Total Therapy Blog
About to Snap? : Snap out of Stress
This article was contributed by Steve Baik, RCC. Steve is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (R.C.C.) with the BC Association of Clinical Counsellors. He has a B.A. in Psychology from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Counselling Psychology from the Adler School of Professional Psychology, Vancouver.
“I enjoy getting out and experiencing the natural beauty of BC. I stay healthy with running, swimming, snowboarding and going to the gym.” – Steve
In the movie Forrest Gump, the protagonist says, “My momma always said, Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, that may be true, but there are days when you feel like you are picking only the bitter ones out of the box. Alarm fails to go off, the hot water tank breaks, and the traffic jam is worse than ever. These may sound like small incidents, but they can pile up on top of one another.
We use the term stress to describe a very unpleasant state of our mind and body.
When your level of stress is high for an extended period of time, you may suffer from symptoms such as muscle tension in your neck and shoulders, headache, blurred vision, change in appetite, change in blood pressure, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, racing thoughts, immune system dysfunction and acceleration of aging processes. When the level of stress is too high – over your stress threshold – you may find yourself “about to snap”.
Here are some simple quick tips that will help you snap out of stress. Try each one as a stepping stone to move on to the next tip.
1. Breathe your stress out.
This breathing technique immediately reduces stress and relaxes your muscles. It can also be used anywhere and anytime. Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Lie down on the floor or sit in a chair with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. First, slowly breathe in through your nose, feeling your diaphragm (belly, not your chest) expand. Then briefly hold your breath and exhale slowly through your mouth. You may be surprised to find it difficult to control your breath especially when you are in a stressed state. Counting 4, 6 and 8 seconds for each step may help you slow down your breath. Adjust the duration of each step to find the most comfortable length for you. The key here is to slow down and deepen your breathing. As you repeat the cycle several times, you will feel the tension in your muscles decrease.
2. Brush small stressors off your shoulders before they pile up.
Keeping track of incidents that heightens your stress level helps identify stressors in your life. Reflect on your day and write down the small incidents that annoyed you. Rate the incident in terms of the level of stress on a scale of ten (with ten being the highest level of stress). Also rate the level of difficulty in solving or brushing off the issue on a scale of ten with ten, being the most difficult. Stressors come from many different dimensions of your life and some of them can easily be taken out when they are identified. Try to focus on the stressors that are small and simple enough for you to manage and brush off. The goal here is clean out small and frequent stressors in your life before they pile up, NOT to confirm how stressful your day is.
3. Talk about your problems.
Not all stressors can be just brushed off your shoulders. Talk about them with someone you can trust, like a family member, friend or counsellor. Pretending as though everything is okay neither helps solve your problems nor fools anyone. Talking about them in a safe environment lets you vent out the bottled up pressure and gain some useful coping mechanisms. If the problems are too big or complicated, clinical counselling is a good place to talk about them without feeling judged. In a safe and confidential space, your counsellor will work with you to investigate problems, reflect on your emotions, and build strategies to manage your stress.
Selye, Hans. (1956), The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.