Everyone has a limit of tolerance to stress they can handle on a day-to-day basis. But when we’re going through big changes like a career transition or figuring out our own life purposes, the stress can become overwhelming. It’s times like these that force us to practice coping skills and practice new ways of dealing with our life challenges. Here are 5 evidence-based approaches to managing your stress:

1) NATURE

Did you know that stress hormones drop significantly after just 15 minutes of sitting in a forest? Most people feel at their best when they’re outside. There are many mental health benefits when spending time in nature, and apparently, you don’t have to go outside to connect with nature. Research shows even looking at a picture of nature can reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning. The science is so robust around nature therapy that healthcare practitioners across Canada have started to prescribe parks through the ParX program to anyone who could benefit from it.

2) EXERCISE!

How many times have you heard this one? Knowing that exercise is generally good for you is common sense. Sometimes we need a reminder of the evidence around the benefits of regular exercise in reducing anxiety. Whether it’s simply running, team sports, dancing or yoga, it’s important to find a physical activity that you enjoy rather than dread having to exercise. Exercising helps release endorphins and regulate our blood pressure, counteracting the effects of cortisol and adrenaline which are produced in our bodies when we are in fight-or-flight mode.

3) JOURNALING

A recent study showed that journaling 3 times a week for 6 weeks can significantly increase one’s feelings of optimism and gratitude. Setting aside regular time to write your thoughts and feelings without overthinking can have many therapeutic benefits, including the reduction of symptoms related to anxiety, even arthritis and asthma!

4) SLEEP

Being “tired” all the time because one is “too busy” for sleep has become a status symbol in Western culture as a way to show one’s importance in the world. Unfortunately, this type of sleep-deprived lifestyle comes at a cost. In this self-care assessment from The University of Tennessee at Martin, you can assess your self-care status and routine which includes your spiritual, relationship, physical and emotional life. Unsurprisingly, “getting enough sleep” is one of the first things on the checklist as sleep hygiene has a major impact on our overall well-being. According to research, 65%-75% of the population has experienced sleep deprivation during COVID-19 because of the increased workload or for “occupational” reasons – a growing epidemic stemming from the pandemic. If you’re suffering from poor sleep, it could be time to talk to your doctor about how to make some changes.

5) FIND A THERAPIST

Whether it’s learning to set boundaries with your work or partner, or you need some validation, getting that unbiased feedback from a professional counselling therapist, psychologist or psychotherapist can be incredibly beneficial for your mental health.

By Laura Cohen, a Career Counsellor at Canada Career Counselling Halifax location. Laura has completed an MA in Counselling Psychology from McGill University. She is experienced working with clients in numerous industries including finance, the military, business and education, the non-profit and arts sector, IT and healthcare.  If you are looking for career counselling email our office at [email protected] to schedule a 15-minute complimentary consultation. You may be able to use your insurance plan or extended health benefits to cover counselling and assessment fees.

 

 

 

References

BC Parks Foundation. (March 2022). Mental Health. Park Prescriptions https://bcparksfoundation.ca/site/assets/files/1697/parx_mental_health_handout_oct20_-_ml.pdf

Self-Care Assessment Adapted from Saakvitne, Pearlman, & Staff of TSI/CAAP (1996). Transforming the pain: A workbook on vicarious traumatization. Norton.

Kühn, S., Forlim, C. G., Lender, A., Wirtz, J., & Gallinat, J. (2021). Brain functional connectivity differs when viewing pictures from natural and built environments using fMRI resting state analysis. Scientific reports, 11(1), 1-10.

Stonerock, G. L., Hoffman, B. M., Smith, P. J., & Blumenthal, J. A. (2015). Exercise as treatment for anxiety: systematic review and analysis. Annals of behavioral medicine, 49(4), 542-556.

Lin, Y. N., Liu, Z. R., Li, S. Q., Li, C. X., Zhang, L., Li, N., … & Li, Q. Y. (2021). Burden of sleep disturbance during COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review. Nature and Science of Sleep, 13, 933.

Kabir, A. Exercise: Background and Benefits on Health.

Kim-Godwin, Y. S., Kim, S. S., & Gil, M. (2020). Journaling for self-care and coping in mothers of troubled children in the community. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 34(2), 50-57.