As therapists, stress is a constant factor affecting our clients and treatment. One topic that frequently creates stress is current events. While normal life stresses such as work concerns, parenting, and relationships can already create havoc, trying to keep anxious thoughts and feelings under control when the outside world seems unpredictable or dangerous can be even more difficult.
Media of all types has a clear interest in ensuring you feel something when consuming its content – including social media. Think of local TV news asking ominous questions like: “What could be lurking in your water supply? Tune in tonight at 10 for more!” It’s easy to see why advertisements like this or intense posts on social media can affect our mood and outlook on the world – it’s scary to think something dangerous may be in the water supply!
With news alerts and social media feeds continuing to allow us to see the gritty reality of issues like politics, war, or hunger, it’s hard to know what to do, how to help, or even how to stop focusing on problems for a while so you can mentally recover. Giving yourself time to recharge can help ensure you manage the anxiety and feelings of powerlessness that can accompany while staying engaged with the world. Let’s take a look:
1. Map What You Can Control
When an event, issue is making headlines, it can be natural to feel worry or stress. In these situations, it can be a good practice to reflect on your place in the world in relation to the issue.
Consider: If the issue does not affect you personally and you’re not in a position of influence or power to affect changes directly, making that fact explicit in your mind can help calm your nerves. Keeping this in mind can even help you more effectively engage in methods that actually can affect the issue you feel passionately about. You’ll spend less time worried about things that are out of your control and can use that time to find ways to help or engage in ways available to you.
2. Do What You Can
As you map what is and is not within your control, it’s likely you’ll realize that even with the most far-flung issues, there will be things that you can control and ways you can contribute. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant the area of contribution may be, taking action can not only help solve the issue, but also help you manage your feelings by feeling more ownership and security in your own place in the world.
Even if you can’t solve the problem directly, being part of what you see as the solution can take care of the nagging, critical part of your mind that says “you’re not doing enough”.
3. Know (and Accept) Your Limits
Even if you find a good way to contribute to solving the issue you’re worried about, it’s important to remember you’re only one person and your ability to help is limited by definition.
Be honest with yourself about how much of any given resource (money, volunteer time, even attention!) you can commit to an issue. Giving yourself permission to set limits for your contribution, no matter the form, can help avoid the feelings of powerlessness that can come from seeing what seems like a steady barrage of problems.
Be sure to adhere to your limits as well, even when it’s hard. The key is to keep yourself able to engage with finding solutions to our larger problems without becoming so bogged down that you end up burnt out and disengaged.
Stresses from outside sources can affect anyone. Let’s talk about it. Call 319-320-7506 to schedule an appointment today.
About the Author
Pete Campie, LMFT sees individuals, couples and families in Cedar Rapids, IA or online. He offers early morning or daytime appointments.
While most of us know that not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to our physical health, leading to increased fatigue and putting us at risk of several medical conditions, lack of rest also affects our mental health significantly. This, of course, doesn’t stop many of us from choosing work, entertainment, or other distractions instead of the amount of sleep that we need – more than 1 in 3 Americans report sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours per night.
So why should we prioritize finding opportunities to sleep longer?
Rest is Crucial to Mental Functioning
Without adequate time to rest via sleep, your mind will be less able to respond to the challenges of daily life, and you may experience mood disruptions.
Much like rest being one of the most common suggestions to accelerate healing after a physical injury, giving your brain time to recover from each successive day can be crucial in providing you the opportunity to subconsciously process issues, feelings, and emotions. Just like it’s important to set boundaries in relationships, it’s also important to set boundaries for your waking hours to ensure you’re able to function and feel as positive and energized as possible.
Beyond the well-documented physical benefits of getting enough sleep, the other main benefit from a mental health perspective is in helping to establish and build healthy habits for yourself.
By establishing a pattern of going to bed and subsequently waking up simultaneously, you build personal discipline and incorporate more predictability into your daily routine – which can help assimilate other healthy self-care habits as time goes on.
Ways to Strategize Your Way to More Rest
Stick to your schedule! While life can be hectic and responsibilities change quickly, do your best to stay consistent day-to-day.
