear, touch, smell, and taste the things around you. Get grounded before you step into the chaos of the day.
Give me a hug!
Cuddling with a pet or getting a hug from a loved one is a great way to feel good.
Mellow music and scents:
The combo of playing your favorite calming music and using essential oils or burning a scented candle may help reduce your feelings of stress and anxiety.
Shift your focus:
Try a new activity, put on a funny show, or try to learn something new to get your mind off the stress of your life. If you are focused on something completely different and interesting, then you get a break from your everyday stress.
Movement is medicine: Getting exercise can increase the “feel good” chemicals in your brain and help you sleep better at night. Sleeping well at night helps to reduce the stress hormones in your body.
Use the right side of your brain: Grab an adult coloring book and tap into your creative side. Engaging in arts like drawing, coloring, writing poetry, or dancing gives your mind a chance to relax and solve problems in a different way.
It is important to realize that combined stress can have a major impact on your health. Even good things like getting married or having kids can cause stress.
Look at the chart below and see where you score for the current stress in your life.
According to “the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale” these are the top stressors in people’s lives. This list is not all inclusive, other stresses may be present.
- High Score of 300+: At risk of illness
- Mid-range Score of 150-299+: Risk of illness is moderate (reduced by 30% from the above risk)
- Low Score 150-: Only a slight risk of illness
(Sources: nih.gov; health24.com; wikipedia.com)
|Life event||Life change units|
|Death of a spouse or child||100|
|Death of a close family member||63|
|Personal injury or illness||53|
|Dismissal from work||47|
|Change in health of family member||44|
|Gain a new family member||39|
|Change in financial state||38|
|Change in frequency of arguments||35|
|Foreclosure of mortgage or loan||30|
|Change in responsibilities at work||29|
|Child leaving home||29|
|Trouble with in-laws||29|
|Outstanding personal achievement||28|
|Spouse starts or stops work||26|
|Begin or end school||26|
|Change in living conditions||25|
|Revision of personal habits||24|
|Trouble with boss||23|
|Change in working hours or conditions||20|
|Change in residence||20|
|Change in schools||20|
|Change in recreation||19|
|Change in church activities||19|
|Change in social activities||18|
|Minor mortgage or loan||17|
|Change in sleeping habits||16|
|Change in number of family reunions||15|
|Change in eating habits||15|
|Minor violation of law||11|
Check us out at www.turningstonecounseling.com for more information!