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Souhegan Valley Counseling, PLLC

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    Stress Awareness Month
    By Becky Jamison, LCMHC
    April 3, 2019

    It’s Stress Awareness Month! That’s right. As if we had forgotten about being stressed and need a whole month to become MORE aware of it! But maybe that’s actually not a bad idea. Awareness itself can actually help us to slow down our thinking and focus on what is actually going on. Think about it:

    • What exactly are you stressed about? One thing, several things, everything?

    • Is your stress focused in one area of your life, like work, parenting, health, or many areas?

    • Where does the stress affect you? Stomach, head, jaw, shoulders, neck, chest, ….Do different stresses affect you in different places?

    • How does the stress affect you? Uncomfortable/painful physical sensations, or troublesome/negative thoughts?

    • How long have you been stressed about this?

    • What have you tried to reduce your stress? What worked and what did not?

    • Is there anything you can do to get rid of what is stressing you? Or is it something you are stuck with? Is it a short-term stuck or a long-term stuck?

     

    Now that you are more aware, what do you notice? What stands out to you? Becoming more aware of  your particular stress can provide you with clues about how to move forward.

     

    Stress is a part of our lives. It is something we are supposed to experience now and then, but not all the time. A certain amount of stress is actually healthy. There’s some good news.

    So, what can you try this month to get you started on reducing your stress to a healthy level?

    1. Awareness – take the time to focus on your stress. Write down your answers to the questions above. Talk them over with a friend or family member. Find out about their stress.

    2. If your stress affects you physically, practice some skills that relax that part of your body:

      • Relax your breathing – (we probably all need to do this one) Breath in while you count to 4, pause, breath out while you count to 8. Repeat several times in a row and repeat the whole thing several times a day whenever you think of it, not just when you are stressed. 

      • Tense muscles – purposely tense your muscles, and then practice relaxing them. Pause throughout the day to notice where you are tense, and then purposely relax. Eventually you may notice as soon as you get tense, and automatically relax without even thinking about it.

      • Take a moment to notice where you are not feeling any pain or discomfort.

    3. Try some Mindfulness. Mindfulness is just a way of becoming aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations without needing to react to them.

      • Get into a comfortable position sitting or lying down.

      • Focus on your breathing.

      • Take a deep breath in, pause, then let it go.

      • Now just notice your breathing without trying to change it.

      • Keep focused on your breathing for 1 minute.

      • If thoughts come into your head, and they will, just notice them, and let them go, returning to awareness of your breathing.

      • If you notice some physical sensation or an emotion, and you will, just notice it, and then let it go, returning to your breathing.

      • Stop after 1 minute. Next time maybe try 2 minutes. This is a skill. It takes practice, but it its very helpful in reducing stress.

    4. Make a plan for changing things in your life that need to change. Maybe you need to look for a new job. Maybe you need to get some new ideas on how to parent for the stage your kids are in. Whatever it is that you can do something about, take some small steps towards making that change.

    5. Learn some helpful, healthy ways to cope with what you can’t change right now. Review what you do that you know works and find ways to do this more – like taking a walk, taking a bath, read a good book, listen to music, call a friend, doing something fun. Review any ways you tend to cope that are not healthy – like too much drinking, using drugs to self-medicate the stress, going out of your way to avoid the stress, sleeping too much, eating too much…. you know.

    6. Exercise. Start small. There are lots of good 5-minute workouts online. Climb some stairs. Do some stretches. Gradually work your way up. Exercise helps you feel like you’re are actively doing something about your stress. Stress puts you in a fight or flight or freeze mode, so if you respond by doing some push-ups, or taking a jog, or holding a yoga pose, the stress often just naturally goes down for a while.

     

    There’s lots you can do to reduce your stress to healthy levels. Take some time this April during Stress Awareness Month to make some changes and build some helpful habits.

     

    If you need some extra help and support to get your stress under control, feel free to give us a call and make an appointment.