How I found the first step in treating and managing stress
There’s a tool which psychologists and counsellors use to help “quantify” stress, so that they can best help you in treating and managing stress in your life. It’s a check list of major life events, each given a score out of a hundred. You run through the list and any event that you have experienced in the last 12 months or expect to go through in the next 3 months, you tally up the numbers. If you score over 300, you’re looking at the possibility that stress with impact your future health outcomes.
I first learned about it during my last year at University, during a session with a University counsellor. Despite my grades going well, and loving my previous semesters, I was really struggling with this study session. My procrastination was at an all time high, which was feeding into axiety. I was crying all the time, my guts were playing up, and sleep wasn’t the best. The lack of sleep only exacerbated my uneven emotions and physical symptoms, but I just couldn’t make it all come together.
Not only that, but I was so deep in it, I forgot how to look after myself. I was hardly applying any of the naturopathic tools I knew on myself; however, I was still helping others on their health journeys – go figure!
let me introduce you
The kind, patient, well spoken counsellor held space for me whilst I unpacked what was going on. I would say things like, “I’m only doing two subjects, I don’t know why I’m really struggling. I’ve done 4 subjects a session before.” He introduced me to the Holmes and Rahe Life Change Index Score.
“Jenna, let’s look at what else is going one other than uni.” On top of my stud load, I was working part time, and running my own business. I was due to wed in 2 months, planning that and a honeymoon, and training for my first marathon which was happening a fortnight before my wedding. I also knew that I’d have to find a new flat, pack, and move within the next 4 months.
“Jenna, as far as the life change index, you’ve got a lot going on”.
seeing stress clearly
And in that moment, I felt validated. It’s a little bit silly; having to have a check box sheet and another person tell you that you’re stressed. Sometimes though, we’re so deeply wedged in it that we just keep going and don’t even realise. And sometimes we’re so used to the things that are causing the stress, we don’t attribute the physical symptoms to that stress.
Now as much as I could, I took on board the tools and advice from the counsellor that day, but life kept piling things onto my to-do pile. Problems with university paperwork, graduation, and illness and injury, moved to a new house, quit a job.
Six months later, just as I was graduating, I was house sitting for a friend in their beautiful home near the beach. Sadly, during the whole summer holidays only made it to the beach once. I was so adrenally fried, so fatigued, so mentally exhausted that I ended up being physical unwell for the 7 weeks I was there. And that was my breaking point. I finally reached out to a colleague and friend for their help and support. I started to eat better, I made the effort to go a for a walk each day, and thus began my healing.
So why am I telling you this?
In short, it’s to say I hear you.
i hear you
Many clients come to me with a range of symtpoms they can’t seem to get sorted. Niggling tummy troubles , poor sleep, being “emotional”, and feeling exhausted but unable to sleep. They try to connect the dots, but they fail to see the bigger picture. I hear you. And whilst I may not be going through exactly what you’re going through, I have some tools that can help you.
As you may or may not realise stress can be overt, or covert. It may be from one big event, or from a collection of compounding daily grinds. But, as I mentioned above in my story, sometimes we don’t even realise that we are stressed, or that or load may be breaking us.
treating and managing stress
The first tool I recommend for treating and managing stress is (and if a client is sitting next to me in clinic, they’ve already actioned it):
I’m a huge advocate for verbalising and venting. This doesn’t necessarily mean just standing there bitching at anyone who’ll listen, but verbalising can look like, keeping a journal, seeing a counsellor, kinesiologist, or having a good friend who can hold space for you.
Through verbalising or venting you may find clarity as to what is causing or contributing to your stress. Talking or writing things out may help to define and see a clearer picture. This is especially true if the writing you do is free form and you just write whatever comes out of you,
Talking with a good friend or paid professional may help to mentally offload the weight. They may also be able see the things that you can’t that may help you in your efforts to ‘stress less’. Some professionals may even be able to offer advice, or teach you tools to manage your stress and its symptoms. You can read a little bit more on how to find support in this other article I wrote; “When you’ve got no support.”
Essentially, you cannot fix what you don’t acknowledge.
let’s check in
So, friend, how are you feeling? Where’s you stress levels at? I invite you this next week or two to really check in with yourself. Maybe take the Holmes and Rahe Survey. If you do know you’re needing a bit of help in the stress department, maybe it’s time you step into you power and get some help, in whatever capacity they may look like for you.
If you would like to book an appointment with me to help in treating and managing your stress, click the button below.
- Jenna Verhoeven
- adrenal health, anxiety, stress