A relationship (or relationships) that might not be in the best place
I can’t tell you how many times I’m 20 minutes into a session with a client who’s been feeling really low lately and doesn’t know why, and they finally reveal they’re in conflict with a super important person in their life. I don’t blame them for dismissing the relationship as contributing to their stress; I’ve done the same thing. Still, disconnection is an extraordinarily stressful feeling. Humans are evolutionarily programmed to connect and trust, and the flip side of betrayal and disconnection evoke all sorts of difficult feelings -- namely anxiety, loneliness, sadness, guilt, and anger.
How to fix it: Communicate. If you decide this is a relationship you want to keep, apologize or voice your hurt feelings or do whatever you need to do to get a sense of resolution over the whole thing. If you aren’t ready, or aren’t sure if you want to talk to the person, consult your therapist or a friend about how to move forward.
A major (but positive!) life change
It's easy to schedule life under the assumption that everything goes as planned. No one plans for delayed flights (and missed connections), basement floods, construction on the way to work, or power outages. Most people also don’t typically plan for breakups, tragedy, loss, and illness. When traffic and life happen, we get seriously stressed.
So it might not be a surprise that you’re stressed because you just got laid off or broke up with your girlfriend, but did you know positive change can cause stress as well? Things like starting a new job, moving in with your partner, buying or renting a new home, getting married, and retiring are just a few examples. Positive transitions still require adjustment, so if you’re feeling stressed and exhausted alongside a positive shift, this is why.
How to fix it: Acknowledge that periods of adjustment -- even ones that might be viewed as positive -- require extra energy. Be mindful about how much you take on, as you’re unlikely to be functioning in tip-top form.
The shit you’re suppressing in hope it’ll disappear
Ignore it long enough, and it’ll go away, right? While that might (hopefully!) work when it comes to the Kardashians, it doesn’t work that way with stress and other feelings. You’re actually causing yourself more stress by choosing avoidance.
When you don’t give yourself time to process, rest, and rejuvenate, you’re en route to a bad, bad place. The cycle of stress is as follows: Alarm->resistance->exhaustion. Resist long enough, and you’ll be attacking police with an umbrella and shaving your head.
How to fix it: Do the world and yourself a favor and lean into whatever’s going on. A therapist will likely be your most effective resource in this case, but exercise, meditation, yoga, listening to music, writing, art, reading, and connecting with friends will also help. And, of course, make sure you’re getting enough sleep (7 to 8 hours a night), eating real food (and supplementing if necessary), laying off the espresso, and permitting yourself to experience emotions other than happiness.
Make these changes, and you might just remember what “calm” feels like.
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Megan Bruneau, M.A. RCC is a psychotherapist and wellness coach who used to be a real stress-case. Read more from her at www.oneshrinksperspective.com or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.