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How to Identify Stress and Anxiety and 10 Tips that will help

 


Meredith Van NessHi, I am Meredith Van Ness, founder of Balanced + Well Counseling, a therapist, and a life coach. I support and empower women to overcome their stress and anxiety, release the limiting self-doubt holding them back, and build confidence so they can focus their energy on what matters most. 

We’ve all experienced more stress than usual in the last couple of years.  So now normal and everyday stresses may be putting you in a constant place of feeling out of control or overwhelmed. Although some stress is a natural part of life, we must learn to handle it in healthy ways so our stress does not always spiral into anxiety.

Being in touch and admitting that we are stressed is a great place to start. It’s when we’re honest with ourselves that we can begin to do the work.

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When it is working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. Stress can also help you rise to a challenge. It’s what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.

We can even experience healthy and/or acute stress in short bursts, which can increase productivity or help us avoid danger. In other words, that adrenaline pushing you to finish that marathon or work project is a good thing.  Your stress response can cause your body to stay alert and work harder to achieve those important goals. 

After a certain point though, stress stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life. Chronic stress—the kind that negatively impacts our mental, physical, and emotional health—occurs when stress persists over a long period of time. We become used to this type of stress as a part of our everyday lives and forget how to manage it. This is why it’s important to monitor and manage your stress appropriately. 

When you experience prolonged levels of stress, it’s common to forget about the daily tips + habits + self-care that are crucial in dealing with the stressors in the first place.

The first step:

You must first recognize the symptoms. 

Some of the physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of stress are: 

  • Physical: fatigue, sleep difficulties, weakened immune system, headaches/migraines, chest pain, nausea, and stomach issues.

  • Emotional: anxiety, depression/sadness, irritability, loss of motivation, restlessness, and mood swings.

  • Behavioral: drug or alcohol use, social isolation, unhealthy eating or eating disorders, nail-biting, or gambling.


Another, more relatable way might be this infographic which when I posted on my Instagram page, a lot of people identified with. My clients often times relate to these symptoms too.

 

The second step: 

Now that you know the symptoms of stress, check in with yourself how are you really doing? If you're still reading, it might be the time to implement habits that help you to manage current stress and also prevent the continuous build-up of stress. My clients ask me all the time what the main differences are between anxiety and stress. The easiest way to explain it is that stress is a milder, shorter-term response to a specific situation. Anxiety, on the other hand, is usually more severe and persistent than stress.

With anxiety, the trigger of your worry, or fear may be less clear. Whether you are dealing with stress, anxiety, or both, these tips will help you. It’s easy to go through life on autopilot. We fall into daily routines that become almost automated. And if we don’t purposely look up once in a while, everyday stress can turn into anxiety which leads to a lack of confidence and also self-doubt. The reverse is also true: self-doubt can lead to worry and then stress and anxiety. It can be a slippery slope in both directions. 

Sometimes you have to step back and examine what you’re doing to deal with stress and anxiety and how you are actually feeling to see if the approach you are using (or not) is actually working for you.

Think of something you’ve been meaning to do but keep putting off. Over time, it creates tension and stress. It was not that long ago  that I was the woman who thought she had to ‘have it all.’ The stress of trying to be perfect. The exhaustion of feeling like I always had to be busy. The worry that came with overthinking every little detail. This way of living left me in a state of overwhelming anxiety. I knew I needed to take the advice I gave to clients and create a change in my own life! 

This is where this Anxiety Relief Guide came from. Having been stressed and anxious myself, I created a guide that helped me go from anxious and stressed to calm and in control.  I now use it every day to help my clients and work through my own stress and anxiety in healthy ways. The really good news is that both stress and anxiety are manageable and treatable. You don't have to stay stuck.

The third step: Check out the guide here. 

What I have learned from being a therapist for the last 20+ years and having learned to manage my own stress and anxiety is that anxiety needs to be managed every single day through self-care and self-compassion. The habits in this guide are what I use every day to nurture both of these. I work on my self-care and in turn manage my anxiety. Win-Win. ⁠This guide is a vital part of the Balanced+Well program that I teach all of my clients. In it, I'm sharing a variety of science-based, psychology-driven habits for you to try. All of the habits are brain-based and proven to help you decrease anxiety and stress and build confidence.

