We all face stressors in various ways throughout our days and lives. Stress can have impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health.
How do you feel the effects on your mind and body when the stress is mounting?
How have you managed stress in the past?
When we are wanting to start managing stress it’s important to do a stress inventory. This just means taking a step back and looking at your life to see what areas are causing you increased stress. Here are some questions to reflect on.
What areas of your life are causing the most stress?
What areas of your life are least stressful?
Is there a change that has happened recently that is stressful?
In the brochure pictured below I wrote about the five categories for managing stress. I wanted to discuss these in this post!
Changing our behavior: this could mean setting boundaries, changing our responsibilities, scheduling breaks, and making time for activities you enjoy.
Engage in Physical Activity: this could be in an active form of doing exercise, going outside, or getting a massage. This could also be done in a passive form of meditation, deep breathing, or stretching.
Tune Into Your Feelings: to do this you could consider journaling, talking with a friend, or listening to music.
Think Positive: practice positive self-talk, gratitude, and positive thinking.
Strength in Faith: activities to do this are different for all of us. Some ideas could be praying, singing, or reading scripture.
I think we all struggle with varying levels of anxiety. Life has so many trials and uncertainties that can cause us to worry or have anxious thoughts. I have struggled with anxiety and overwhelming fears for most of my life. Part of this is from the dynamics of my childhood, the patterns of mental health in my family, and my own internalizing of events throughout my life. There has been various things I have tried to help with my anxiety including therapy and medications. But I still was not coping well with day to day life.
Thankfully I have had relationships and circumstances that pushed me to confront this anxiety and try to cope better. During the beginning of the pandemic, while at home, I began to be more intentional about searching for tools and strategies that would help me live better from day to day. I came up with the acronym GRASI and practiced tools of it intentionally everyday. It made such a difference for me! We don’t have to stay stuck in the same anxious thoughts. We can break cycles and thrive!!
I made up this acronym for myself after I chose these five tools to focus on to help with my anxiety.
G: grounding, which is the process of focusing in on one of our five senses. Sometimes I would go outside and close my eyes and put all my attention on the sounds around me, or putting all your attention on any of the senses to ground yourself back to your current moment in time. Anxiety often involves being stuck in the past or the future, therefore to combat that it can be helpful to focus your attention back on the present moment.
R: relaxation, is something I incorporated because I typically was not being intentional to do something relaxing everyday. So when I started practicing this I planned at least one relaxing activity everyday. Sometimes if was taking a hot bath, resting on the couch and watching TV, doing yoga outside, or taking time to be creative.
A: acceptance, was huge for me!! In my planner or journal if there were thoughts that were nagging at me or anxieties that were weighing me down I would practice acceptance and the worry about those issues no longer had control over me. For example I accept that all I can control is my thoughts, words, and actions and I cannot control the words, actions or intentions of others.
S: spirituality, is vital. Though this is the fourth letter in the acronym for me it was foundational for the whole process of healing. This involved me being in prayer, reading scripture, and reminding myself of truths. Truths such as God created me, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, I was created with purpose, I am loved, I am chosen, I am cared for, and there is a plan for my life.
I: improve self-esteem, this was important for me as well because a lot of my anxiety was also tied to habits and thought patterns of self-loathing. This would often keep me from accomplishing my goals, seeking healthy relationships, and living well. To work on this I first started by writing positive affirmations and repeating them to myself everyday. I tried various other strategies too, including writing letters to my past self, choosing to focus on strength based narratives of my life, and paying attention to my self-talk and correcting myself when I spoke cruelly to myself.
I would incorporate these five areas in my daily life. It would look different for each day, but the goal was simply to be aware and start changing my thinking and actions to combat my anxiety.
Thank you for reading my story! I would love to know what helps you with anxious thoughts or if you give any of these strategies a try!
We experience stress in a variety of ways. Life has so many twists, turns, transitions, and surprises it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. There are big life events that are stressful, but there are also moments, demands, duties, obligations, and more throughout our days that may trigger us to feel overwhelmed or stressed. I previously made a pamphlet about coping with stress that is available to be downloaded below. There are four kinds of stress:
Acute Stress: fight or flight response when the body is preparing to defend itself. In this type of stress the body may experience increased heart rate, tense muscles, and breathing faster (National Institute of Mental Health; American Institute of Stress).
Chronic Stress: ongoing acute stress without the body being able to find relief (AIS).
Eustress/Routine Stress: Stress from daily life with positive connotation, such as work, relationships, marriage, school, hobbies, etc. (AIS).
Stress impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is important for us to have a balance of stress and the release of stress in order for us to thrive and be functioning at our best. How do we go about doing that though? How do you cope with stress? Some of the ideas below are possibly things you are already doing or might inspire you to try a new technique to cope with or manage stress in your life.
Coping with Stress
There are healthy and destructive ways that we choose to cope with stress. There are two main ways that we can build resilience, which allows us to cope with stress effectively. The first way is through our sensations and the second is through capturing our thoughts and emotions. Both of these strategies are essential to building resilience and being our best selves.
Our body’s natural way of experiencing anything is first through sensations. When we experience stress and relaxation we experience that through sensations in our body. For example when I am stressed I often feel a tightness in my chest, a clinching in my stomach, or tension in my shoulders. When I am feeling relaxed or calm I feel my tension loosen, tingling throughout my body, or deeper breathing. Here are some activities you can practice to possibly increase calming sensations:
Tracking Your Body: It can be uncomfortable or odd to tune into our bodies to see what sensations we are experiencing when we are feeling stress or calm. Take some time to notice the sensations you are feeling in our body, but if it is something that is triggering to you for any reason shift your attention to one of the other activities.
Grounding: put your attention to a surface supporting you. This could be the ground underneath your feet, the chair against your back, or any solid surface. Put all of your attention on that surface and when your thoughts drift just refocus.
Resourcing: focus your attention on a positive experience. This could be a favorite hobby, place, or moment. Focus on what sensations you experience when doing that activity. For example, one of my resources that I think about is bookbinding. I put my attention to what it feels like to have the waxed thread in between my fingers, what it feels like to fold the paper, or glue the covers. Just focus in and allow your mind and body to relax into the resource you are focusing on.
Capturing our thoughts or using our thinking brain to experience calmness and build resilience can include a variety of activities. The essence of this is resetting, processing, reframing, or shifting our thoughts so that we do not spiral or become overtaken by our stress. Here is a list of ways to possibly do this:
Exercise, Walking, Yoga
Listening to Music
Comment below if there is a strategy in this post you are going to try or how you cope with stress in life!