by Dulles Moms | October 2, 2017 5:02 pm
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By Dr. Erin Kardel
Given everything encountered each day such as work, school, family, and relationships, life can be stressful. Stress is a basic part of life, and in fact, a certain amount of stress is necessary to help you survive and perform at your best.
Stress can be defined as the body’s response to a challenging event — an event which challenges your ability to cope effectively. It occurs when you adapt to demands and changes in your life. These may be happening in the external world (such as a speeding truck headed toward you on the highway), or it may be happening in your internal world (such as worrying that you will fail a test). The more challenging the event is to you, the more your body responds to stress.
There is both good stress and bad stress. Experiencing a moderate amount of stress is adaptive and can have many benefits, including greater focus and energy, improved personal relationships, and preparing you to react appropriately in a time of crisis. Your body maintains an optimum balance of many variables and a stress event triggers a change in this balance. This activates your “fight or flight” response which is very helpful if you do indeed need to fight or flee. When stress is too high or when your body often (and quickly) turn on the “fight or flight” response, it becomes increasingly exhausted.
If you do not take time to relax, recover, and renew, this stress-response becomes damaging and can lead to loss of energy, lowered immune system functioning, and difficulty in day-to-day functioning. While elimination of stress is unrealistic, managing it is an attainable and realistic goal that can be achieved by utilizing these tips:
One of the best ways to work out stress is to move your body. Consistent exercise routines reduce stress and tension making them important for attaining and preserving good health. Exercise produces a variety of benefits including increasing oxygen circulation and releasing endorphins, which elevate mood. Whether working out at the gym or taking a walk with a friend, you will feel better physically, sleep better at night, and improve your mood when you get up and move. Try to pick something you like to do for exercise so that you will look forward to it and feel better when you do it. To get the maximum benefit, aim for a reliable routine that you can sustain over time.
Proper nutrition enhances your resilience to stress. Stress takes a nutritional toll on the body ranging from depleting vitamins to depressing your immune system. Under conditions of high stress, several nutrients, including vitamins A & C, and the B-vitamins are easily depleted, making you more susceptible to illness and fatigue. A healthy diet consists of eating a wide variety of different food sources which include important elements such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Stress can also impact your choice of foods and how fast and frequently you eat. Be aware that skipping meals can heighten stress and excessive high-calorie food can disrupt normal bodily functions. A well-nourished body is one of your best defenses against stress.
Change Unhealthy Thinking
Stress that is created by your thoughts can feel the same as stress created by actual events in terms of how your body handles it. It is important to counteract negative thinking and work to change toxic thought patterns. Be aware of negative statements you make towards yourself and instead use constructive self-talk. When faced with a stressful or negative situation, try to reframe it and explain it in a neutral or rational way. Additionally, aim to be cognitively flexible and not set rigid rules for yourself. For example, if you hold yourself to a standard of perfectionism that is unrealistic, it will likely lead to feeling like a failure when those standards are not met. If you cannot escape your unhealthy thoughts, write them down to help clarify what is stressful, put them in perspective, and problem solve.
Get Enough Sleep
If you do not get an adequate amount of sleep, your ability to manage stress can be compromised. When you are tired, you can be easily agitated, less patient, and not think as clearly. Sleep helps to regenerate your energy level and helps reduce the effects of stress. Practicing stress-reducing techniques can also help improve your overall quality of sleep.
Improve Planning Skills
Staying organized and planning ahead is immensely helpful in reducing the stress created by rushing around and procrastinating. Make it a habit to use a daily checklist, calendar, or scheduler to stay on top of day-to-day organization. When scheduling, be sure to schedule a realistic day filled with tasks that can be done so you do not set yourself up for disappointment. It is also helpful to break large tasks down into manageable chunks and give yourself small breaks as needed. Get unpleasant or easy tasks over with early in the day so you can feel a sense of accomplishment and avoid putting things off by acting instead of waiting until the next day. Lastly, when planning your week, make sure to make time for yourself. Even 10-15 minutes of self-care every day can go a long way.
Learn Relaxation Skills
Learning relaxation techniques can help reduce the emotional, mental, and physical components of stress. There are many exercises that are available and easy to learn such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation, and mindfulness. If you can acquire relaxation skills, you can help calm your body and mind. It is recommended that you approach learning these exercises as skills that need to be practiced as consistently as possible. Without practice, they may not be as effective for you at the time when you need them the most.
Connect with Others
During times of stress, many tend to pull back and isolate themselves. It is imperative that you develop good, warm, supportive relationships and connect with others particularly when faced with the hassles of life. You may find that a friend can provide the perspective that you need or that they are simply there as an outlet when you need to talk through what is bothering you. In any case, these social relationships are important in making you more resilient to stress.
Develop Good Self-Worth
Work to develop a sense of self-worth that is not primarily dependent on achievements, success, or others. If your self-worth is measured by external validators, then it will leave your internal world going up and down depending on the event or situation. It is good for your stress management to welcome feelings that are both pleasant and unpleasant, to accept the good as well as the bad, and to learn how to cope with the bad. Accept imperfections, failures, and mistakes and be sure to practice kindness and compassion towards yourself and others.
Be Solution Focused
Focus on what you can control, not what is out of your control. When faced with a stressful situation, use those as learning experiences and be solution focused, rather than problem focused. When thinking about a past event, learn to let go and not ruminate on things that cannot be changed. Use productive thinking to help guide you through how to navigate a plan for past, current, or future stressful situations.
No matter how hard you try, it is impossible to avoid the stressors of daily life, but you can learn how to manage them. Stress management is critical to maintaining wellness and is something best approached from multiple angles. Remember that stress has many benefits and not all stress is bad for you but if you are continually stressed then you need to take preventative measures and help build emotional resiliency. Take charge of your environment by making changes to your daily routine. Small changes that focus on these key areas can lead to big improvements in overall health.
Dr. Erin Kardel, a well-respected and highly credentialed clinician, earned her Doctoral Degree in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from American University. Today, Dr. Kardel is a licensed Clinical Psychologist at NeuroScience, Inc. (NSI), a Herndon, VA-based practice where she specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and also serves as an investigator for NSI’s qualitative and medication research studies. Her CBT treatment emphasizes behavioral interventions, such as exposure and response prevention (ERP), and biofeedback, as well as collaboration with families, schools, and health providers to ensure patient-first success.
As an expert in CBT and mindfulness-based cognitive behavior therapy (MBCBT), Dr. Kardel’s work experience and specialized training make her an asset to the NeuroScience, Inc. team. Dr. Kardel is an expert in multiple areas, including OCD, phobias, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, adjustment disorder, social anxiety disorder, depression, ADHD, trichotillomania, and insomnia.
Dr. Kardel has worked with children, adolescents, and adults in a variety of settings throughout her career and she is ready to help you or your loved ones meet their goals.
To schedule a consultation or appointment with Dr. Erin Kardel, please call (703) 787-9090. NeuroScience is located at 106 Elden St., Herndon, VA 20170. Learn more, including what insurances they accept, by connecting online, Facebook, and Twitter.
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