Stress is everywhere!  We find it in the home, at work, in the news, online, and even social situations.  On any given day, in any given moment, we may be faced to deal people and situations that bring stress into our lives.  How does one cope with stress so that it does not begin to take a toll on the physical body, which could lead to disease and illness?  To manage stress holistically an individual can look at developing some coping skills around stress as well as relaxation techniques to employ to reduce stress.  Skills that effectively help someone manage their stress are considered positive coping techniques.  We employ positive coping techniques for a variety of reasons.  Overall, coping strategies help us to maintain a positive self-image and emotional balance while adjusting to or tolerating something negative in our lives.  Using positive coping strategies also helps us to continue our relationships with others that we find to be satisfying.  Some coping techniques that are considered positive are: humor therapy, expressive art therapy, reframing, resource management, and dream therapy.

Using humor is a positive way to cope with stress, and happens to be one of my favorite ways.  Norman Cousins in his book, Anatomy of an Illness, chronicled how he turned around his disease through the use of humor and laughter.  Comic relief and using humor is a defense mechanism that reduces pain while increasing pleasure.  When we engage in laughter there is a physiological mind-body response, which promotes well-being and possibly healing.  There are several ways in which to incorporate humor therapy into your life: learn not to take life too seriously, work to improve your imagination and creativity, look for one humorous thing a day, swap jokes or cartoons with a friend on a consistent basis, learn to hyperexaggerate a story, and build a humor library.  

Expressive art is another coping strategy for stress.  Even if you are one to claim that you can’t draw, you can still express yourself through art.  Expressive art is not about the product that is produced but rather the process.  We think and process our life experiences, feelings, and emotions as images first which makes the use of expressive art therapy a more direct manner in dealing with what an individual is experiencing and what may need healing.  It does not matter what media is used to create with, but choice of color is a must, for the colors a person may use is a reflection of that person’s emotion and state of mind.  Engaging in the process offers healing effects for the body, and the product produced can tell an individual what about their inner feelings, emotions, desires and life purpose.

Cognitive restructuring, or reframing, is a process in which one takes the negative interpretation of a perception and changes it to be a positive or neutral one.  Negative thoughts can have ill effects on the body including the suppression of the immune system, where as positive thoughts will have a healing effect.  There are four steps to the process of cognitive restructuring: awareness of the stressors, reasons for them, and the feelings around them, reappraisal of the current situation in which a neutral or positive perception is gained, adoption and substitution of that new perception, and the final step is evaluation in which one determines the effectiveness of the new frame of mind.  Cognitive restructuring is a process that is easy to understand yet hard to actually execute as it requires attitudinal change, which can be difficult for some.  Reframing is knowing that while you can’t always change the negative situations that cause stress, you can change the way in which you think or react to them.

Time and money are two resources that appear to be at the center of most stressors, since these resources are commonly what are needed and misused.  Learning techniques to manage resources is a way in which to help reduce stress.  One can reduce the stress around money by becoming more financially responsible, which primarily means setting and keeping to a budget.  Time management requires prioritizing and scheduling responsibilities.  You can prioritize using a few different methods.  Basically you make a judgment on which responsibilities get tackled first according to their perceived importance.  You can chunk your day into larger sections of time (3-5 hours) in which to schedule tasks, or depending on your personality time map your day in which you would assign tasks to smaller sections of time.  When having to perform responsibilities outside the home or work place, it is best to cluster tasks that are close in location together so as to save time.   Executing the responsibilities at hand require motivation and determination.   Setting up a reward or incentive for accomplished tasks helps.  Finding a way to manage the resources of time and money will help reduce stress.

Using dream therapy is an additional coping technique to help manage stress.  When dreams are explored and interpreted then stressors, whether they are chronic or acute, can be realized.   Dream therapy includes dream interpretation, dream incubation, and lucid dreaming.  To interpret a dream one must write down the dream and any life correlations with the dream symbols as possible, determine if any part of the dream is based in reality and the emotional response that is felt, and then select an interpretation that fits life at that given moment.  Dream incubation when one uses a conscious thought to initiate the unconscious mind to dream with the intent to resolve the stressor.  Finally lucid dreaming is used to re-enter a dream to bring a resolution or ending to a recurring dream in hopes of eliminating the chronic stressor causing that dream.

You can develop as many positive coping skills to holistically manage your stress as you would like.  At Serenity Grove Wellness Center we understand the importance of reducing stress in our bodies so as to maintain better well-being.   You can explore our offerings in the area of holistic stress management, expressive art, and spiritual guidance as well as look to see what upcoming events we have listed that may help you on that journey to developing positive coping strategies.  In the next blog entry we will look at what relaxation techniques you can employ to help with stress management as well.  Until then, wishing you all peace and serenity!

Love & Light,