The fall season is usually a very busy time of year. For one thing, it involves back to school, which means a change up of schedules and routines for many households. It's also the time of year when there is constant prepping for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Diwali, Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Halloween, and Christmas (although Christmas is technically in winter, the prep starts right at the beginning of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" chorus...apparently).
So, with all of these demands it is no wonder that fall can also bring a considerable increase in stress for many. Stress impacts our daily functioning both physically and mentally. Overwhelm from stress may cause physical symptoms such as body aches and tension, digestive issues, as well as chronic fatigue. Mental health concerns resulting from stress range from mild agitation to chronic anxiety and depression.
With the normalization of "hustle culture" and overworking, one would naturally mistakenly assume that stress cannot be managed in any way, and is a normal acceptable feature of daily living. However, you may want to reassess whether or not anything that can cost you your physical or mental health is worth holding on to.
If you want start managing your stress more effectively, here are few tips to get you started.
1. Redefine "Urgent"
Stress is defined as "experiencing events that are perceived as endangering one's physical or psychological well-being" (Smith, et al, 2002). When we encounter circumstances that we perceive as threatening to our well-being (eg. "If I miss that project deadline, I may lose my job"), then we will feel "stressed". Our sense of urgency in response to stressors is ultimately our survival response kicking into gear.
However, a perceived stressor may not be as threatening as we may be making it out to be. It may be that you could reassess, and re-prioritize your demands to properly determine what requires your immediate focus and attention. This way, you would be better positioned to re-allocate your resources to address more pertinent issues.
Start by making a list of immediate concerns or demands on your resources. Prioritize this list by need or urgency. Then, set aside anything on your list that you can't control, or respond to in the short-term.
2. Acknowledge Your Needs and Limitations
Despite your aspirations and intentions, you are not able to do it ALL, and that is okay. Stress levels tend to increase when we are unaware of our needs and limitations to effectively meet demands. Many have trouble acknowledging their limitations because it is sometimes perceived as weakness. However, it is unreasonable to expect that you can meet all that is required of you if you are ill-equipped or under-resourced to do so.
By acknowledging what you need, and where your limits are, you are better able to assess your capacity to meet the demands asked of you, and plan more appropriately for them.
3. Gather Resources
The advantage of knowing your limitations is that you are able to identify what you need to help remove those limitations. Gathering resources will help reduce the survival response brought on by stress by increasing your level of preparedness for the perceived threat to your well-being.
Resources can be both tangible (finances, materials, tools) and intangible (time, support from others, information). When you gather more resources, your capacity to respond to stress increases, and your feeling of overwhelm decreases.
4. Make a plan
Anxiety and stress thrive on uncertainty. Remember, if you feel underprepeared or under-resourced to address a perceived threat, this increases your level of stress. You can reduce this uncertainty when you gather appropriate resources (reduce uncertainty regarding your preparedness), and make a plan (remove unknown variables). Making a plan restores a sense of control and certainty, thereby reducing your sense of overwhelm.
Effectively managing your stress takes time, as well as a change in mindset towards the role of stress in your day-to-day life. Some stress is acceptable. However, when it leads to dysfunction, it may be time to reassess your stress.
If you would like to discuss your therapeutic needs, and would like to explore the possibility of starting therapy, feel free to contact Heartspring Therapy by calling 416-688-5274, or by booking a free initial consult at heartspringtherapy.ca/book-online. In-person and video therapy sessions are available.
Smith, E. E., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., Fredrickson, B. L., Loftus, G. R., Bem, D. J., Maren, S., Atkinson, R. C., & Hilgard, E. R. (2003). Atkinson's & Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. Thomson Learning.