STOP WORRYING: How to Manage Stress and Anxiety like a Professional
If you’re like most people we’ve seen over the last month or so, lately the feeling of being exhausted, stuck, and overwhelmed all at once tends to be the norm. Not only that, but you may also be feeling unsure of what to do or how to move forward after the pandemic. Between politics and extreme life changes brought on by COVID-19, it makes perfect sense that many people across Colorado, and across the world for that matter, are struggling to pull themselves together right now.
In fact, a recent study by Gurvich et al. (2020) reports that, “47 percent of individuals are experiencing some degree of psychological distress from the effects of the pandemic, with women experiencing higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress than men.”
Managing anxiety and stress is now, more than ever, more critical to keep under control, especially with everything going on in the world today. Successful stress management can be difficult because your brain has a natural reaction for survival with its fight or flight wiring. Our brains are essentially programmed to look for threats and immediately jump to conclusions when faced with uncertainty, so having the proper skills to maintain homeostasis, or balance, when it comes to our mental states is vital.
When the human brain perceives something to be a threat, the immediate stress response is activated by the amygdala. Unfortunately, at the same time, the other part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, or the part responsible for emotional regulation and critical thinking, can shut down or function less effectively simultaneously. Due to this innate response, fear, worry, and anxiety hinder your ability to make intelligent decisions. Instead, when faced with a stress signal, your brain will likely assume the worst and either emotionally react or become paralyzed by fear.
How you cope with stress, fear, anger, challenges, or negativity greatly matters, regardless of your individual lifestyle. Recently, researchers have found that during the COVID pandemic, self-blame, venting, and self-distraction have all been linked to ‘poorer mental health’ (Gurvich et al., 2020). However, Gurvich and colleagues also found that those with better mental health use ‘positive reframing to proactively cope in the face of stress.’
Through the use of positive reframing of our mind, we can actively work on handling our own personal stress or anxiety. Give Gurvich’s concept a try by applying the simple steps below during times of stress in your life. These practices allow you to take back control of your thoughts, emotions, and responses, as well as overall positive wellbeing.
1) Take several deep breaths. When feeling stressed, take a few breaths with your diaphragm (with your stomach expanding as you inhale). This can help calm your brain and body, and it will better equip you to use the questions below to engage the critical thinking part of the brain.
2) Ask yourself these four questions:
- “Where do I have control right now?”
- “Are my thoughts about the situation based on facts or assumptions?”
- “What’s a more helpful way of thinking about this situation?”
- “What’s the most productive action I can take right now?
When we’re stressed, we know that’s it’s often easy to focus or even dwell on the “problem”. Now that you’ve learned a couple more tools to add to your toolbelt, you can now recognize your stress sooner and turn your mindset around. By identifying where you have control, assessing the accuracy of your thoughts, positively reframing the way you’re looking at your current situation, and taking productive action for yourself, you can handle stress and anxiety like a pro. Trust us, by taking a few minutes to work through these coping mechanisms when you’re anxious, overwhelmed, stressed, stuck, or anything in between, help yourself by recognizing the signs to prevent burnout before it’s too late.
If you’re looking for professional diagnostic evaluation for mental health conditions, neurocognitive conditions, or neurodevelopmental concerns, give our experts here at Brain & Body Integration a call today for your initial consultation. Our team of professionals are here to both give you personal tools to cope on a daily basis , but also provide you and your family with the medical answers you deserve. Book an appointment for a diagnostic evaluation today.