Can a Therapist Help Me with Stress?
This content has been updated from previous article on June 17, 2021.
Not all stress is the same and it can be difficult to know when to seek out help from a mental health professional. Stress can come from a variety of sources, like pandemic-related stress on work and home, to financial stress from rising gas and food prices, to mental stress stemming from unwieldy cultural expectations where every choice seems to be politicized. On the other hand, there is a growing consensus that some stress can be helpful. For example, there is an that teachers should help children embrace struggle as a way to grow academically and build emotional grit.
Different Kinds of Stress
There are three kinds of stress that psychologists have identified: eustress, acute stress and chronic stress. Eustress is identified as happy stress, the good feeling that comes with the anticipation of something unknown that doesn’t carry the emotion of fear. Eustress can cause the heart to race and hormones to release, but the events that trigger eustress include riding a roller coaster or the birth of a new grandchild. For many, eustress is the feeling of joy or gratitude that gives meaning to the phrase, “living life to the fullest.”
Acute stress is caused by unanticipated challenges or triggers that require a response. New social, academic or professional situations are examples of situations where acute stress occurs most routinely. Another feature of acute stress is that it can be ameliorated through our responses and is typically temporary. Acute stress can also be caused by long standing challenges, or unexpected accidents like a fender bender or flight cancellations. The good news is that it might be possible to turn acute stress into good stress (or eustress) with a new perspective or a change in circumstances or luck.
When there is a stressor that seems to be unresolvable, acute stress can become chronic stress. Chronic stress could be caused by a variety of situations from the toll of caretaking for a loved one, to serious psychosis or paranoia. Although individuals can seek the help of a therapist for any kind of stress, chronic stress is most harmful to the body and those suffering from chronic stress are unable to alleviate the stress on their own either through exercise, friend therapy or choice. For those who feel helpless at reducing their level of stress, a therapist can help moderate the effects of stressors and help identify strategies to lessen their impact on mental health.
Whether you’re dealing with eustress, acute stress or chronic stress, it’s important to understand how those feelings affect your physical well-being. You may also learn some at-home stress-busting techniques and find out how a therapist can help.
Effects of Stress on the Body
While stress is often seen as an issue with emotional or mental health, too much stress can have a serious impact on a person’s physical well-being as well.
Prolonged or intense chronic stress can lead to problems in many bodily systems, including:
As such, there is not much in the body that stress doesn’t touch. Although it’s impossible to avoid all stress, an excess of this feeling can cause several short and long-term health effects. In the middle of an acutely stressful event, you may notice that your muscles tighten, your breathing becomes shallow, and your pulse rises.
While these short events don’t cause too much bodily harm on their own, chronic stress can cause serious damage.
For example, ongoing stress can leave you at greater risk for:
- Heart Attack
- Immune disorders
Because stress affects the body in a myriad of ways, it’s important to learn how to cope with stressors in your daily life and seek out help when stress is affecting your routines and relationships.
Stress Reduction Techniques
The best thing you can do to relieve stress is to remove triggers from your life. However, this is not always possible. Stressors are part of modern life that you cannot avoid entirely. As such, everyone should learn healthy coping skills for stress management through individual therapy or telehealth with their provider. Some of the best stress-busters include:
Exercise for Physical and Mental Wellness
Getting regular exercise can help you cope with stress when it happens and prevent stress reactions to triggers. Getting in a good sweat lowers stress hormones, including cortisol, which decreases the risk of some of the stress of the disease can cause. Exercise also can help you feel more confident and improve your sleeping patterns, both of which reduce stress.
Keep Stress Away with a Gratitude Journal
When you’re stressed, thoughts about the triggers can fill your mind and perpetuate a cycle of tension. Try breaking that cycle by reminding yourself of your strengths and focusing on the resources you do have to address those stressors. Each day, write down a few different things that make you feel grateful. This can help you reframe your situation with a positive mindset.
Decrease Caffeine Intake to Reduce Stress
While you may not need to ditch your morning cup of joe entirely, it may be a good idea to cut back on caffeine. While this stimulant affects everyone differently, some people are particularly sensitive and feel jittery after consuming too much. This reaction can increase anxiety and stress.
Create Your Own Squad
There’s a reason therapy is colloquially known as “talk therapy.” Speaking openly and honestly about your challenges and your truth is an escape value that we all need. Create a circle of friends and family with whom you can safely share your thoughts and feelings to feel connected and supported. If you are embarrassed to share your mental health concerns with friends or family, seek out a therapist who has experience in addressing similar mental health issues.
How a Therapist Can Help Reduce Stress
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to have a disorder to get help from a mental health professional. Counselors can help you develop different ways of thinking about the stressors in your life, whether you have an anxiety disorder or you just need a little extra help dealing with things. Talk therapy techniques such a cognitive behavioral therapy can retrain your brain so that triggers don’t hurt you nearly as much.
If you’re having trouble coping with stressors in your life, contact LifeStance Health today. Our trained mental health professional can teach you to destress in healthy, constructive ways.