What causes stress in your life? Take a few minutes and think about it. Are answers such as work, family commitments, relationship conflicts, or health concerns coming to mind? These common daily stressors affect everyone on some level.
But stress often has root causes that go deeper than just what is going on at work or in your personal life. According to Julie Geeting, LPC, NBC-HWC, “Your stressors and their roots are influenced by your personality and your habits, as well as things happening on a larger scale in the world.” Global issues such as war or a pandemic contribute to a baseline level of stress felt by everyone, regardless of whether they are directly involved, which makes everyday pressures feel even more difficult to manage. On an individual level, some situations may act as more aggressive stressors to you than to someone else because of how your personality is wired, and you may react to this stress differently than others.
In order to manage stress effectively, it’s important to begin digging deeper into what is really behind it by finding calm in your life, becoming aware of your personal stressors, and addressing the physical manifestations of stress.
Finding Calm and Quiet
Between hectic schedules, media, and other distractions, there is a lot of noise — literally and figuratively — around you. It can be difficult to find calm and quiet in that environment without intentionally taking the time for it. But when you’re constantly in a loud and busy environment, your ability to think clearly declines and your stress levels inherently rise. Calmness is essential to be able to listen to yourself and reflect, which is what will not only give your mind and body a break, but also allow you to recognize and address the things that regularly bring you stress.
Try to find some time every day to simply sit quietly, without technology or other distractions, and bring your body and mind to a calm state. Meditation and techniques such as Cardiac Coherence can be particularly helpful with this. Cardiac Coherence is a breathing method that engages your parasympathetic nervous system in a way that stabilizes your heart rate and blood pressure and encourages positive emotions and a harmonious rhythm of your body’s functions. Learn more about how Cardiac Coherence breathing influences your emotional state here.
Becoming Aware of Your Stressors
Once you have taken some time to get calm and quiet, you may have a greater ability to reflect upon your own stress. Consider using curiosity. Try observing yourself and see what you notice. This is best done with gentleness and self-forgiveness. Reflecting on ourselves in an overly harsh or perfectionistic way will often prohibit the awareness and development we are hoping to foster. What are some of the things that make you most stressed? What happens to you when you are stressed? How do you react? Why do some things bring more stress to you than others?
Your personality plays a big role in the answers to many of those questions, and working to understand your own personality better can help you become aware of your root causes of stress. According to the Temperament and Character Inventory, a personality test developed by Dr. Robert Cloninger, psychiatrist at PALM Health, your ability to handle stress in life is measured by three character traits: cooperativeness, self-directedness, and self-transcendence. Cooperativeness measures your capacity for helpfulness and empathy; self-directedness measures your ability to set goals and take responsibility; and self-transcendence measures your sense of unity with the world and awareness of yourself as a part of something bigger.
At PALM Health, the InSight personalized stress management assessment and plan is a helpful way to gain that awareness by learning more about yourself, your stressors, and the blockages that may be interfering with your resilience to stress. Over the course of two weeks, you’ll work with a team of integrative health and mental health providers to dive deeper into your temperament and character, explore the root causes of your stress, and create an actionable plan to work toward your stress management goals.
Taking Care of Your Body
In conjunction with working on calmness and awareness, it’s important to treat the physical manifestations of stress. As you may know, your mind, body, and spirit are interconnected, so stress doesn’t affect only your mind. By relaxing your nervous system, muscles, and bodily tension, you can start to relax your mind as well.
Wellness therapies such as the Trilogy at PALM Health are a great way to accomplish this. The Trilogy features a cryotherapy session followed by an infrared sauna session, finished by a Himalayan salt room session. Cryotherapy soothes inflammation in the body that may result from excess stress and releases endorphins for a mood boost. Infrared sauna sessions help with detoxification and releasing bodily tension, while salt room sessions promote relaxation and reduce inflammation. When combined, these services can be incredibly helpful for managing your stress.
Other things you can do to relieve tension and treat stress in your body include practicing yoga, getting a massage, and exercising.
“Stress is a normal part of life that can come from your environment, your body, and your thoughts,” says Julie Geeting. While some level of stress is helpful and keeps you motivated and moving forward, too much can become problematic for your health, so it’s important to know how to manage it. However, chasing various stress management techniques without really understanding the roots of your stress can be futile and even add to your worries.
Taking the time to find quiet and calm in your life, starting to become aware of your personal stressors and reactions, and treating stress in your body are all key first steps in getting to the root causes of your stress and finding management techniques that work for you.
If you’re curious to find out your personal stressors and how to relieve them, learn more about our two-week InSight assessment and plan.
PALM Health is an innovative, whole-person medical and wellness company that helps people reach and maintain well-being. Our experts in medicine and wellness empower people to transform their health, become more resilient, and feel their personal best in mind and body.