How to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Is stress the same as anxiety? They are related but not the same. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, stress is the response to perceived danger in a situation, and our reaction to the stress is anxiety.

Sources of Stress and Anxiety: For many of us, stress is part of our daily lives. Most of us fulfill more than one role which could lead to significant stress. For example, you are a schoolteacher, a mom or dad, husband or wife, caregiver, or even a student, all at the same time. Other sources of stress include public speaking, test performance, interaction with strangers, the death of a loved one, divorce, getting married, increased financial responsibilities, loss of a job, and or emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor impulse control, obsessive thinking, beliefs, fears, etc. There could be multiple sources of stress in our lives, and therefore knowing why you feel stressed might be difficult at times, leaving you overwhelmed, where in some instances could lead to anxiety and or a state of panic.

Why pay attention to stress? The continuous exposure to stress is detrimental for your overall health.  The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists several symptoms of chronic stress which include lack of sleep, headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, and skin irritations to name a few.

Manage Stress and Anxiety: Fortunately, we can reduce the effects of stress by adopting new approaches as we navigate through the different sources of stress and learn how to handle them.

  1. Identify your source or sources of stress. Knowing how to manage stress requires first acknowledging that there is a problem and second pinpointing where is the problem coming from. What triggers your stress response? Is it a specific situation or challenge at home, work, or school? Is it a believe? Fear? Or all of these? Just make a list of all your triggers and examine the list.
  2. Look for patterns in sources of stress. As explained above, there could be multiple sources of stress and if we look closer, we can usually identify a pattern. Some stress could stem from external factors or from within ourselves.

    For example, we can all relate to the current unprecedented situation slowing the world down, COVID-19, an example of an environmental stressor (unprecedented event) that is out of our control (in some sense). Consider how you react to the incoming information, people talking to you about the virus vs. news and the media, etc.  Is it a manageable stressor or not? Also consider any fears associated with COVID-19 or associated with other events such as public speaking or taking a test, how do you react to these sources of stress? Some sources are produced by external events such as unprecedented events or workplace, and others stem from within such as thoughts, fears or believes.
  3. Management of external sources of stress could involve making changes to your routine and or habits. For example, exercise, healthy diet, and adequate sleep could improve your energy and focus which can help you manage sources of stress. Take steps to learn and or sharpen specific skills such as problem-solving training, a public speaking course, or social skills training. You can also learn to prioritize by writing down a list of important things in a hierarchy. Being grounded on what is important today, can ease your reaction to different sources of stress.
  4. Management of internal sources of stress could involve taking a closer look at your thinking pattern. Negative thoughts or negative self-talk can be altered to a more positive pattern. Meditation techniques could help ease the reaction to stress, whether is chronic anxiety or a state of panic. Some helpful meditation strategies include deep breathing, mindful observation, mindful walking, mindful eating, body scanning to name a few. Having a positive perspective of life as sources of stress are encountered can widen your outlook of specific stressors.
  5. Management of sudden unpleasant reaction to stress or anxiety: All of a sudden you are worried, feel restless, cannot concentrate, have not been having enough sleep, and feel overwhelmed. What can you do in the moment?
    1. Take a deep slow breath, hold it for a couple of seconds and exhale even slower.
    2. Concentrate on your breathing and the sensations and sound of your breath.
    3. If thoughts come into your mind, let them go, do not engage on them, come back to the breathing.
    4. Do this for about two to three minutes or as much as you can.
    5. Say to yourself, “I feel calm, I can do this, it is a good day.”

Sources of stress are always going to be around us or within us, and this is ok. However, it is how we deal with the stress what is important to know. We can learn to manage it successfully if we persevere and remain consistent. If you feel that you need help easing your reaction to stress and anxiety, seek the help of a mental health professional.

This article is meant to be educational; it is not a substitute for professional help. If you need additional help lowering your stress and anxiety, I am here to help. Please call me at 1-888-876-9784 to schedule an appointment or visit www.thought-wise.org.

Dr. Penate.

Reference

Stress. Retrieved on May 28, 2020 from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress