Stress can be defined as a physical, mental, or emotional strain that is present in your life. In a world where the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing, there is no question daily stressors from health, work, the economy, and relationships are at an all-time high in the U.S. In October 2020, the American Psychological Association declared, “We are facing a national mental health crisis that could yield serious health and social consequences for years to come.”
It is important in 2022, more than ever before, to have healthy stress management techniques prepared for when you experience a stressful day, week, or month. We spoke with Dr. Janice Motoike, Ph.D, a psychologist who is part of Arizona Care Network, to learn more about how we can take a proactive role in caring for our mental health when we experience stress.
7 Lifestyle Changes You Can Make to Deal with General Stress
The overarching theme when dealing with tension is self-care. Dr. Motoike shared these recommendations for people who are struggling with general, daily stress:
- Get enough sleep
- Connect with others – develop a support system
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet
- Reduce caffeine and sugar
- Don’t self-medicate with alcohol or drugs
- Do something for yourself each day
Dr. Motoike highlighted connecting with friends, family members, and your support network as one of the most important ways to overcome everyday stressors.
Coping with Negative Emotions
Coping strategies can help you manage feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and frustration. Recommended strategies that can relax your nervous system and manage the ‘fight or flight’ response happening in your body include:
- Take a mental vacation – time for yourself, time to relax
- Take a warm bath or shower
- Care for a pet or play with your pet
- Express your feelings in a journal
- Find ways to pamper yourself (i.e., massage)
- Enjoy nature
- Manage your time or create a schedule/ plan
- Laugh/ find humor in hard situations
- Take a yoga or tai chi class
- Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or abdominal breathing exercises
Can Therapy Help with Stress?
The short answer is yes. Many people who seek therapy are experiencing normal life circumstances and need help with stress management. However, Dr. Motoike said the success of therapy largely depends on the client/therapist relationship. If you are struggling to manage your stress alone, it is important that you identify and work with a therapist that you can trust. Some of the benefits of therapy include:
- Anonymity (no one in your social circle will know what is going on)
- Unbiased perspective
- Develop coping strategies for different situations
“Simple stress management is usually not difficult to address in counseling, but the individual needs to be willing to make changes,” Dr. Motoike said. “If an individual is not willing to take action or engage in change, therapy will not help.”
A recipe for successful therapy includes:
- Open communication
- Consistent attendance
If you are ready and willing to make lifestyle changes to reduce stress in your life, therapy may be right for you. You can always talk to your primary care provider to see if they think therapy would benefit your overall health.
Dr. Motoike recommends calling therapists for an introductory call before scheduling a session. This can ensure you choose a therapist you are comfortable with. If you attend a couple sessions and find that you are still not comfortable with the therapist, you can ask them for help with referrals.
If therapy is not for you, that is okay, too. Dr. Motoike said many people benefit from a spiritual or cultural approach to handling stress. Every person is different, and what matters most is that you find stress management techniques that work for you.
Knowing When to Seek Help
Leaving general stress and anxiety unaddressed over a long period of time can lead to additional mental health problems such as depression or extreme anxiety. If you experience the symptoms below, it may be time to seek help from a professional:
- Negative thinking
- Sleeping too much or not enough
- Not engaging in activities you once enjoyed
- Neglecting your hygiene
- Alcohol or drug use (including cannabis) – increase in frequency or quantity
- Tense or upset stomach, loss of appetite; or the opposite, increased snacking and comfort eating
- Difficulty with concentration – reduced ability to focus
- Crying spells or greater emotional sensitivity
- Feeling as if life is not worth living
Are You Struggling with Stress Management?
If you are a member of Arizona Care Network and you are going through a challenging time, you can reach out to our concierge. This group of individuals is part of your healthcare team and can work with you to find a provider, schedule an appointment, or connect you to the healthcare resources you need to feel your best. Contact the ACN concierge team by calling 602.406.7226 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find a provider near you using the Find a Provider tool on our website.