Certain individuals are hardwired to withstand higher stress levels than others, and something that may be incredibly stressful to one person may be only slightly irritating to another. Although we all react to stress in unique ways, one thing is consistently certain: stress affects everyone at some point in their life. If we know stress is a normal, presumptive aspect of the human condition, why do so many stressed out people avoid asking for help?
Often, when we are faced with our darkest, most harried or unbearable moments, we shut down, withdraw and become insular. We are embarrassed about the source of our stress, or we feel it is too tiresome to discuss. Most commonly, stress sufferers are afraid that reaching out, admitting they need help, will make them appear weak and out of control.
Periods of duress in our lives can strain our ability to think clearly and make sound judgements, so it’s no wonder stress causes people to isolate themselves. Alienating friends and family is a knee jerk defense mechanism, but this will only compound feelings of helplessness. Consulting a professional, like a therapist or a counselor, a friend, family member, spiritual advisor or a support group, is the first step in taking control of the stress and managing it properly. How can each of these support networks help you reduce and manage your stress?
Therapist or Counselor
Trained professionals are there to listen and allow you to vent. Since they have been specifically educated to understand a variety of psychological issues, mental health professionals can provide you with coping mechanisms and anti-stress exercises. They may ask you questions, delving into the cause of your stress, thereby helping you to understand and manage it better. A therapist’s office is also a great place to leave stress behind. Spending an hour or two a week unloading in a controlled environment will tell your mind to leave the problems there, with the therapist, instead of carrying them around with you all the time.
Friends and Family
Your immediate, built in network of friends and family can be an unparalleled source of comfort. They love you, and do not want to see you collapse under the weight of stress and anxiety. Remember this and do not be ashamed ask for their help. Leaning on a friend or a loved one gives you a chance to cry, hug or even find ways to laugh about your problems. And your close network can help in other ways too. When they ask what they can do for you, tell them what would alleviate some of the strain. They might be willing to watch your kids for a couple hours, run a few errands for you or straighten up your house. If your best friend or a family member needed you, you’d be there for them too.
Spiritual and religious beliefs notwithstanding, many people feel the need to seek spiritual refuge when they are stressed. If your inclination is to hand over your problems to a higher power, this may be the perfect support outlet for you. No, a priest, minister or church counselor cannot physically take away your anxiety or solve your problems for you. But they can guide you to a path of peace and strength through spirituality. You can also create your own spiritual solace through prayer, meditation or breathing.
Locate a support group that will connect you with others suffering from stress. It may help to share your thoughts and feelings with those experiencing similar turmoil. A simple Internet search can lead you to a support group in your area, but be sure to research it before you go. Ensure the group is affiliated with a reputable organization and that the facilitator is licensed to practice group support sessions.
If you are nervous about asking for help, start slow. There are plenty of books, CDs, DVDs and Internet sources that reinforce the importance of a support network to decreasing and managing stress. Take time to read and learn about what you are going through. Most self-help material will reinforce how critical it is to accept help. Your stress may seem insurmountable, so do not underestimate the power of a solid support system.