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  • Writer's pictureElissa Strassman

Supporting a Healthy Body and Mind: Coping with Stress in Positive Ways.

Although we may not like it, we all feel stress sometimes.

Stress can be positive, in that it can help protect us from harm, let us rise to meet a challenge, or be a part of how we learn, develop and grow. Stress can also feel overwhelming at times, wear on us, and may impact how we feel, care for or view ourselves, and interact with other people, our loved ones, and the world.

Left unaddressed chronic negative stress can impact our physical and mental health. But by understanding the cause of our stress, being aware of how we respond to stress, and by learning strategies to help cope with stress in positive ways, we can provide ourselves the opportunity to work to address some of the stress in our life, preserve our physical and mental wellbeing, and help us to better withstand the stress of every day.

How do I know if I am stressed?

While we all may experience stress differently, some common signs of stress may include:

  • Feelings of worry, anger, fear, helplessness, guilt, shame or overwhelm.

  • Changes in breathing, increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure, nausea/stomach pain or aches, changes in digestion, sweat, body pains, muscle tenseness, headaches, rashes/hives, fatigue.

  • Becoming edgy or irritable, frustrated, restless, crying, having trouble sleeping, changes to appetite, social isolation, withdrawal, shut down.

  • Trouble with memory, forgetfulness, difficulty concentrating/focusing, or having a hard time making decisions.

  • Increased use of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, or other drugs.

What can I do if I am feeling stressed?

Give yourself a pause.

If we are feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to think or problem solve. Below are some quick in the moment strategies that we might be able to try, that may help us to calm and create some space for us to respond in productive ways.

In the moment techniques to try:

  • Breathe, take a few deep breaths (4,7,8): Breathe in for 4, hold in for 7, exhale for 8.

  • Talk or write out your feelings.

  • Get up, stretch or take a walk.

  • Think of something/someone that makes you happy, or a memory that brings you joy.

  • Count backwards from 100 or 20.

  • Name the colors you can see in the room, or all things you can see that start with the letter c.

  • Take a sip of cool water, or feel something cold.

  • Push against a wall, or push your toes into the floor.

  • Wash your hands in warm water or put lotion on.

  • Smell a fragrance you enjoy.

  • Be compassionate with yourself: if you were your friend in your situation what would you tell yourself?

Identify what is causing the stress and work to problem solve.

Is it something you can work to change? Is it something you can control?

Practice regular self-care.

While we can’t avoid stress, practicing regular self-care can help us cope with stressful situations in positive ways and may help us to better withstand the stress of every day.

Try some of the following ways to cope with stress in positive ways:

  • Try to nourish your body with well balanced meals: eating at regular intervals throughout the day, and incorporating a balance of food groups and nutrients onto your plate.

  • Invite physical activity, you enjoy, or movement into your day.

  • Get enough, high quality, sleep.

  • Make time to relax, unwind, do something you enjoy, or that restores/recharges you.

  • Spend some time outside or experience nature.

  • Practice mindfulness.

  • Connect with others. Talk to someone you trust, spend time with people who lift you up, or build relationships with people in your community or neighborhood.

  • Practice gratitude: can you identify three good things that happen each day?

  • Seek support: Sometimes when we are going through tough, or stressful times, and our own self-care/coping strategies are not enough, we may find we need some additional support. Please know that that’s okay. You are not alone.

The following people, organizations or services may be of help. Please click on the arrow, to see an expanded list below.

  • A doctor, counselor, or clergy member.

  • Your employer’s Employee Assistance Program.

  • Your insurance carrier. They may be able to provide you with more information about mental health resources/coverage, and offer a list of mental health providers in your network.

  • Mental Health Association of Rochester: MHA Crisis Text Line: available 24/7, text “HOME” to 741741, you will be connected to a trained counselor

  • Monroe County Crisis Services

  • National Alliance for Mental Illness: at 1-800-950-6264, text "NAMI" to 741741.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233),TTY 1-800-787-3224, text “START” to 88788

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7, at 1-800-273-8255

  • NY Project Hope: NY Project Hope offers New Yorkers crisis counseling, support and information related to processing emotions and reactions to the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990, text TalkWithUs to 66746. The Disaster Distress Helpline answers calls for things such as the Coronavirus pandemic, incidents of community unrest, and other traumatic events.

  • SAMHSA National Helpline:1-800-662-4357

  • SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline:1-877-726-4727

  • The Emotional PPE Project: The Emotional PPE Project connects healthcare workers in need with licensed mental health professionals who can help. No cost. No insurance. Just a trained professional to talk to.

  • The Trevor Project: available 24/7, at 1-866-488-7386, text “START” to 678-678. The Trevor Project offers crisis counseling, support and information for LGBTQ young people.

  • Veterans Crisis Line-1-800-273-8255, text 838255

If you, or someone you know is at risk for harming themselves, or others, please call 911.

What’s important to remember:

Only you know yourself best. Different strategies may work better than others in different situations. It may take some trial and error to find what works for you. Try practicing when not in crisis mode, so that you can remember and put it to use.

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