Is stress taking over your life? Do you often feel hurt, angry, fearful or resentful? Are you unable to relax? Maybe you have chronic tension in your shoulders or your neck hurts. Perhaps your breath is shallow and your chest feels tight. Are you having trouble concentrating or sleeping? You may be drinking more alcohol than usual, eating more, engaging in impulsive behavior or having angry outbursts that you later regret. You might even do other things you ordinarily would not do, such as arrive late for work or withdraw from others. Maybe you feel on edge all the time.
If you are reading this page it is likely something just happened that feels unmanageable. You may have lost your job, filed for divorce or failed at a major undertaking. Or perhaps you have other chronic difficulties that are suddenly looming large—such as money problems, a sick parent or a job that isn’t going well. Whereas previously your stress ebbed and flowed, lately it has been constant. Do you feel slowly being worn down? Are you doubting that stress management is even possible?
It’s tempting to think that, if you hang in there and try harder by working longer and doing more of whatever, things things will get better. But be careful with your assessment and look for the signs indicating your situation isn’t improving. One such red flag is if you worry your situation will never improve and you feel stuck. Another sign is if your physical health is deteriorating. If you wish you could reverse the progression of things and get back on track come see me and let’s talk.
Know That Stress Is Common
Numerous surveys confirm that adult Americans perceive they are under much more stress than they were a decade or two ago. According to a recent study, nearly half of the public said they experienced a major stressful event in the past year. Of those people, 43 percent of them said their stress was associated with problems related to health. Other sources of stress include: financial problems, life changes, family situations, problems with children, problems with relationships, the daily news and competing priorities. Especially for executives, professionals and business owners, work related stress can become overwhelming.
Where Does Your Stress Come From?
There is a wide range of events that can cause a stress reaction, including both negative and positive events. If you are curious about how recent events in your life might potentially stack up, check out a list of stressful life events (see stress inventory at http://www.stress.org/holmes-rahe-stress-inventory/) and take inventory of how many of these events have happened to you in the past year.
Everyone experiences stress differently. For example, one person might find a challenging job to be exhilarating, whereas someone else might find it overly demanding or stressful. Whether a situation is stressful to you depends on how you make meaning of the situation and how well you can manage your response. Your past life experience, outlook and relationship to change can all determine what you find stressful.
During long periods of stress, your thinking may be compromised, and you may act in ways that worsen situations, despite your best intentions. Like so many others, you may not know what healthily coping with stress looks like.
Stress Management Starts With You Taking Care Of You.
The most effective way to manage stress is to prevent it from getting out of hand in the first place. You may want to refer to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see diagram to the left) to ensure your lower needs are met before you reach to meet higher needs in the pyramid. You can do this through simple effort such as incorporating good quality sleep, a supportive network of friends, balanced diet and moderate exercise into your lifestyle. It is also helpful to have a flexible perspective on life, a means for religious or spiritual refuge and money in your savings account. Studies have also shown that, if you can anticipate stress, you are better able to deal with it.
However, even in ideal conditions, some stress is inevitable. For example, work related stress may be impossible to avoid altogether. And if you are planning for a significant event, such as a move, you are likely to experience stress related to this life transition. The key for managing inevitable but overwhelming stress is to proactively recognize when it’s time to back off, set limits or otherwise protect yourself from demands you cannot easily meet. The faster you respond to the threat of stress (thoughtfully, without simply reacting), the faster you can return yourself to a healthy equilibrium.
You may be like many people in that you don’t always know how stressed you are until you experience intense stress symptoms. Once stress gets out of hand, however, it can be difficult to resolve. Some sources of stress may have come to be fully ingrained in your situation, thus difficult and time consuming to extract. Furthermore, it takes time for the body to recover from stress so that you can once again perform your best.
When stress starts to get out of hand, stress counseling can be particularly valuable. Counseling offers the support and strategies you need to stop the stress spiral and find a way back to a balanced life.
I Am Uniquely Qualified to Help You Work Through Your Situation
Thanks to my prior career in high-performance environments, such as public accounting, corporate accounting and the high tech industry, I have a thorough understanding of what you are up against. These endeavors in my life often involved periods of acute and chronic stress. Today, as a therapist, I know how making proper lifestyle choices and setting healthy boundaries can be challenging in the face of external pressure to do otherwise. Managing stress while meeting the demands of a high performance job or family crisis can feel like a high-stakes balancing act.
As you and I work together, I will encourage you to be crystal clear about your values and goals while you explore the patterns of your current experience. We may uncover unconscious beliefs that create havoc for you or otherwise hold you back from moving forward. I may actively support the healthy parts of you not being validated by others. Depending on your preferences, I can assist you in using mindfulness, relaxation exercises and other body-based practices to help you unwind and ground so that you cultivate the psychological flexibility needed for balancing competing demands.
In other words, I have the capacity to totally “get you” as you talk about your struggle to attend to needs, desires and commitments while grappling with deliverables and deadlines of a demanding career or business. You can feel totally supported while you work to hit your “reset button” and get back in the game. You can bounce back in the face of difficulty.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
FAQ: Stress is a part of modern life. Why should I do anything about it?
Modern Western culture seems to encourage stressful lifestyles, but that doesn’t mean you need to buy into the messages from our hyperactive culture. If you are experiencing the signs of toxic stress, you may want to consider what you are putting at risk for the sake of the lifestyle you live now. Is it your health? Relationships with your loved ones? Values? Peace of mind? Your career? Try to take an honest inventory of how your life is going and consider where you truly want to be in the future.
FAQ: If I relax a little more or try harder, I can get control of my life. Why should I consider stress counseling?
You may think your troubles stem from the fact that you aren’t disciplined enough or don’t have enough control. However, in the course of the work I do, I rarely find that lack of discipline or control is the root cause of undue stress. There may be certain other unconscious beliefs running the show. These could be beliefs you have about yourself and the world around you, including a belief that more discipline or control is the answer.
Consider how successful you have been in coping with stress up until now. Do you have a track record of making the necessary changes on your own? Be aware that stress may make self-assessment difficult. Information is harder to absorb and remember under conditions of high stress, and your judgment may be impaired.
The stakes may be high for you. As your therapist, I can help you manage risk while you uncover and explore what is and isn’t working well for you in your life today.
FAQ: Why would I need counseling? Can’t I just take a pill for stress reduction?
That is exactly what pharmaceutical companies lead you to believe in their advertisements. Furthermore, many doctors willingly prescribe what patients ask for. However, consider the following: If you regularly take pills to combat your stress without changing anything else in your life, you risk compromising your health. You lose the opportunity to make sustainable changes to create the quality of life you deserve. In addition, when you self-medicate to buffer negative feelings, you blunt positive feelings as well.
Coping with stress is entirely possible. With the help of a therapist, you can learn how to respond to stressors in a healthy and empowered way so that you never have to rely on medication or deal with medication side effects.
How To Get Help
Contact me at 208.557.8603 to learn more about how stress management counseling can help you develop effective strategies to cope with challenges and move through your life with greater ease.
I provide a 20-minute phone consultation to assist you in exploring your options. Or, if you prefer, I am happy to meet with you in person for a free face-to-face consultation session reserved by a $40 deposit.
Note: A stress response can be indicative of an anxiety disorder, acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress (PTSD) when it is associated with significant distress or disability in social, occupational and other important activities. For more information, see my page on Anxiety and PTSD / Trauma.