Q. How can therapy help me manage my stress?
A. Everyone has stress in their lives, and therapy helps people uncover the role stress plays and
how to manage it. Even life events that give us pleasure, such as moving to a new home, getting
married or having a child, create high levels of stress.
When we feel stressed, it’s important to understand and identify that feeling. It’s helpful to
examine why we’re stressed and what to do about it. If we’re so stressed that we can’t
function, that’s not helpful. We become what is called “neurologically dysregulated,” which
means our systems are overwhelmed and overloaded; this makes it difficult to think clearly and
make sound decisions. Therapy is a vehicle for helping us identify when we’re stressed, which
type of stress it is, and what to do about it. Therapy teaches us steps we can take to prevent
ourselves from becoming overwhelmed.
When we look at what’s causing the stress, we can also see whether the stress is working for us
or against us. A little stress can compel us to get things done that we don’t like to do – such as
decluttering our home before listing it for sale or doing our taxes before April 15th. When we’re
managing stress in a healthy way, we get the message that we’re stressed and do something
useful with that news.
If we’re stressing out about something, we may suffer from persistent headaches or difficulty
sleeping. Therapy teaches us to pivot toward the problem and address the cause of the stress.
If the thing causing us stress is something outside of our control, therapy teaches us how to let
go of stressing over it.
There are times when we want to be revved up, such as when we’re preparing for a race. There
other times where being revved up can work against us, such as before we take a written test
or go on a job interview. When we’re in the latter state, we can use the destressing tools to
lower our stress level.
Therapy can help with stress in lots of ways. First, it helps identify the type of stress – stress
that comes from things that make us happy versus stress that makes us unhappy; stress that’s
useful versus stress that is debilitating. Through therapy, we learn how to identify the type of
stress and the best way to address it.