Jan 31, 2021
Let’s start with this: stress is a perfectly normal reaction for your body. The human body is wired to react to physical and emotional challenges. So, whatever it is that you’re feeling is perfectly normal. But, we do need to make sure that our stress levels are balanced for the sake of our physical and mental well-being.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. We all experience stress triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to significant life changes like a divorce or loss of a job. The stress response includes physical components, such as an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as unfavorable, stress can also come from positive life changes, like getting a promotion at work or having a baby.
How can we handle stress in healthy ways?
Stress serves an essential purpose — it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties or increased physical health problems. As we’re now one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like almost everyone is coping with high levels of stress, and it’s worth noting that increased stress levels can interfere with our ability to deal with physical illness, as well.
While we can’t avoid all stress, we can find ways to create healthy habits that help us relax.
Eat healthy food and drink more water: Consuming a nutritious, balanced diet can combat stress. Try to reduce your caffeine intake - high levels of caffeine can increase some physical symptoms of anxiety, such as palpitations and high blood pressure. If you have any concerns about your diet, consult your doctor.
Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strength training with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. This isn’t a competition - it’s about you taking care of yourself. Whatever it is that you do is good enough for you.
Practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps manage stress and protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from various methods, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation. Many web and smartphone apps are available to guide you through these techniques.
Reduce triggers of stress. If you’re like most people, your life may be filled with too many things to do, and too little time to do them. Free up some time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving some time to take care of yourself.
Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s ok — and healthy — to realize you can’t be 100% successful at everything, all the time. Be mindful of the things you can control, and accept the things you can’t control.
Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
Find your circle of support. Spending time with people who are currently going through similar challenges as yours can help you immensely. Find the right circle for you and surround yourself with supportive people.
Feel like you’re ready to try some relaxing methods? Here are some that we love:
If you feel like your stress levels are harming you in any way, physically or mentally, please consult your healthcare provider.
What to do if you have trouble sleeping
Insomnia, or difficulty with sleeping, is a common symptom of stress. Please note that insomnia can also be a symptom of illness, so make sure to talk to your doctor, if needed. If you are experiencing sleep issues related to stress, here are some things you can do:
Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable.
Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
Use your bedroom for sleeping only -don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend or find a support group to help get your troubles off your mind.
Listen to relaxing music.
If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired -don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.
Remember - we’re all experiencing some significant changes in our lives. It’s ok to feel stress and to feel overwhelmed. Find your Circles of Support, and always find the time to take care of yourself.
Sep 01, 2020
Life throws unexpected adversities your way, and at times, it may feel as though you are the only one dealing with such a tragedy. Support groups are a place to meet with others going through similar life challenges.
Meeting a group of strangers can be intimidating at first, but sharing a common complicated process has benefits that even your family or friends may not understand. There might be an adjustment period of opening up to the group, but you will experience a sense of relief that you might not have found elsewhere once you feel comfortable enough to do so.
Here are some benefits of relating to others going through similar life situations.
You will feel less lonely. With the social distancing and stay-at-home orders, relationships feel farther away than they have ever felt before. There seems to be no hope for those who suffer from chronic loneliness as much as those newly dealing with societal disconnections.
Fostering connections is a way to fight your loneliness and promote health amongst the emotional stressors. We may be limited in our ability to connect physically, but it is still possible to build healthy connections. Relating to people will lessen your loneliness, especially with those who will understand your pain the most.
You will be able to process your emotions safely. Our current society provides rare opportunities to relate deeply and intimately with others concerning our struggles. Honoring your complicated story and processing the emotions that arise from your situation is an essential part of your healing journey.
Processing one’s emotions is a way of recognizing, understanding, finding appropriate ways of expressing them. It takes a safe space to accept and receive all spectrums of your feelings from negative to positive. Most of us are used to suppressing our emotions, especially the negative ones, in a way that develops into an unhealthy relationship with ourselves and even others. Meeting with others that understand your uniquely painful situation creates an opportunity for you and all your emotions to be accepted and processed.
It improves motivation in your day today. When stress is overwhelmingly taken over our daily lives, we are left exhausted and unmotivated. One’s willpower is tested from the first thing in the morning; if activities such as getting out of bed turn into a struggle, motivation in your day can be found within an empowering community.
