Autumn is officially here—leaves are changing colors, the days are getting shorter, and the year is drawing to an end. While Mother Nature prepares for winter, our lives are no less hectic. In fact, for many of us fall is one of the busiest times of the year. With schools in session, there is a greater demand on parents, driving children to soccer practices, football games, piano lessons, and other after-school activities. And with the holidays looming, finding time to decorate our homes, plan get-togethers, and shop can make a festive time of year seem stressful.
If something, everything, or nothing has you feeling stressed, there are ways to cope:
- Identify and address the cause. Prolonged stress can lead to health problems as it impacts our immune system and puts us at a higher risk for developing disease.
- Take a break. Try meditation, yoga, massage, or another relaxation technique. If you don’t have the time or inclination for those, just listening to music that soothes you can be helpful.
- Eat a balanced diet, get enough sleep, and exercise daily. Healthful living can be easier said than done in our busy world, but the benefits are hard to overstate.
- Laugh. You may be surprised at how much better you feel after a good laugh! Laughter helps to stimulate the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This is a chemical produced by our own body and can lift our mood and decrease anxiety – it is sometimes referred to as the happy hormone. And laughter suppresses the release of stress-related hormones.
- Keep a journal. Record your worrisome thoughts and fears. This can serve as a container for these unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
- Talk to someone. Discuss your feelings with a friend or loved one.
It is important, however, to differentiate between everyday stress and accumulated stress leading to anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health tells us, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but when anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.” When anxiety affects your daily life adversely, it important to remember that professional intervention is worth considering. If you’ve tried to manage or minimize anxiety on your own, without success, I encourage you to find out how I can help you.
Susan Whedbee is a Psychoanalyst with a private practice in New York City