Minimize distractions. Even on low-light output settings, looking at screens such as phones, tablets, or even TVs can make it harder to get to sleep. Try to eliminate or at least reduce your screen time for about an hour before going to bed.
Incorporate calming habits. Practices like meditation or reading a book before bed can be not only suitable substitutes for screen time but can also help you calm down and function as part of your self-care routine along with sleep.
“Hi my name is Stephanie Grobstich, and I’m a marriage and family therapist at Cedar Rapids Counseling Center. Here are some ways that you can cope with anxiety symptoms, a lot of my clients come in and they chat with me about anxiety symptoms. One of the things that has been brought to my attention is that a lot of people Google search how to calm anxiety or what even is anxiety. And anxiety is one of those things where it affects everybody differently, meaning that one person may experience it in a little bit of smaller way versus another person where it may be more debilitating and there’s many different forms of that. What I kind of tell my clients is that it’s not one size fits all, as far as how to calm that anxiety. Unfortunately, there’s no magic potion that we can give you that’s going to cure all of your anxiety symptoms, no one’s figured that out yet. It’s really just what is going to work for you.
A lot of clinicians talk about mindfulness. What this means is, being able to be with yourself in the here and now focusing on what’s going on for you without necessarily judging yourself in the process. I feel like we do a really great job of being self-critics and kind of knocking ourselves down a peg or two. And so, using mindfulness can really allow you to be in the here and now and focus on what’s going on for you. Anxiety just isn’t simply mental, it can be very physical as well. A lot of my clients tell me that they feel increased heart rate, increased breathing, you know, you start sweating, you start not feeling so great in your stomach and stuff like that, so it really focuses on everything. Another tool that’s really great if you are feeling pretty intense stress and anxiety, there are some really wonderful apps out there, like Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer that really can help you in those moments to kind of calm yourself down which can be super convenient and useful whenever you kind of feel those symptoms maybe creep up.
So, if you are experiencing anxiety or anything that’s troubling you or causing you some concern, please know that it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to say, I’m not fine, but I’m working on it and that’s really important. Know that there are people out there like us therapist at Cedar Rapids Counseling Center that would be more than happy to work with you to try to figure out what’s going on to alleviate some of that stress, and to get that, ‘I’m not fine, I’m working on it’ too, ‘I really am fine, I’m doing really well’, and that’s what we want to see for you. If you are experiencing any symptoms of anxiety that are causing any concern for you or causing you distress or even if you would like to chat with someone about any coping skills or just developing different things for you, please feel free to reach out to me via our website or give us a call. We’d be happy to chat with you and set up a time for sessions just to see if we can help you through this journey with anxiety and get you feeling better.”
Anxiety and stress are some of the most common problems that enter through my therapy doors. This year has been no exception.
Between adjusting to life in a pandemic to natural disasters, stress and anxiety are very present. The “best” part of these two problems is that they affect everyone differently, making it tricky to combat them at times.
Throughout this year, I have noticed that parents and children/adolescents are particularly vulnerable to stress and anxiety. So what can you do when it seems inevitable at this point?
I think it is essential to understand what anxiety and stress can do to your body. Drs. Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson lay this out nicely in their book “The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.” They note that increased stress and anxiety can increase heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. It also affects our abilities to think and make judgments.
In their book, they state that having these problems is like “flipping your lid,” meaning that instead of thinking with the parts of the brain that control rational thinking, you are left with the more primitive parts that are in charge of making you feel big emotions and act on instinct.
Strategies To Overcome Anxiety
Now that we have a better understanding of it, what can you do to decrease these two issues?
Know that these are normal things that people face every day.
Make sure that you understand your limits (knowing when to take a break); burnout is real for both parents and children/adolescents.
Self-care!! I cannot express this concept enough. Make sure that you are doing things that increase your overall life satisfaction and well-being levels. It doesn’t have to be anything too much, but merely taking the time to listen to your body can be extremely helpful. Below, I have included some great apps that can be utilized to help!
Talk to someone! My job as a therapist is to listen and understand. If anxiety and stress are being persistent and driving you up a wall, talk with a mental health professional. We are here as a resource for you!