BY ROSE MURRIN
Q: This time of year, I find myself more stressed than usual. Is this common? Are there coping strategies I should be mindful of?
A: Fall and the beginning of a new academic year can be exciting, invigorating, and move us to action. It also brings many changes, the holy days, the resuming of activities and commitments. These changes can be invigorating for some and overwhelming for others. If you fall into the latter group, you may experience an increase in stress.
During this time, it may feel difficult to add even the smallest change, but sometimes this is precisely what will help. Here are some ideas for beginning to manage your stress as excerpted from “Stress Tip Sheet,” https://bit.ly/LwfOqK. As you read on, keep in mind that one small step at a time may be very effective.
Understand what your stress is like. People experience stress in different ways. How do you know when you are stressed? What thoughts run through your head? What feelings do you experience?
Identify your sources of stress. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
Learn your own stress signals. People experience stress in different ways. You may have a hard time concentrating or making decisions; feel angry, irritable or out of control; or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. Gauge your stress signals.
Recognize how you deal with stress. Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors (such as smoking, drinking alcohol and over/under eating) to cope. Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations? Do you make unhealthy choices as a result of feeling rushed and overwhelmed?
Find healthy ways to manage stress. Consider healthy, stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercising or talking things out with friends or family. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don’t take on too much at once. Focus on changing only one behavior at a time.
Take care of yourself. Eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in regular physical activity. Ensure you have a healthy mind and body through activities like yoga, taking a short walk, going to the gym or playing sports that will enhance both your physical and mental health. Take regular vacations or other breaks from work. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it’s just simple things like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music.
Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a [mental health professional], who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.
ROSE MURRIN, LICSW, is with Jewish Collaborative Services.