5 Tips for Managing Stress
If you follow my Instagram account, you may have read that I’ve had a hard time lately. Recovery is never complete, it is an ongoing process and some periods are harder than others. I’ve been extremely overwhelmed and it has exacerbated my symptoms. That being said, I’ve tried my best to reach out for support and to get the help I need to get through it.
In seeking this help, I was in the ER on Tuesday. I went to the ER because I wasn’t feeling well, I wasn’t feeling safe and I needed some extra support. We waited 6 hours for the psychiatrist, which isn’t unusual, but at least we were able to see someone. I would have liked to perhaps see a crisis nurse a bit sooner if the doctor wasn’t available yet but I know resources are scarce. From my experience, crisis or psych nurses usually understand that we are dealing with a crisis and are helpful in diffusing it, providing empathy and support and validating what we’re feeling. Psychiatrists usually just aim for a solution.
The solution here was adjusting my meds and reminding me to keep up with my therapy, and that life gets better. It wasn’t very helpful but it did encourage me to reach out to my therapist, who was very supportive and helpful with validation and empathy as well as concrete suggestions.
The point isn’t whether they helped me the way I needed to be helped, that’s a whole other topic I could delve into at length. The point is that I went. I took responsibility and accountability for my own mental health and recovery and I went to the ER because I knew I was in a bad spot and needed extra support.
This kind of support in a crisis can be important but one of the most important things to do is to manage the situation before it becomes a crisis. As I’ve been overwhelmed and exponentially anxious, I’ve tried to keep track of things I can do to stay on course and manage what I’m dealing with.
Here are some tips for managing your stressors and your load as life becomes overwhelming, whether you have mental health struggles or not.
Tips for managing being overwhelmed:
1) Manage your commitment to others: This isn’t about pulling away and failing to support the people in your life, it’s about learning to recognize what your capacity is at different moments and only sharing the energy you have available. This could mean dedicating a 20 minute coffee date to a struggling friend, but not being in a place to host them for the weekend because they need the extra support. If you burn yourself out, you won’t have anything to offer to anyone.
2) Make lists: Lists are a great way to prioritize your tasks and make sense of what you have to do. Colour-coding is something I live by, this helps as well. Lists can help you visualize your work and stress load and plan out when each task will get done.
3) Self-care: Everything on this list can be considered self-care but more specific tools and skills with regard to self-care can be extremely helpful. This can include soothing or relaxing activities. A therapist once told me that the soothing skill you use must match the intensity of the feeling you are trying to soothe.
4) Validate Yourself: It is so important to validate your own stresses, feelings and worries. What you feel is valid, is worthy of acknowledgement and warrants support. It is helpful to get this from other people, but it is absolutely something you can do for yourself as well.
5) Stay Accountable: If there are people in your life who have similar productivity styles or working styles, it can be helpful to see if they are open to keeping each other accountable by checking in on each other’s deadlines. This can be a really great tool because we more often will keep a promise to someone else more easily than a promise to ourselves.
These tools are things I’ve been trying to actively put in place. It can sometimes be difficult but the point is to keep trying. I’m doing much better, it’s still not easy but I’ve found a way to hold on to some hope and to use these skills and tools to cope with what seems intolerable.
There is no shame in asking for help. There is no shame in asking for extra help if you are already receiving help. Be proud that you’re being responsible and keeping yourself accountable by doing what is best for your recovery and what’s going to help you move forward.