Stress Management as Self-Care

Hello again, friends! Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about what self-care is and some of the different methods we personally use over here at The Nerd’s Lair. So this week, I thought we’d take a deeper look into why we need self-care in the first place: stress.

What is Stress?

So, what is stress? I’ve been taking a stress management class at my university, and it’s teaching me a lot about what stress actually is. Like for example, did you guys know there was more than one kind of stress? Wild, right? There’s eustress, which is the fun stress. It’s like the stress of teaching yourself how to do something new or meeting new friends. What we think of when we think about stress is actually distress.

It’s that big exam that you forgot to study for or the angry “Karen”™ yelling at you because you won’t give her precious little snowflake your Nintendo Switch. Then you’ve also acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is basically a one-off thing. It’s that “Karen”™ from earlier, and chronic would be like if that same “Karen”™ followed you around for a month repeating her demand for your Switch. Now that we understand what stress is, we can take a step back and figure out what is stressing us out, then evaluate to see how big of a thing it actually is. 

So Now What?

So now that we know what stress is and we’ve taken inventory of what’s stressing us out and how it’s affecting us, we can work on dealing with it. We’ll look at some good ways to cope with stress and some… not-so-great ways. One not-so-great way of dealing with your stressors is called regressive coping. Regressive coping is basically when you pretend that your stress doesn’t exist and go about your day. You do anything you can think of to avoid thinking about whatever it is that’s stressing you out.

It isn’t even always a conscious decision to avoid the stress. Sometimes you might be drawn to not-so-great diversions like drinking or doing drugs, but it can also take the form of completely harmless distractions. Things like going for a run or mindlessly scrolling through social media. It’s anything and everything that ISN’T the test you’re supposed to be studying for, or actually reading the mountain of mail that’s piling up on your kitchen table because there might be bills in it. 

But wait! Isn’t distracting yourself from the things stressing you out what self-care is for? Well…not quite. The problem with regressive coping isn’t necessarily distracting yourself from your stress. It’s not going back and actually addressing it. Like ChelseaTheNerd talked about in her post last week, distracting yourself for a while is fine. It gets you into a better headspace so you can actually process your stress. But you have to remember to actually go back and address the things that were stressing you out. 

Working Through it

We talked about the need to identify, evaluate, and work through your stressors. So now we’re going to talk about some ways to do that. The first method is what my stress management class refers to as the “circle of influence.” Simply put, your “circle of influence” is the things in your life that you CAN control. To teach us about the  “circle of influence,” we had an assignment that focused on one specific stressor and worked through it using a series of questions. This assignment is actually one of the best ways I have seen to work through stressful situations. The questions for working through stressors were:

  • Step 1: Describe your current problem in detail
  • Step 2: List some reactionary responses or auto-pilot responses that may lead to avoiding, denying, or withdrawing from the stress or pain of this situation.
  • Step 3: Explain how these reactions would or would not lead to you feeling better about your stress in the long-term.
  • Step 4: In what ways does this stress fit into the Circle of Concern? (the “circle of concern” includes all of the things that we care about or affect us in some way, but we have no control over)
  • Step 5: In what ways does this stress fit into the Circle of Influence?
  • Step 6: Rate how likely would taking the actions listed above lead to you feeling better about your stress?
  • Step 7: Explain your rating.
  • Step 8: After completing the steps, do you feel better? Briefly explain why or why not?

Going through these steps really helps to get to the root of whatever’s bothering you and work through it. 

Another method of working through stressors that we went over in my class was “cognitive restructuring.” This is basically taking the time to not only acknowledge the things that are stressing you out but change the way you think about them. You start with describing your stressor then acknowledging how it makes you feel.

You reflect on some of the things you tell yourself about your situation, then take a step back and recognize that some of these things may be more harmful than helpful. Next, you list out which of these things you assume are true, and the ones that you know are true. Having done this, it’ll be much easier to address these more harmful thoughts you have about your stressors and make the conscious decision to change them to more positive thoughts.

The next thing I wanted to tell you guys about is making affirmations. These are just a list of statements that you can write about yourself that should help you get through your stressors. These should include positive things about yourself that you know are true, things that are at least partially true, and things you want to work on. 

Lastly, I wanted to talk to you guys about meditation. For this, you’ll want to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Otherwise, you might end up more focused on things like your clothes being tight or itchy or the tingly, pins-and-needles feeling of your foot falling asleep. To make yourself more comfortable and relaxed, you can also do things like turning on some gentle, relaxing music and even incorporate some aromatherapy.

If you have a diffuser, you can get your favorite essential oil or blend of oils going to create an even more relaxing atmosphere. Set a timer so you don’t accidentally miss anything else you had planned for that day and settle into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.

Don’t worry about “doing it right” or trying to think about nothing. Focus on being in the moment. If thoughts pop into your head, acknowledge them and let them go. If you’re anything like me, it might help to try to visualize the tension or stress drifting away on a gentle breeze or something like that. For another example of visualization in meditation, check out my earlier post on tourmalated quartz.

Anyway, guys, I hope this helps! As always, remember that self-care is a journey and, until next time, take care of yourselves, friends.

Categories: aromatherapy, crystals, essential oils, Self Care SundayTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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