I’ve always liked to think that I am very capable of dealing with any kind of stress that comes my way. Stress has always been a positive motivator for me, and has helped me get tasks completed on time. I’ve always felt the pressure from external sources was something that helped override my overwhelming desire to procrastinate until the last possible second on everything that I need to get done. And that’s not so bad, is it?
More recently, however, I have been dealing with stress that seems so overwhelming, I’m not sure how to use it in a positive way. This stress gives me head aches, zaps my energy, undermines my focus, and makes me feel lousy. So, what’s the difference between the two?
All stress comes from external factors. For example, I have a workshop coming up. I need to get the handouts printed for attendees. I only have a few days to find the material I want to use, print, and collate my packets. But I have multiple projects competing for my time. Plus there’s this thing called my day job that I also need to squeeze into my schedule. I also have a million other uber-stressful events in my life right now. To say that I am overwhelmed could be an understatement. A few years ago that deadline would have been no big deal. I would have just researched those handouts, printed, and stapled like a boss without even batting an eyelash! Now it feels like I have to go climb Mt. Everest!
What’s going on inside that makes dealing with small tasks so difficult? First of all, I’ve internalized those external factors. That means that instead of just “getting it done,” I’ve allowed the stress to take up residence in my head and my heart. I’m fretting over it, worrying that I won’t get it finished in time, even though I know I will. I am allowing it to drive me. Secondly, there are physical reactions to stress like releasing too much cortisol, which can also cause physical symptoms…weight gain, hormonal imbalances, adrenal fatigue just to name a few. Clearly, this can’t be helpful, either. Stress causes sleep problems, physical illness, sexual problems, as well as cravings and addictive behaviors. It can also lead to depression. Stress, when not managed properly, can really get out of hand and become extremely detrimental to health.
Well, now that we know all this, what do we do about it? First, maintaining a positive attitude will help. Taking time to engage in self-care techniques like massage, detox baths, dry skin brushing, and lymph massage every day will also help. Meditating, writing a gratitude list, and journaling are great ways to help keep stress in perspective and work through problems before they reach the overwhelming stage. Good nutrition and supplementation with herbs like lavender and chamomile, passionflower, and valerian root will also help relax and soothe, as well as control cravings. A diet that incorporates lots of healthy fats, Omega 3s, and leafy greens will prevent nutritional depletion. Yoga and walking are great forms of exercise that will help control stress. And don’t forget that handy to-do list and pocket calendar. This may help you prioritize and organize your projects into manageable tasks so that you feel like you have more control over your life.
If these self help techniques fail, and you continue to feel overwhelmed, have physical illnesses that won’t go away, or feel like your stress is increasing or causing other mental health problems, it may be time to seek professional help. Sometimes talking to someone with experience in healing stress disorders is enough to make things tolerable again.