Tips on implementing effective coping strategies for stress management
As the holiday season begins, an increase in presenting symptoms is often noticed in session with clients. The holiday season comes with additional stressors such as financial concerns, reminders of loss, and increased engagements on the calendar. This year, we also add the additional stressor of a global pandemic. This is a time when having an accessible toolbox of coping skills is helpful. A variety of coping strategies helps ensure stressors can be managed no matter what situation we find ourselves in.
One important step in managing stressors is identifying the reason symptoms may be increasing. To help identify stressors, consider the following timeline:
When clients are focused on the past, we often see signs of low mood. Focusing on how things were or consistently considering “what might have been” can begin to increase symptoms of low mood including decreased motivation, low energy, sadness or tearfulness. Using that same timeline, we often see clients focused on the future - consistently considering the “what-ifs” or worrying about things outside of their control. When we spend too much time in the future we begin to see increased symptoms of anxiety including restlessness, trouble sleeping, or racing thoughts.
One of the first steps in addressing low mood or increased anxiety is noticing the warning signs that your time orientations has been directed too much in the past or the future. Begin to take note of your warning signs so that you can identify when you need to come back to that timeline and focus on the present.
Once you’ve identified that you need to redirect your attention to the present, one coping strategy for helping with this is a grounding technique utilizing your five senses. Grounding techniques are helpful coping skills as they can be done without anyone even noticing and can be implemented while you're sitting at the Thanksgiving table or unwrapping gifts. In this grounding technique, you will force your thoughts back to the present by counting five things you can see , four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
As you complete this grounding technique, you will begin to refocus your thoughts on the present moment and avoid the time travel to the past or the future. There is no right or wrong way to complete this technique; you can do it once through or complete it several times as needed.
If you have any questions about this coping technique or would like to discuss other coping strategies, do not hesitate to reach out to KS Services to schedule a free fifteen-minute consultation or appointment.
Laura Waller, MS