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Stress Awareness Month – April 2024

Stress Awareness Month – April 2024 – Stress Awareness Month is held every year in the month of April. The theme this year  is “Little By Little, A Little Becomes A Lot”. This theme “highlights the transformative impact of consistent, small positive actions on over-all wellbeing.”

The Stress Management Society has lots of resources and suggestions on how you can make little changes in your life to reduce the impact of stress on your mental, physical and emotional wellbeing. Please check them out here The Stress Management Society

What is stress?

According to the World Health Organisation:

Stress can be defined as a state of worry or mental tension caused by a difficult situation. Stress is a natural human response that prompts us to address challenges and threats in our lives. Everyone experiences stress to some degree.

How does stress affect us?

Everyone is different and deals with difficult situations in different ways. Stress is a natural aspect of our daily lives, it can be associated with positive experience, for instance achieving our daily goals, we might feel stressed before an interview for a new job, or before a presentation at work, or an exam. We might feel stressed before a date or before something that we really want to do but are a bit unsure of. It tends to be short lived and motivates you to focus and deal with what is in front of you.

On the other hand, stress can feel overwhelming and chronic. It can be debilitating and can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health meaning that we struggle to function. This in turn can cause depression and further anxiety.

Your window of tolerance and stress

Managing stress levels is very individual, below are some ideas that you might try. If one idea doesn’t work for you, try something different. One of the best ways we can manage our stress is to keep within our window of tolerance.

The Window of Tolerance is a term coined by Daniel J. Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, to describe the optimal emotional “zone” we can exist in, to best function and thrive in everyday life.

When you are within your window of tolerance you feel grounded, able to tolerate life stressors and you feel in general emotionally regulated.

When you are outside of your window of tolerance you might feel agitated, anxious, hypervigilant, overwhelmed and panicked or shut down, withdrawn, flat and disconnected.

Trying to deal with stress when we are outside of our window of tolerance is difficult as we don’t have full access to the parts of our brain that can help us the most. Taking steps to get back into your window of tolerance when you are stressed will allow you to reduce the stress you are experiencing as will putting in place practices that help to maintain us within our window of tolerance.

How you can support yourself to stay in your window of tolerance

  • Get enough sleep
  • Get enough exercise
  • Eat healthily
  • Reduce alcohol and nicotine
  • Get enough rest and relaxation
  • Connect with other people and groups
  • Spend time in nature
  • Look after your home environment – keep it clean and tidy and a comfortable place to be.

How can we return to our window of tolerance when we find ourselves outside of it.

  • What activities help you to stay in the moment? Mindfulness, meditation, breathing.
  • What soothes you? Mustic, nature, taking a bath, reading, watching a comedy, eating your favourite food, journaling.
  • Exercise – physical activity of some sort can help to shift how you feel and regulate your emotions.
  • Challenge your thoughts – question whether your beliefs about a situation are true or are you making them into a big deal. Could there be other ways of seeing the situation, is it as bad as you think?
  • Consider what things need to happen to maintain you within your window of tolerance. Are you doing all the things you need to? (as mentioned above) Perhaps you need more rest time or fun time and this would prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. Is there something that you need to completely change either permanently or temporarily?

    For instance, I found traveling to work on the train very stressful. It was often packed with people, I couldn’t always get on the train and didn’t often get a seat. The experience meant I was stressed before I got to work. I decided to get an earlier train which was more peaceful and then at other times I took the car to work or worked from home.

    Making these practical changes helped me to manage the situation and stay in my window of tolerance. However, it might have been that I decided to change my job. Sometimes you can do everything possible to reduce your stress but in the end it is the situation itself not how you are managing it that is the problem and that needs to change.

Everybody’s window of tolerance is different, and you might find that your window of tolerance one day can be very different the next, depending on how much sleep you have had, what you have drunk, hormones, whether you are run down or are recovering from an illness. It is important not to be hard on yourself and to just consider what you need to do to get back into your window of tolerance and reduce your stress.

For Stress Awareness Month consider what steps you can take to remain in your window of tolerance and try and practice one or two of them. If you are struggling with stress or indeed any issue you may find speaking to a professional helpful. Paul Carter is an experienced Psychotherapist, Counsellor, EMDR Practitioner and Clinical Supervisor. To find out more about Paul please see the FAQs Page. If you are struggling with any issue and would like to make an appointment with Paul please call Paul on 07843 813 537 or fill in the form on the Contact Page, if he doesn’t answer he is probably in a session, please leave him a message and he will call you back as soon as he can.

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