Stress Management

Big Tool Bag

Stress and stress management is a vast area with a lot to consider. Hans Selye was in the forefront of understanding stress and its impact. His simple definition, from 1926, is still a useful one, “the rate of wear and tear on the body.”  I weave stress management into psychotherapy because these skills are so basic to healthy functioning. Having taught stress management for many years now, I have an eye for the skills an individual may need to develop for better living.

Stress Management  ÷  2

One way to divide stress management is into two basic categories, that of stress interrupters and lifestyle habits and behaviors.

Stress Interrupters

Stress interrupters are immediate. You grab one and use it because once a stress reaction starts, it’s easy to stay in stress mode. You don’t want to wait until the end of the day to use your exercise or leisure to return to a more comfortable state because, remember, stress causes a lot of wear and tear.  Stress interrupters are applied when we have a stress reaction that sets off a level of arousal that is not helpful for functioning.

Stress interrupters allow us to return to an effective yet comfortable state. Using your breath is one easy way to do this. There are breathing techniques I teach that allow you to lower your arousal and return to a more relaxed state.

Another method is to do what I call, “Catch That Thought.” Catch That Thought is an intervention in our thinking. How often, for instance, do we respond to a project or a relationship conflict with exaggerated thinking. To,  Catch that Thought, is the beginning of a process of  Re-Interpreting the thought. The most important thing is to be able to recognize the thinking enough to catch it. Once caught, you can Reduce It or Re-Interpret the thought, returning it a more accurate size or a size you can work with. The  monumental project or relationship conflict becomes what you want it to be, more manageable.

Whether we’re talking about stress managment or psychotherapy, most of the trouble we cause ourselves is in our way of thinking about things that trigger our emotions and physiology. I could catalogue great quotations that make this point, but here’s one:

I have been through some terrible things in my life,
some of which have actually happened.

Mark Twain

Lifestyle Habits and Behaviors

The second basic category of stress management strategies is our lifestyle habits and behaviors. Work/Life balance is a foundation of this. Decisions about what that balance looks like is personal, but is often influenced by our relationships. Lifestyle aspects include adequate sleep most nights, healthy eating, exercise and time off.

I work with people who need to re-balance the work/life formula.  Psychotherapy can help define what that means and allow for a focus on it, with less stress and more success. People are often challenged to reformulate their work/life balance. Sometimes the need to re-balance is based on changes in one’s life like a new relationship, becoming a parent, or because of a health issue.  

A Big Tool Bag helps because not everything works every time. Depending upon what’s going on, we may need a strategy to interrupt our thinking, to manage our emotion, or to calm our physiology. Sometimes, we need to rework our lifestyle habits and behaviors.