Scaling back in a High Pressure Society

Are you taking on too many roles and feeling overwhelmed and stressed? Is it time to examine whether you need to scale back some of your roles to find some balance and happiness in your life? We all have various roles that we carry out on a daily basis. Some of us are part time or full time workers, husbands/wives, mothers/fathers, students, caregivers, coaches, and so forth.

Our high pressure society has trained us to think that we need to keep busy, that we aren't doing enough, and that we need to be doing more with our lives. In a sense it almost sets our thoughts  up to believe that we "need" to do something more then what we are already doing to be happy. 

Do you feel like you are always looking for the next best thing to satisfy the instant gratification that we are drawn to and constantly seek? After you achieve the next best thing, can you even really appreciate it or are you too burned out? Do you feel like you are on the never ending hamster wheel and you are not sure of when to get off? Do you know when doing too much  is negatively impacting your ability to function and relationships?  

Let's take some time to self-reflect. Grab a piece of paper and pen, phone, tablet or laptop. I want you to stop and think for a minute about how many roles you have in your life. How do you feel about the various roles you carry out on a daily basis? Do these specific roles instill happiness in your life? Are they essential for your growth? Do any of these roles have a negative impact on your ability to function? Do any of these roles have a negative impact on your relationships? 

If you answered yes to any of the negative impact questions; how can you make a change to that role? Can you eliminate that specific role from your life? For example, maybe you thought it was a good idea to take on a second job for extra income but the job becomes so overwhelming that you can't sleep anymore from all of the extra hours you are putting in, you don't have any time to spend with your friends and family and your grades are going down at school. It may be helpful to consider "scaling back" on the second job. You may choose to work less hours if that is an option or eliminate the job all together. Once you have scaled back or eliminated the role you may start to see improvements in the negative impacts you once were experiencing. If you can't eliminate that role right now, is there somewhere else you can scale back in your life?

It's important to be able to be mindful and recognize when it's time to scale back because you are doing too much. When we spread ourselves too thin we may experience fatigue, sadness, depression, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and our overall health suffers. Sometimes our jobs or relationships suffer because there just isn't enough time to do everything. We need to nurture ourselves and get in tune with our needs. As much as we all want to be the "all-star" and "do it all," sometimes you just can't and that is okay. Maybe you are reading through this blog thinking that you have found your balance and that is wonderful but it is easy to take on too much and feel overwhelmed again. Be mindful when you are happy and unhappy and find a balance that works best for you. 

I challenge you to think about your roles, happiness, and unhappiness and identify ways to make your changes in your life to find balance and genuine happiness. At Life Balance Counseling, we have counselors that help clients find balance in their life. If you are feeling stuck and unsure of what to do, feel free to reach out and learn more about our services, counselors and treatment options. 

Making it through the storm; taming unbearable and suffocating amounts of stress

We’ve all been there before: riding the typical ups and downs of life, already struggling to through various stressors and obligations and trying to balance it all, when all of a sudden and seemingly out of nowhere, Bam! We’re blindsided by an overwhelmingly enormous and crushing amount of stress. It happens more often than one might think, and as daunting and defeating as this sudden influx of stress may seem, there are methods to taming the chaos and coping with this seemingly insurmountable stress until things level themselves out again. You do not need to suffer in silence and wait for the crushing mass of stress to work itself out; there are ways to proactively tame this metaphorical beast.

Right off the bat, the first thing I tell my clients is to take care of your basic needs. Basic needs are things we need to take care of on a daily basis to ensure we are able to function. Things like making sure you are getting an adequate amount of sleep, you are eating regularly as well as eating whole, nutritious foods (to boost brain and immuno function), making sure you are staying hydrated and drinking enough water, making sure you are maintaining good hygiene, and taking care of whatever else you may deem a basic need. These may seem a bit intuitive, but they go a long way during times of chaos and exponential stress.

The next thing I tell my client is to know your limits, and start saying “no” when necessary. Chances are you are feeling overwhelmed and overextended, so it may be time to simplify your schedule and priorities a bit. Whether it be in your personal or professional life, it may be imperative to temporarily winnow down responsibilities and tasks that aren’t a priority during times of crushing stress. This will not only make your workload seem more manageable, but it will also restore some semblance of control in your life.

On a daily basis, there are thousands of thoughts that filter through our minds: thoughts about what is going on in our surroundings, thoughts about what we’re doing, thoughts about how we’re doing it, thoughts about ourselves, thoughts that we think others are having about us, etc. These thoughts, or internal dialogue, may affect our ability to deal with the obstacles in front of us. During times of increased stress, we may even begin to be cruel to ourselves and think certain things like “what is wrong with me?” “I’m being ridiculous,” “I’m an idiot,” and so on. In addition to exacerbating feelings of distress during an already difficult time, chronically negative and self-deprecating thoughts may become downright destructive and defeating. As a result, I tell my clients to be gentle with themselves and the internal dialogue they choose to use. Being mindful of what you are saying to yourself and how you are saying it sets the tone for how well you will be able to focus on working through problems and finding solutions. When we start focusing on the thoughts we have about ourselves instead of the tasks at hand, we become distracted and as a result may bully ourselves to the point of shutting down. The goal is to change thoughts that are stuck in a negative loop to thoughts that are more objective and constructive. Doing this helps to diffuse emotionally charged thoughts about yourself and your capacities, and once you aren’t bullying yourself into submission, you clear a path to work on the obstacles in front of you.

