Managing Stress and Anxiety
Some of the things that cause us stress relate to questions that do not have answers. Things like “why do bad things happen to us?” In these kinds of situations our coping skills need to focus on giving-expression to our experience and emotions. One of the best ways to do that is to explore your creative side. There are many ways to express yourself. Journaling, writing poetry or songs, drawing, painting, sculpting, playing music or building something. Find your way of creatively expressing what you are experiencing, thinking or feeling. It can provide the outlet you need to process your emotions during a difficult time.
One of the best ways to help manage anxiety and stress is by “talking to yourself rather than listening to yourself.” Stress often leads to worry which is our mind repeating fear-based-messages. But you have control over what you think about. When you find yourself dwelling on what could go wrong, stop and replace those thoughts. Tell yourself encouraging-courageous messages and focus on them instead. Read good stories, songs, or poetry. Center yourself on good-strength giving messages. You can do this. Remember you have control over what you think about. And it's time to take control. Talk to yourself instead of listening to yourself.
Stress and worry are often driven by focusing our attention on things we do not have control over. A great way to counter this is by concentrating on things we can control-and-complete. Try making a daily schedule of what you are going to do. For instance from 8-9 you make breakfast and read the paper. From 9-10 you write four encouraging notes to friends. From 10-12 you do laundry and tidy up your home. 12-1 You take a walk. 1-3 you volunteer to call shut-ins. And so on. Keeping a daily schedule will give you a sense of control and accomplishment and that all helps to reduce your anxiety.
During times of distress and crisis it is natural for us to focus on what is going wrong and how we can be hurt by it. One of the best ways to deal with the stress of a difficult situation is to change your paradigm and begin to focus on what the adversity is teaching you and how it can help make you a better and stronger person. Instead of worrying try to come up with five ways you are going to grow and improve from your challenges. By doing this you'll change your mental focus to finding opportunities for growth rather than feeding your fears.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCC-S, Executive Director, Appleseed Community Mental Health Center