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Where is your stress coming from?
Author: Carly Fleming, Registered Psychotherapist, Everwell Counselling (everwellcounselling.ca)
Stress is a reality for all of us. There is no way to get through life without dealing with stress. On the one hand, it is helpful to approach stress with acceptance in order to live with as much ease as possible. On the other hand, it is important to recognize that large amounts of constant stress can contribute to significant physical and mental health problems (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-stress-actually-make-you-sick/).
Of course, there are times in life where we are faced with enormous stressors that are out of our control such as illness, tragedy or breakdown. If you are experiencing large scale stresses like these, while you may not be able to change the fundamental origins of the stress, it is still possible to consider the elements of the stress that are in your control. Whether you are facing large scale stress and/or daily stresses that compound over time, we’d like to help you uncover what may be going on under the surface. Self-awareness is key. Grab a journal, a piece of paper, or the notes section on your phone so you can follow along and make this a meaningful exercise for yourself.
A very good place to start is to ask yourself “Where is my stress coming from?”.
Write down as much as you can think of and see what comes up for you. It’s important to be specific here so you can tackle these stresses in a way that is unique to you. Is your stress coming from expectations placed on you from others? Frustration that plans you made are not going the way you hoped? Worry or fear about potential heath outcomes? Is the stress of the world on your shoulders – stress about climate change, the next pandemic, politics, etc.? Or maybe you’re experiencing relationship stress or financial pressures. Whatever it is for you, take a moment to jot down as many sources of stress in your life that you can think of.
Next, ask yourself “Which of these stressors are in my control?”.
This question is key because it will help you identify where you can begin to take action to reduce stress. When we see all stressors as one big heap of stress, it is very difficult to identify areas where you have some control. You will notice that some stressors fit very nicely into the category of “in my control” whereas others are more complicated. For some people, work may be in their control whereas others have very little control in this domain. The same goes for finances and relationships. Each person is different here but everyone can find something that is in their control.
Lastly, ask yourself “What is one way I can reduce stress in each area?”.
Once you’ve identified the stressors that you have some control over, it is so empowering to identify things you can do to reduce stress. For example, if fear about health is a stressor for you, you may want to set a goal for yourself to seek out professional guidance that aligns with your unique situation (as opposed to asking “Dr. Google”). Or if finances are an issue and you have some control over your finances, you can choose to look through your monthly expenses and identify one or two items that you can reduce or eliminate. The possibilities here are endless and will be unique to each person.
Once you’ve arrived at this point in the process, you will have a small list of action items that you can put in place to immediately begin to reduce stress in your life. In conjunction with the self-awareness of the sources of your stress, this can go a long way to creating lasting and meaningful change.
(Parts of this article were originally published in blog format at everwellcounselling.ca)