There is no question that we live in a highly stressful world. Each of us has a unique capacity for managing the stress in our lives, based on our personality, our emotion regulation response, and our neurobiology.
When stress overwhelms our ability to manage it, we can suffer from a variety of symptoms, including.
- Sleep disturbance, insomnia
- Chronic headaches
- Gastrointestinal conditions, nausea, diarrhea
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Being jumpy or on edge
- Muscle tension
Chronically-elevated stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, can place a burden on the adrenal glands and have a negative impact on our health. Chronic stress is also hard on physical health, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity, and digestive problems. Learning how to manage stress in healthy ways is critical to maintaining optimal wellness. Too often, people attempt to manage stress by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, this can develop into a substance use disorder over time.
Experiential Therapy for Stress Management
There are several healthy and natural actions that can be integrated into daily life to keep stress levels at a manageable level. As an experiential therapist, I guide clients toward establishing healthy coping skills to mitigate stress levels. These treatment elements include.
Helping clients identify the sources of stress and teaching them coping strategies. I often use the climbing gym to introduce a stressor, the rock-climbing wall, and then guide them through their stress response using the coping strategies. Also, engaging in cardio activities can help clients achieve relaxation through exercise.
Using holistic therapies to improve relaxation and reduce stress, such as:
Mindfulness: When a client practices mindfulness they train their mind to focus on the present moment, versus thought distractions that elevate stress and anxiety. In the present moment they learn to accept what they are experiencing without judgment while focusing on the sensory experiences of the moment.
Restorative yoga: Restorative yoga is a form of yoga that involves slow-paced passive stretching. The positions, or asanas, are held for long periods, allowing muscles to relax deeply. Sometimes props or towels are used to help the client hold a particular pose for a long time.
Tai chi: Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that incorporates movement and meditation. The movements are a flowing style, and sometimes referred to as “moving meditation,” and are combined with breath work to achieve deep relaxation.
What we eat can impact stress levels. I help clients identify the foods in their diet that may be aggravating stress, such as refined sugars, processed foods, caffeinated beverages, and fried foods. I then introduce stress-reducing food suggestions, such as avocado, almonds and cashews, oranges, berries, turkey, and yogurt.