Feeling overwhelmed? Not coping? This is a common feeling felt by many; you are not alone! Why is it that day to day life can become too much to handle? Stress develops when we feel the demands of life outweigh our capabilities to meet them, and let’s face it in this 21st century demands are quite high! From children being encouraged to participate in every activity possible with hopes that they will excel to their highest potential, to teenagers who are paving their path of independence and making important life decisions; then there are young adults facing new transitions such as marriage, parenthood or establishing careers, and those facing retirement.
Some common signs of stress include feeling worried, angry and depressed. People lose confidence and have a more negative perspective. Some describe poor concentration or having difficulty making decisions. Others note changes in behaviours like withdrawing from loved ones, avoiding stressful situations or resorting to illicit substances. Physical symptoms could include muscle tension, changes in appetite, increased respirations and heart rate, headaches, difficulty sleeping and fatigue.
Here are some helpful tips to manage stress: identify your stressors and concentrate on what you do have control over as a common temptation is to run away, avoid or give up. Fight this urge as this isn’t helpful in the end. For the situations where you may not have control, practice acceptance. Emotions are high! Pushing feelings away or ignoring them seems like a quick solution because after all who wants to feel sad, grumpy or worried? Unfortunately this is not a helpful solution as these feelings will continue to resurface. Instead, try acknowledging emotions & express them to a friend, family member or by writing them out. Seek out support from those you trust & ask for their advice or get help with decision making. Accept help and remind yourself that this doesn’t mean you are weak or have failed. Focus on the positives because when we are stressed it’s easy to dwell on the negative which is less likely to lead to positive action. Pay attention to your self-care such as eating habits, exercise and sleep. What about relaxation exercises? There is evidence that suggests belly breathing activates our body’s natural relaxation system! Have you heard about mindfulness? This can be a helpful discipline to learn to let go of worries and uncertainties. Take a yoga class or spend time in nature. Evaluate your work-home-life balance & try problem solving to make some adjustments. For some, spirituality is an important way of coping. Distraction can be useful for coping with stress that is out of your control. Some examples are leisure activities, hobbies, housework, gardening, or movies.
There are times when we need to seek out professional support to build our toolbox of coping. Speak with your physician about potential options. Some of the information obtained for this article can be further explored on website heretohelp.bc.ca.
Lindsay Hainsworth RPN,
Shared Care Mental Health Clinician
Agassiz Medical Centre