30 May Stress Management by guest contributor Jenn Simpson
Two Worlds Collide
Growing this business has allowed me the opportunity to network and meet with really interesting providers of health and wellness services that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise met. The internet really is a fascinating tool– what did we do before social media connected us with hashtags? I was introduced to Jenn through a mutual friend who is in the business of medical entrepreneurship but come to find out that we have another mutual colleague, my very good friend Stephanie Hurley from Best Life Counseling and Wellness.
First dates can be awkward. There’s that weird period of time where you have to feel out the other persons sense of humor, general disposition, and social confidence. Isn’t it true that you can learn a lot about a person within the first few minutes of meeting them? If that hasn’t been scientifically proven than I at least feel confident that I have a lot of anecdotal experience to confirm. For example, I knew right away that Jenn & I could get together over coffee and talk shop for hours. With a background in working with individuals who suffer from PTSD, she is well versed in the world of chronic pain and the complex nature that it involves. Immediately we saw eye to eye and could pick up what the other was putting down.
I am excited to have Jenn featured on the blog today discussing the role of stress as she sees it. This is a topic we cover a lot with the hopes of it resonating with one person. A sentiment that Jenn and I both share is that most individuals barometer for stress is set too high. That said, we don’t give ourselves credit for the everyday stressors that culminate and compound and then when a traumatic stress occurs, our capacity is exceeded.
Check out the blog below and share your comments!
Stress Management From a Social Worker’s Perspective
Hello! This is Jenn Simpson, a clinical social worker and owner of Thrive Therapy, Inc. in Cincinnati. Today I’m partnering with Anchor Wellness to talk about stress, its relationship to our physical health, and some tips and tricks to help you manage stress.
Added or NEW Stressors
For most (if not all) of us, the current pandemic has added stress to our lives. We as humans love to have a sense of predictability and control. When that’s shaken up, everything feels thrown off. I know for me, our family schedule “looks” more open with a temporary reprieve from running kids all over the world for their activities, but I noticed somehow more stress. Why is that?
Changing how we show up in our daily lives leads to a change in how we spend our time and energy. Maybe now you’re working from home and possibly more stressful, your partner is as well. Possibly you’ve been laid off. Some people have shared that they are actually working more. Whatever the situation, stress can show up. Unfortunately, there is so much uncertainty with the sudden changes, and when trying to answer the question, “when will this all just go back to normal?”.
Physically, your energy has likely changed. In addition to this, you likely have to show up emotionally in different ways now. If you’re solo maybe that’s figuring out how to be alone without feeling lonely and if you’re partnered up, you may be seeing a lot more (or a lot less) of your partner. Managing children and their emotions, schedules, boredom, all while juggling everything else takes an emotional toll.
You know how when you have 100 apps running in the background on your phone and your phone is slow as a result?
That’s the visual I get when thinking about all of the things running in the background of our minds zapping our energy. This takes its toll on us, especially as the days, weeks, months drag on.
Have you been having headaches? Tension in the neck and shoulders? Have your eyes felt tired from looking at a computer screen all day? What about your back? Day to day, it’s easy to dismiss this as “just a headache” or “just some tension”, but how frequently is this happening? It’s likely part of your body’s reaction to the elevated stress levels in your life.
One way to combat this is by treating the symptoms. A warm bath, stretching, PT, massage, or an OTC pain reducer. Often though, by the time you’re treating the symptoms the problem is already causing disruption in your life. So, in conjunction with this, it can also be beneficial to work on preventing the physical symptoms exacerbated by stress in the first place.
Stress Happens– Being Prepared is a Game Changer
Practicing stress-reduction techniques can help reduce the frequency and intensity of physical symptoms.
Here are a few ideas for you:
Track your sleep. Before you go to bed, write down your pain as well as your stress level. You don’t have to change anything just yet- just track. Data is your friend, and we as humans are terrible at recalling specifics. You can use your phone, a notebook, a post-it or whatever you have. All you need is date, # of hours sleep, pain level (0-10, 10 being “the pain couldn’t be worse”), and stress level (0-10). After a couple of weeks, look at the data you have. Do you see any patterns? Any correlations? What areas would you like to see change?
