By Kylie Keisling
We are living through stressful times. As the temperature outside drops and days get darker, we may also notice a drop in mood, energy, or motivation. Our desire for connection may be in conflict with our plan for safety with Covid-19. This can create stress and tension in our lives. A bright spot is that God made us knowing we would experience stress and gave us the tools for how to cope.
We all have built-in stress warning signs that tell us when we need to take a break and reset. Stress will build and store itself in our body until we intentionally or unintentionally release it. Without an intentional release, stress shows itself as irritability, defensiveness, impatience, and aggression which can affect our work, home, and relationships. As God tends to each of our needs intentionally, we are made to model that intentionality with our self-care.
Here are some tips to cope with overwhelming stress:
- Name It: Stress can be really overwhelming. When we take a step back and name what is stressing us out it can decrease the pressure we feel. Usually there are some aspects of our stress we can control. Acknowledging our stress by name is the first step towards taking action. After naming it, I encourage you to check in with where you carry stress in your body. Understanding where we carry our stress can help us identify and take care of it in the future. Many of us carry stress in our shoulders, as a knot in our stomach, as a headache, or other areas of tension throughout our body. Naming our stress and recognizing where we carry it are the first steps toward stress release.
- Know How You React- Often, when we think of the fight or flight response we think of extreme or dangerous situations. We think of shark attacks or a car accident. When we experience stress our body can’t distinguish between an actual physical danger and the experience of stress. Our bodies respond similarly when we experience stress, launching our body into fight/flight/or freeze and taking our minds offline. What is your natural tendency? When you’re stressed do you often fight, feel angry, or become defensive. When you’re under pressure do you feel the urge to take flight and flee the room. Or maybe you freeze up and have difficulty doing or saying anything. When we come to recognize our natural stress response we can key in to our stressors and understand when we need to step back and take a break to reset.
- Breathe and Pray-Stress physically manifests itself in our body. When we take short shallow breaths, our brains think we’re in danger because we aren’t getting the oxygen we need and it can trigger our fight, flight, or freeze response. Taking deep breaths from our diaphragm allows our bodies’ natural calming system to activate. I encourage you to take a prayer breath as a way to release your stress. Spend a moment in prayer bringing God into your stress and ask Him for what you need. While taking a deep breath ask God to be with you as you inhale and ask him for what you need as you exhale. For example, “God be with me.” *Inhale* “Give me patience.” *Exhale*. Bringing our attention away from our anxious thoughts and focusing on our breathing can reduce our stress response and bring us mental clarity.
These techniques are a way for you to acknowledge, react to, and release your stress. Stress can be overwhelming, but God gives us tools for living in the abundance of life He has planned for us. If you would like to learn more about stress reduction or have other mental health concerns, please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].
Kylie Keisling is a licensed Mental Health Counselor and works at The Core in Omaha.