What is Stress?

Stress is simply the body's way of responding to threats. Stress can actually be very helpful in responding to immediate threats or demands. However, when we find ourselves facing constant pressure from work or school, stress can become chronic and turn into burnout. This type of stress impacts both your physical health, suppressing your immune system for example, and mental health, making you more vulnerable to things like anxiety and depression.



What Causes Stress?

Stress can be from negative things like financial pressure or relationship problems as well as positive things such as going to college, moving, getting a new job, or getting married. Stress can also be generated internally through the pressure you put on yourself due to perfectionism for example. So what do we do about chronic stress? Learn to manage it!


“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” ~Jon Kabat-Zinn


Ways of Managing Stress

1. Exercise- getting regular exercise is one of the best ways you can begin to manage stress. I especially recommend a mind-body exercise like yoga. 



2. Meditation- adopting a regular mindfulness practice is another very powerful tool to manage stress. You can learn more about mindfulness and developing a meditation practice here.


3. Diet- when we are stressed, we tend to gravitate toward salty, sugary, fatty, foods, but that is the exact opposite of what we need when we are experiencing the impacts of chronic stress. I encourage a plant-based diet high in omega-3 fatty acids. I would also encourage you to reduce your usage of substances 

like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, etc.


4. Sleep- are you getting enough rest? Often times, when people are experiencing stress due to the demands in their life, they find themselves staying up late hours and are not getting the rest they need. Getting enough sleep is one of the best ways you can take care of yourself so make sleep a priority! 


5. Social Support- connecting with others will help you destress and provide a buffer against the impacts of stress. Resist the urge to withdraw or isolate!


6. It may also be important to identify the sources of stress in your life and determine if there are actionable steps you can take such as learning how to set limits and boundaries with others that are causing stress in your life. 


7. If it is not possible to change the sources of stress in your life, then acceptance may play an important role in reducing stress in your life.


8. If the sources of stress in your life are more internal than external (if you are the one stressing yourself out), it might be important to learn how to manage some of your perfectionistic tendencies and practice more self-compassion, which you can learn about here.



You can learn more about stress here. You might also be interested in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which you can find in your area here. You may be interested in the Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Stress Reduction. You can also learn more about managing stress by purchasing my book.


If you are interested in learning more or in working with me please go to my homepage to contact me or schedule your free 15-minute phone call. 


Please note that this information is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are looking for professional help, visit my resources page for guidance on how to find a therapist. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest ER.

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© 2020 Carissa Gustafson, Psy.D.  All rights reserved.

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