Along with being mindful of internal dialogue, I tell my clients to make themselves a priority. Chances are with consuming thoughts of doubt and agony, you are struggling to think about or do anything else. As a result, it may be necessary to engage in some sort of positive distraction. Doing something that you typically love to do but haven’t allowed yourself to do in a while (most likely because you’ve been too busy trying to deal with all of your stress) can not only give you some much needed reprieve from everything that is going on, but it may also clear your head enough to give you some added perspective on things. Making plans with a friend, phoning a family member or friend, trying a fun, new activity, or rekindling an old hobby you used to enjoy are all great ideas for a temporary distraction.

Above all else, listen to your body. Do not ignore red flags, intuition, or what your conscience tells you. If you feel you have done everything in your power to work through this difficult time and still feel like you are struggling to stay afloat, it may be time to reach out for additional assistance from a professional counselor. As scary as this step may be, it could be the difference between succumbing to the stress or taking charge and working through it.

If you feel you have done everything in your power to deal with your stress but feel you may need some additional help, feel free to reach out and make an appointment for a session. 

Written by: Lana Rukavina, LPC

Coping with Back to School Stress

The time has finally come. Summer is officially over and you are probably in denial that it is time to head back to school. Where did the time go? Did you do everything you said you were going to do over the summer? Do you feel like you made the best use of your time on your days off? These are all questions you may be thinking about when the summer has come to an end.

Heading back to school after being off for a long period of time can present various challenges, thoughts and emotions. Going back to school can be exciting, anxiety provoking and a stressful time for children, teens and parents. Getting back into a scheduled routine can present challenges. Getting up early, prepping lunches, making sure homework is complete on top of doing all of your daily tasks, working and so forth. One recommendation is to use a calendar. Whether it is paper or on your phone, it is essential to get organized and know everyone's schedules and deadlines. Staying organized helps eliminate stress and prevents you from running around like a crazy person trying to get everything ready. Don't be afraid to ask for help from another parent, grandparent or even your children if they are of an appropriate age to help. Most kids can make their own lunches and check to make sure they have their homework and books they need for school.

Take one day at a time. I know, easier said then done. We tend to look at the huge list of things we need to do instead of taking one task at a time. The more we think about all the things we need to do the more stressed and anxious we become. Take each task, focus on it and if those irrational thoughts keep popping in your head that you will "never get all of this done", do thought stopping. Stop the thought in its track and reframe your thought by reminding yourself that you have to get through your current task before you can move on to the next one. Getting overwhelmed and worried that you won't get it all done takes up more time then if you would have started the task in the first place.

Maybe you have figured out your whole scheduling routine and are managing your endless task list. Lets shift the focus to our children and teens and how they are coping with back to school stress. What if you or your child/teen is struggling with the transition beyond the normal transitional time period and is having a difficult time adjusting? Listen to your child. Listen to what they are thinking and feeling and validate their emotions. Acknowledge that going back to school can trigger various emotions of excitement, anxiety, or fear. Empathize with them what they are experiencing and provide support for them during the transition. It is also important to find a solution with your child to help them transition effectively. For example, if your child is struggling with separation anxiety and misses you during the day. Do a craft together that reminds them of you or send your child with a picture and let them know that you are always with them even if not present. As parents we are here to help our children grow and overcome difficult challenges and times in their lives. If you feel like your child is really struggling beyond the transitional time period, is experiencing anxiety that is disrupting their functioning at school or home, have them assessed by a counselor to identify what is going on and what helpful tools and techniques your child can learn to help the adjust smoothly and enjoy their overall school experience.


Coping with Holiday Stress

The holiday season is characteristically a time of joy, peace, and a time to gather with friends and family. Although this time of year is filled with happiness, it can also be a time of stress and sadness. You may feel overwhelmed with planning get togethers, scheduling time with friends and family, and finding the perfect gifts, all while managing your normal schedule. This can lead to feelings of irritability, sadness, anxiety and anger. It is important to identify what your expectations are for yourself and family during the holiday season. Are your expectations realistic? 

What can you do to help yourself cope with your stress during the holidays?

Schedule time with friends and family in advance so that you are aware of how to plan each day. Shop early and ask friends and family what they want for presents so that everything is ready and you aren't running around last minute. Manage your time: set priorities and let go of impossible goals that are unrealistic. Ask others to help out if you are feeling overwhelmed. Sometimes we just can't do it all. Don't feel inadequate if you can't do it all.

Maybe you are experiencing the holiday blues, which can be challenging and difficult to understand. You may expect yourself to feel happy all of the time and if you don't you may feel disappointed. Maybe you expect the holidays to be just as they were when you were a child. As we grow up, things change and it is important to find new value in the holidays. Practice mindfulness of being present in the moment and enjoy your time with friends and family. So often we just go through the motions and are thinking about your next gathering or things that you need to get ready and you forget to embrace the people you are with at that time. Practice gratitude: identify and remind yourself of all of the things you are thankful for. Sometimes when we are stressed or overwhelmed we forget all of the good things in our lives. If you are starting to feel depressed or lonely, volunteer at a local church or organization to give back to those that are in need and help you feel connected to others. 

Most importantly, as we all know, the holiday temptations of delicious family recipes can be overwhelming in itself. Try to limit overindulgences and maintain healthy eating and exercise routines to help you cope with stress, sadness and anxiety. Make sure that you make time for yourself and give yourself a break. Sometimes we just need to a take a time out to prevent burnout and reboot ourselves so that we are our best self. The holidays are a wonderful time and learning ways to cope with stress can help you enjoy this special time of year.