Tips on Handling Stress

April is Stress Awareness month and our Mental Health Counsellor, Jenn LePage, is sharing some important information about stress and tips on how to manage stress.

“When we take ownership and focus on fixing things that aren’t in our control we tend to forget to settle and regulate our system”

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension and is your body’s heightened reaction to a challenge, demand, or lack of safety. This can be described as our fight, flight, or freeze response. We were not designed to be in the fight, flight, or freeze modes on an ongoing basis. Stress, in and of itself, is a normal process. Normal stress is when there is an increase in stress, a peak, and then a decrease in stress that allows your body to settle again. We run into trouble if the full cycle doesn’t happen, and we end up experiencing more and more stress without a release.

It is important to recognize that sometimes stress is happening around us but isn’t ours to fix or solve. When we take ownership and focus on fixing things that aren’t in our control we tend to forget to settle and regulate our system because we are just waiting desperately for the stress to end. The actual goal is to settle our systems repeatedly throughout the day regardless of how much stress is happening. The first step to settling our system is to be aware of what we are experiencing. Once we have an awareness of what we are experiencing we can respond and communicate more effectively. Using our boundaries, we can identify what fits for us and what doesn’t so that it is more enjoyable to engage with others and manage our world.  

So how do we create calm in our brain and body when stressful things are happening? Ultimately, it is about figuring out what brings us comfort and soothing, what makes us feel safe, and noticing when we feel calm and content. One of my kids has a blue blanket, and that blanket solves everything in his world! It helps him regulate his breathing, his emotions, his agitation, and it ultimately creates one of his favorite safe spaces. My favorite soothing activity for myself is intentional breathing. When we breathe intentionally, we slow down our thoughts, quiet the intensity of our emotions, and reduce our impulsive urges to act or speak prior to finding our calm. The best part of breathing is that you can do it anywhere at anytime!  

Everyone finds comfort and soothing in a different way, and what may be comforting for one person, may not be for another. Here are some common ways that people find comfort and relief from stress:

  • being active
  • being in nature
  • practicing meditation, mindfulness, or gratitude
  • spending time with loved ones
  • spending time with animals
  • prayer
  • music
  • singing or dancing
  • crafts or hobbies
  • cooking or baking
  • reading, writing or journaling
  • taking a shower or bath
  • being kind and compassionate with oneself

If we can practice intentionally incorporating these activities into everyday life it is much easier to use them in moments of heightened stress.

– Jenn LePage