Craig Smith, MSW/ RSW
Psychogeriatric Resource Consultant
Tri-County Mental Health Services
I hate my job! My kids are driving me crazy I can’t work with that woman!
Sound familiar? Stress is all around us in this fast-paced world, and it can often feel overwhelming. You’ve watched Oprah and Dr. Phil and know intellectually that you need to exercise more, eat better, and find time for relaxation—easier said than done, right?
Wrong The reality is, if you do not take a look at what stresses you in life, and try to understand it better, you run the risk of affecting both your physical and mental health. Often, this needs to be the first step towards taking more control of the stress in your life—analysis. Write down the things that are eating at you. Take time to carefully capture all of the pressures that have built up around you. By having it down on paper, you can start to see that—as big as the pressure may feel—there likely are things that you can tackle to begin to reduce the stressors in your life. This has been referred to in the literature as the “salami theory,” where you slice the stress into pieces. By breaking the seemingly insurmountable stress into pieces, you are better able to tackle it with a plan.
Start with the small stuff, stuff that you can more easily let go of, such as volunteering for that committee or taking on that coaching job for the kids. By looking at your cumulative stress one piece at a time, and reducing the stressors one by one, you free up more time to focus on the bigger pressures (maybe a sick parent or major financial worries).
The next step is to find time for yourself. Some people say, “Oh but that’s impossible! There is no time left for me!” Again, the reality is that you are important, and you need to make time for yourself, in order to ‘recharge your batteries.’ This is going to take change, and many people are resistant to change. How can you change your patterns, routines or schedules to ease in just one half hour per day that is “you time?” Do you have a favourite interest or hobby that you haven’t had time to do lately? Did you once enjoy walks in the fresh air, or exercising? Yoga? Tai Chi? Gardening? Whatever the activity, if it is something you enjoy and something that helps you to feel more balanced in life, it is going to be a key to reducing the stress that you feel.
When in life do you feel most in control? Most on top? What are you doing in this circumstance that makes you feel so confident? What skills or strategies are you using? Can you take these skills or strategies and use them in other areas of your life? The key is to try to understand when and how you feel most grounded or balanced in life. Problems seem bigger when you are off balance. Own your problems but don’t own other people’s problems. This will help to give you power, and will move you toward more balance in your life.
For more information or to receive the French version of this article, or to seek professional advice, please call 932-9940 or 1-800-465-8061. Free, confidential services are available in French and English to residents of Dundas, Stormont and Glengarry through their offices in Winchester, Cornwall and Alexandria.
Keeping Health in Mind is a monthly newspaper column made possible with the help of Seaway News and the clinical staff of Tri-County Mental Health Services, a community program of the Cornwall Community Hospital/Hôpital Communautaire de Cornwall.
Craig Smith, MSW/ RSW