A community is where you feel a sense of belonging and understanding. Going through a challenging situation gives you a new lens through which you view your life. There is a community of others that also share that lens with you. You will cultivate motivation for healing with people that share similar life experiences.
It alleviates mental distress. Challenging life events position us in a spot of emotional ‘stuckness.’ We become frustrated, angry, and stressed with the negative cycle we are trapped in. Hearing other people’s struggles and ways to deal with their challenges can unfold ways to deal with the distressing situation that you haven’t thought of.
Once you hear about similar experiences coming from others, you feel validated and accepted. There is an alleviation associated with sharing your distressing emotions. You will be able to share your heavy load with people who can understand and help you carry it.
There is a powerful healing that takes place when you share your story with others. Your emotional challenges matter to us, and at Circles, we are here to provide a safe space for your account to be heard.
Aug 26, 2020
The truth is the best relationship you can have is the one that you have with yourself. Self-care is a critical part of maintaining this all-important and nurturing relationship with yourself.
The truth is – life gets busy. And sadly, self-care is all too often the first to go. You are not alone if your job, family, and household responsibilities take precedence over your own needs.
In fact, studies show that 1 in 3 Americans feels bad about taking time for themselves, even though 67 percent desperately want more time for self-care.
We don’t hesitate to call out of work sick when we have a sore throat or cold. It is acceptable and expected. Our mental health is equally as important as our physical health. Yet, our mental health takes a spot on the back burner. The thought of calling out for the day when we need to relax or feel burned out or run down is looked down upon and not common place at all. With the average American working harder than ever and having relatively little vacation time compared to the rest of the world – taking a “mental health” day every now and again makes sense. In fact, taking a day to care for your mental health will leave you healthier, refreshed and more productive at work in both the short and long run.
What is Self-Care, Anyway?
Self-care is doing good for the mind, the body, and the soul. It doesn’t need to be expensive. It doesn’t need to be luxurious. It simply needs to be time spent focusing on restoring health, reducing stress, and enhancing energy.
The benefits of self-care are far-reaching. They include:
Taking care of yourself is easy. Finding the time to prioritize yourself can be difficult. This week set aside some time for just you. If you don’t have a full day, focus on yourself for an hour. Small increments of less time-consuming activities that focus on just you can be equally beneficial. We hope you enjoy these ten ways to get started with self-care.
Oct 15, 2020
Many people talk about building resilience or grit, but what exactly does it mean? How can we develop resilience, especially when we’re going through a hard time? Though it may seem like a difficult, abstract thing to do, there are certain beliefs and mindsets we can put into play and practice every day to help ourselves feel better and build resilience.
What does resilience mean?
The theory of resilience holds that adversity occurs to all of us, but what is important is how we deal with it. Strength can help us deal with difficulties or misfortune. It can have different meanings across cultures and societies, and individuals can be more resilient at specific points in their life than others.
Resilience is closely related to positive psychology, which says that specific characteristics can help us deal positively with challenges in our lives. It has been defined as “the process of adapting well” in the face of adversity or significant sources of stress, such as family and relationship problems, health issues, or financial stress.
Can we learn resilience?
How can we transform an idea into something we can implement in our daily lives? The good news is that it’s been found that resilience can be built – it’s not something we either have or don’t have. It’s something we can practice every day, just like we learned how to ride a bike, how to be a good friend, and what works best for taking care of ourselves. It’s something we can work on and develop, just like building up our muscle strength.
So, the answer is yes, we can.
5 Tips to becoming more resilient
There are many ways to build resilience. By understanding how our thoughts and beliefs affect our feelings and experiences, we can begin to recognize our own role in how we react to things. And we can start becoming more resilient and bouncing back from challenges.
-** Be aware of personalization.** This refers to holding ourselves accountable for all the bad things that happen, blaming ourselves, and saying that it’s our fault. This can be an automatic response sometimes. Notice it. Know that it’s not always the case, and we can begin to recognize there are other possible reactions.
Resilience isn’t about ignoring the bad things in life or pretending they don’t matter. It’s about reflecting upon ourselves and our situations and creating a positive mindset to help ourselves feel better. We can all practice resilience every day.