Over time, these self-care habits turn into your regular, everyday habits that will not only help you manage anxiety and stress but also feed your soul. They become your very own foundation to manage stress, anxiety, and mood. Over the course of the week that you use this guide, you will learn to practice a kind of self-care that addresses mind, body, and soul through small daily actions.

There is a misconception that self-care is a special treat. As much as I do love green smoothies and bubble baths, that's not all I am writing about in this guide. The tips + habits in this guide are your very own versions of self-care,  routines and actions that you incorporate every day. In doing so, you will allow yourself to take better care of your loved ones too–because you will show up as a healthier version of yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup,  meaning you can’t truly support and care for those around you if you’re not taking care of yourself first.  

I created this stress and anxiety relief guide to help you (and me) build daily self-care habits that prioritize YOU. It’s based on psychology and real, proven methodologies and strategies which help you to build confidence in your self-care habits.  That said, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. I hope you will allow this guide to serve as the framework for getting back to filling up your own cup.

In it, I share a variety of self-care habits for you to try for yourself and see what sticks. Does one resonate with you? Try it. If you try something and don't love it, no worries! Move on to the next one and find something that works for YOU. I encourage you to try out 1-to 2  habits each day and replace what doesn’t work. The goal is to make these self-care habits stick so that they become non-negotiables in your everyday life. These then become your very own formula for managing your mood, anxiety, and stressors every day. 

Here are some self-care actions+habits for stress and anxiety relief and management:

1. Practice Self-Compassion

The very first step in relieving anxiety is learning how to be self-compassionate. Pay attention to your self-talk and speak to yourself the way you would to someone you love. You can practice this by giving yourself the tenderness and care you need when you're going through a tough time and trying to understand and show patience regarding your own perceived personality flaws. Lastly, being tolerant of your own shortcomings and allowing yourself grace can all help with self-compassion.

2. Be Mindful:

Find a mindful exercise that you can implement daily, such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading a book, repeating a mantra, or another healthy, conscious mindfulness exercise. Use this time to reset as needed throughout the day. It helps me take deep breaths in between clients and most activities all day. Keep in mind it does not have to be a long time; research suggests that as little as 1-2 minutes of mindfulness each day can improve many aspects of well-being, including self-worth and body appreciation.

I find it helps to set a reminder on your phone for a certain time of the day. You can also download an app like calm or headspace to help with extra motivation. I keep my push notifications on for these apps

3. Get some Sleep:

Missing those 'zzz's can result in a variety of negative consequences, including anxiety, depression, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. Most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep a night to feel rejuvenated the next day. Sleep is so important for mental health! Getting enough sleep helps your memory, decision-making, mood, focus and so much more. But somehow sleep goes to the back burner when we're stressed, we stay up too late, or for some experience insomnia.

4. Move Your Body: 

Research proves over and over that, as little as 10 minutes of walking (or other physical activity ) can provide relief from both stress and anxiety. In fact, movement helps us to relax afterward by decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone). Bonus- those extra endorphins improve your mood and ability to sleep. Win. Win. Win. If you're just starting out, try for 5-10 minutes a couple of days per week. It does not have to be rigorous; you can gradually build up your routine over time. You may need to reframe what ‘exercise’ looks like in your life.

For me, movement can be a walk with my kids, a few minutes of stretching or even cleaning. If I plan in advance, I love pilates, yoga, hiking, and skiing. Exercise does not have to be an intense workout every day to decrease stress. How refreshing does it feel to hear that? Try checking with yourself before, during, and after your daily movement, and notice what happens.

5. Practice Gratitude:

The science of gratitude has found that identifying and concentrating on what you are thankful for reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, and blood pressure and makes you feel more joyful. One of my favorite tools, when I am stuck in worry mode, is to turn the worry around with a thought about what I am grateful for. This immediately takes my attention away from the anxious thought by distracting it and then I can come back to it later if needed. Another option is to start by thinking about 3 things per day you are grateful for. Writing them down or using an app, your notes has even more researched benefits.