Inhale & Exhale
Breathe. Yes, that’s right. Our emotional states is strongly linked to our breath. When we are stressed, our fight/flight response is triggered and breathing becomes quicker and more shallow. Even with no actual or identifiable “threat”, our body is responding as if it’s present. In the short run, this response is helpful. Unfortunately, over an extended period of time, it takes a toll on every part of our body. Our systems become stressed resulting in inflammation, changes to our lymphatic system, digestion, and blood pressure just to name a few.
The nice thing about breathing is that you have all of the necessary tools at any point of your day.
Try this simple practice 2-3 times per day to start, but feel free to use it whenever possible throughout your day or at bedtime.
Try these ideas:
- Get comfy. If you’re in a place where you can close your eyes, do so. If not, soften your gaze.
- Spend a moment or two just noticing where your breath is today. It’s always changing, and there is no need to judge it. Is it slow? Shallow? Quick? Are you breathing with your whole lungs or just the top part? Just notice.
- Slowly start to balance your breath. Breath in slowly and steadily through your nose, then slowly and completely out through your mouth. Try to make your breath as even as possible, working to get your inhale and exhale approximately the same amount of time.
- Stay here for at least 5 minutes, or as time allows. Do not judge it, there is not right or wrong. Just gently try to steady the breath, slowly and fully filling the lungs then slowly exhaling. Pay attention to what you may be feeling as you practice.
Connect. Human connection is important for many reasons, however if you’re feeling more cut off from meaningful connection, this can be a huge source of stress. Did you know connecting with others is one of the biggest protectors from depression?
This connection can be through text, phone, Facetime, or in person but make it a point to do this daily. Also, be choosy in who you connect with and where you spend that emotional energy. (See Anchor’s post on how connection impacts health here.)
Give Yourself Grace
Self-compassion. At the beginning of this thing, I know I personally had to let the whole perfectionism thing go while trying to juggle my practice, my four children, my home, my spouse, etc. That doesn’t mean I dropped my standards, it means I had to readjust my expectations to fit the circumstances. A good thing to remember here is to treat yourself as you would a best friend.
Be quick to give yourself understanding, kudos, and a break when needed. Taking the time to recharge and recenter with a hobby, a book, or anything that “fills your cup” isn’t selfish, but rather necessary in taking care of yourself and being compassionate to your needs. (Find other tips and guided videos here.)
Physical activity. Stretching. Yoga. Pilates. CrossFit. Running. Walking. It really doesn’t matter what, but physical activity is the best antidepressant/anti-anxiety out there! If you find yourself lacking in the physical activity department, know that little doses throughout the day can be just as effective.
Do you have five minutes until your next call? Try taking a moment to breathe and stretch before you jump in.
Pay attention to your barometer
Viola! These are not novel ideas but that does not diminish their importance or effectiveness. We can always benefit from a friendly reminder. Adding a little of this each day will add up to less stress on the brain and body. Additionally, keep tracking! Over time do you see a shift or change in your physical pain? Consistency is key here, the more you are able to consistently sprinkle these things into your routine the more balanced, healthy, and happy you’ll feel.
Take care & be well,
About the author:
Jenn Simpson, LISW-S Before I became a trauma therapist here in Cincinnati, I earned a Master’s of Social Work degree from the University of Cincinnati in 2006 and I am independently licensed. I graduated with a focus in clinical social work, specializing in mental heath.
After grad school, I worked at the University of Cincinnati with a very broad practice. This provided a wide range of experience, but in 2007 I realized I wanted to specialize in trauma work and joined the Cincinnati Veteran’s Administration Medical Center (VAMC) treating PTSD in the Trauma Recovery Center. It was here I had the opportunity to train under and work with many of the brightest in the trauma world.
My experience in trauma work is varied. I treat adult male and female patients, both military and non-military related trauma. I provide effective treatments for first-responders, combat-related trauma, sexual assault survivors, child abuse survivors, child sexual abuse survivors, traumatic loss, as well as any other type of trauma you may have endured. I’ve co-led and been a therapist for residential programs for men, women, and patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs).
I have been involved with PTSD-related research as part of my professional resume and have provider status as well as extensive experience in many Evidence Based Practices, meaning these things are well researched and have proven effectiveness. I am a provider for Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), DBT skills training, among others.