By Stacey Rose, PhD, LCSW
You are probably under stress right now. We are all susceptible to stress at different times in our lives to varying degrees. Each of our individual circumstances may be unique, but we all feel it. For some people, stress may be triggered by the ‘normal’ day-to-day responsibilities we have. For others, it may be a specific situation and/or trauma that causes it. But we all live with it.
The way stress manifests itself also depends on our personalities, or strengths, our limitations, and the choices we make. For example, a man who has difficulty expressing his feelings to his wife may find his stress comes out at work. i.e.: he may have a hard time saying “I need help paying the bills and would like you to go back to work.” So instead he holds it in, gets silently angry and is verbally abusive to his staff and co-workers. Or, a woman who takes care of her children, her husband, her elderly parents and some friends, may find she has a difficult time taking care of herself. Consequently, she too becomes silently angry (passive-aggressive), and overeats.
We all have choices about the way we would like to manage our stress. Many of us did not learn this as children however. As a result, we either feel we are not entitled to take time for ourselves to ‘destress’ or we resort to unhealthy vices like alcohol, food, drugs, etc. The good news? If we make a commitment to ourselves to do a little stress management work each day, it will not build up inside of us an turn into passive aggressive behavior or worse a physical illness. OK, I know what you are probably saying, “I don’t have time for anything else in my life and who needs more work!” Slow down, this is a different type of work, and by not making any time for a daily journal entry or a walk in the park, or a ten minute break to listen to your favorite music, you may be setting yourself up for what I refer to as a ‘stress breakdown’. That means a build up of stress within yourself and an emotional explosion at possibly the wrong person. (e.g.: screaming at the driver who cuts you off on the road when you are truly anxious about an upcoming presentation at work or yelling at your kids when you are really mad at your spouse).
Here are some good ways to begin destressing:
- Think about what you love / really like to do. (e.g.: painting, reading, exercising, singing, writing, etc.)
- Make sure you do at least one of the things you love once a day.
- Talk about what bothers you to the person it involves.
- Surround yourself with others that you admire or who you feel have something to offer you not just those who will take from you.
- Take one step at a time. Prioritize.
- If you feel you are still struggling after trying these steps, seek out professional psychotherapy/counseling.
Good luck and have fun destressing!!!