6. Pay Attention to Your Thoughts:

Did you know we have about 60,000 thoughts per day? That means paying attention to your thoughts, in the moment, is one of the most important things you can do for your mind. Our stress, overwhelm or anxiety can sometimes stem from a single negative thought. You might find your brain automatically focuses on the worst thing that happened or it might constantly predict negative outcomes. These kinds of thoughts affect how you feel and how you behave. Think about What are you saying to yourself, about yourself, and about other people? When negative thoughts arise can you identify them? Ask yourself, Is this thought rational? Is it true? Am I basing this thought on a fact or a feeling? Is there evidence that this thought is true?

7. Be Mindful:

Find a mindful exercise that you can implement daily, such as deep breathing, yoga, meditation, listening to music, reading a book, repeating a mantra, or another healthy, conscious mindfulness exercise. Use this time to reset as needed throughout the day. Keep in mind it does not have to be a long time; research suggests that as little as 1-2 minutes of mindfulness each day can improve many aspects of well-being, including self-worth and body appreciation. Some people find it helps to set a reminder on their phones for a certain time of the day. You can also download an app like calm or headspace to help with extra motivation. I keep my push notifications on for these apps. 

8. Use a Mantra:

If you follow me on Instagram, you know mantras are one of my favorite tools. The way you speak about and to yourself matters so much when it comes to decreasing stress and anxiety!

When you have overly critical self-talk it decreases your self-confidence and then you stay stuck in thought patterns that are limiting and oftentimes negative. There is a difference between toxic positivity and using a mantra when you need a quick reminder. (We're not just replacing negative with positive.)

Some of my favorites are "I can get through this." "I am stronger than I think I am." "It will be ok. "

9. Get Outside:

Fresh air and sunshine help me so much. The key to this tip is that you are intentionally doing something quick and easy for yourself by going outside. This works by distracting your mind from the current stress, worry, or anxious thought. It can be for 1 minute- or as long as you have. I love going on a long hike and can notice the differences right away, but this is not

always realistic with busy work schedules, families, etc. But, if you can squeeze it in, try!

10. Journal:

Take time today to get your thoughts out on paper. I don’t know about you but I often have thoughts circling around going nowhere. It’s easy to dwell on certain thoughts or ideas unless usually helps put most things into perspective.
I get them on paper or in my notes app on my phone! It’s a time for me to reflect, which

Other ideas are in the guide:

You probably already have things you do or want to do to help manage your stress and anxiety. It could be keeping up with your calendar, taking a bath, drinking water, enjoying a cup of coffee in peace, decluttering, connecting with a friend, or writing down 3 things you are grateful for every day.

In the guide— Download it here. 

In the guide, you will find more tips to help every day and also find practical journaling prompts and space to check in with yourself and track self-care habits. The goal is to become more aware of which self-care habits you can continue to put into daily practice.  You will have the space to reflect on the week and your progress You will also be able to check in with yourself on what you felt was effective, what you found challenging, and what barriers may be in your way. 

I am a life coach and therapist, and I know firsthand, how it feels to experience stress, anxiety, and the limitations of self-doubt.  My goal is to help you identify your stress and begin to manage it more effectively. I just know using this guide will help you to prioritize YOU. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  • Check in with yourself regularly to proactively reduce the potential, long-term effects of stress and anxiety.

  • Once you learn how to recognize some of the symptoms mentioned above, you can gradually find ways to handle your stress healthily. To get started, I have provided the stress relief guide.

  • If you have any questions or need help implementing these self-care habits, or managing your stress or anxiety, let’s schedule a call or a virtual appointment to go over your next steps. You can contact me at meredith@balancedandwell.org or check me out on FB, IG, LinkedIn, and in my private group.

I would also love for you to sign up for the Balanced + Well newsletter to receive updates about any programs I offer. (Bonus, you will also then get reminders to use the anxiety relief guide! )

My Bio:

I'm Meredith Van Ness and I'm the founder of Balanced + Well Counseling and Coaching, and I'm a therapist and life coach. I have been helping women for 20+ years by integrating traditional, tried-and-true therapy techniques with innovative life coaching strategies that create real results for my clients.  My mission is to help women overcome their stress and anxiety, release self-doubt, and build confidence so that they can focus their energy on what matters most.  In my free time, I strive for living a life of balance and wellness by spending time with my 3 boys and husband. I am at heart an outdoor, mountain girl and love hiking, biking,  skiing, reading, practicing yoga,  traveling and giving myself grace when I need it. 


Connect with me at the following links:

Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn,  and in my private group. 






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