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Surviving Stress

by K.C. Lomonaco, Psy.D., R.N.

I started this newsletter a week ago on a fine Spring day and then well, it snowed? Prior to the last few days I was truly appreciating the longer days and the flowers and green.

I’ve noticed lately I’m exhausted. Flat out exhausted. Like going to sleep before my kids, tired. Anyone else? I feel like the hits keep coming. The last few weeks have felt rough and taxing. I feel hypervigilant and a bit like I’m just waiting for what’s coming next.

SO: what to do? I wish I had amazing answers. For me it’s been really hard for the last few weeks working in reproductive health; I’ve fielded a lot of what do I do with all these feelings and fears? How do I manage my anxiety? How can I help? What if? Etc. My answer might not seem therapeutic but my answer is often “I don’t know” because I’m afraid too and the only thing I have to offer is that I can hold this space to talk about and engage with you about your fears and what comes next. So for us here are some tips on managing and surviving stressors and trauma. This was adapted from a tweet I saw from another psychologist.

  1. Practice self care: regularly take action and to things that feel good and loving for yourself

  2. Connect with others. Connection is so vital to our happiness. Connection increases our happy hormones so get on it!

  3. Accept support. In any form. If it's therapy, great! If it's ordering groceries or getting help in the yard, do it! Or even if it's just to talk to friends and laugh. Accept support.

  4. MOVE YOUR BODY! In all forms exercise is healing. I was recently doing research for a talk I was doing and there’s good evidence that 30 mins of exercise 4x a week is better than any medicine we can prescribe for mood. So lift heavy shit, go for a stroll, a run, or skate, or dance in your living room but move your booty!

  5. Find the right help. If you need it, seek it out. It's out there and I’m happy to help you find it. Right now there’s a big crunch to get in to see someone, but it's possible. I promise.

  6. Work WITH your feelings. Even the hard ones to have. Sitting with, in, and walking through your feelings is hard. Trust me, even as a psychologist, there are times when I’ve tried to push them down, shut them out, or just keep so busy that I don’t have to feel them. But that hasn’t worked and in fact made things pretty difficult in the end. It ends up being more self-sabotage, damaging relationships, work, and mental health. Its totally normal to have lots of different feelings and lately some new ones. This is why getting support and finding the right help is crucial!

  7. Avoid substances. I know, I know. If you can use it in moderation and it doesn’t affect your mood or sleep or all the things, great! But the reality is with most substances it's easy to overuse. Substances help our brain stop over-thinking and feeling but they don’t help us heal, move through or sit with our feelings and they don’t help us actually cope. And these can be things that aren’t “traditional” substances we ingest but this can include things like social media, porn, sugar, and even *gasp* exercise. Think about what you might overuse to “zone out” and think about how you are using it. I certainly find myself zoning out on social media a lot more lately so my goal is to cut it out a bit.

  8. Take Breaks: if you’re feeling worn down and tired, take a break. I am going to bed before my kids because I need it. I’m trying to listen to my body. I’m allowing rest and that’s so hard for me, but its crucial.

  9. Practice mindfulness or meditation. It’s well proven to support mind and body, reduce central nervous system stress and improve mental well being.

  10. Try and practice gratitude. At the end of each day can you name 1 or 2 things you are grateful for. Psychological science shows that mental health improves when we are able to express gratitude every day.

  11. Engage in creativity. I am not an artist but there’s something about drawing and getting creative that is very soothing. I love that there’s coloring books out there that are mandalas or just designs. But creativity takes many forms and can allow us to get out of our heads in really different ways than many of our other coping mechanisms.

  12. You are your own best advocate and master of your healing and health! Try to think in new ways and new tricks can help you heal, stay healthy, and hold space for yourself and your loved ones.

I hope this helps. I’m here with you. Taking it one day at a time and trying to hold space, keep moving forward and continuing to find beauty in the snow and the flowers too.

Stay well and reach out if you need to:

riseandrenewpsycholog AT gmail DOT com

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