Stress Management and Mindfulness
- Why do I keep snapping at people I care about?
- Why am I messing up at work/school so much?
- I cannot believe I just flipped that car off . . .
- I don’t usually drink so much. What is going on with me?
Stress management skills in Austin are essential; there’s the ever-building traffic, the overwhelming choice of places to go and do, and of course, the financial strain of trying to live in Austin. So many things going on that even deciding what to do to unwind can create stress! But there is a way to approach stress that helps us leverage the motivation it is trying to create. Stress, like anxiety, is a state of heightened awareness. It is an alert signal that tells us that we need to do something to restore balance.
Responding to stress vs Reacting to stress
You’re buried under paperwork, are behind on bills, your car won’t start, and you have a big meeting with your boss and a VP of the company in 10 minutes.
Stress is a fact of life. We are not talking about getting rid of any emotions; instead, we are talking about how to effectively respond to them. By learning to respond to our uncomfortable emotions, like stress, we are able to turn them into useful tools that help us find what we are looking for: balance (homeostasis), peacefulness, calmness, joy, etc.
A ‘Reaction’ is when you act without thinking; for example, somebody says something that you don’t like, and you say something hurtful without thinking. A ‘Response’ is when you take time to consider what you are about to say or do; using the same example, a response would mean that you first consider the impact/consequence of saying something hurtful, then decide to try another direction (ideally, one that helps the situation rather than making it worse). Applied to stress management, we can consider the situation at the start of this section: Late to work, the car won’t start, behind on bills, etc. Just one of “those” days. Clearly, it is stressful right from the get-go. In this case, stress is state of discomfort that, in spite of its obnoxiousness, is trying to help us. If you just react impulsively, you may kick the flat tire (did I mention that there’s a flat tire, too?), hurt your foot, resulting in a new frustration of a limp and pain. If however, you take the time to consider what needs to happen, you will likely respond by taking a breath, then calling your boss to let them know that you’ll be a little late…or perhaps you think to call a colleague to cover for you so that you can tell your boss that you’ve got things covered already. Now, this does not erase the frustration with the situation, but you can see how it is better than adding a broken toe to the equation.
Letting stress help you, not paralyze you
Since stress is inevitable, we do well when we use it to our advantage as we learn to navigate life’s ups and downs. Like other uncomfortable/undesirable states of mind, we can allow stress to be a ‘warning light’ that tells us when it’s time to take a break, slow down, take a vacation, etc. Just be sure that you know what tends to help you; if you are not sure, then counseling may be helpful for you since sometimes a neutral person can see options that you may have missed.
Stress management ideas:
- Take a shower or bath
- Listen to music
- Get a massage
- Play music
- Play a game
- Talk to a friend or family member
- Take a walk in nature (or just sit in nature)
- Drink a soothing drink (Chamomile)
- Simply wash your face
- Breathe in and out with a smooth rhythm (meditation)
- Tend your garden
Stress management FAQ’s
I heard that there is ‘good stress’ and ‘bad stress.’ What is the difference?
It’s true, sort of. The brain only knows general stress, we deem it as ‘good or bad’ depending on what it relates to. Getting a flat tire would be ‘bad’ stress. If, however, you get a promotion, buy a house, or even win the lottery, your body will release the same biochemical cocktail of cortisol, adrenaline, and testosterone, but because those are generally good things, we would call them ‘good’ stress. Any kind of big change puts us in a higher alert state so that we can pay attention to the new circumstances whether its to adjust to heartbreak or new found fortune. Remember, the chemistry is the same, but our interpretation of how it feels is based on context.
If stress is supposed to help us, why do we want to get rid of it?
We don’t! Stress is a survival mechanism designed to protect us, so we want to manage it, not get rid of it. Counseling helps you recognize, interpret and manage stress so that it helps you make healthy decisions. So, what we call ‘getting rid of stress’ is actually just responding to it effectively so it can dissipate.
Why do somethings stress me out, but not other people?
Genetics, how we were taught as kids, and the environment we were raised in all come together to make us who we are. We are all wired differently, raised differently, and in different circumstances, so what stresses us out is a matter of individual differences in who we are.
Stress Management Resources
National Institute of Mental Health – 5 Things You Should Know About Stress
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – Great information and links about stress
National Alliance on Mental Illness – Stress management and stress reduction techniques
National Suicide Prevention LifeLine Live Chat – 1-800-273-8255 is the 24/7 hotline
(512) 472-HELP – 24/7 Texas Crisis Line
Learn about Stress Management: Stress Management Articles
Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan is a Gottman-trained Couples Counselor, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.