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Stressors are an integral and unavoidable part of everyday life for most people, and they differ from person to person. What stresses you may not bother me at all, and vice versa. It’s a highly individualized experience.

How we manage our stress dramatically impacts the quality of not only our life but also that of the people around us, since we all too often take out our stress on those closest to us. The anxiety that’s driven by our stressors also can manifest in physical illness for those who do not learn to manage stress in a healthy way.

I often use the analogy of a bucket to help my clients manage their stress. Picture a bucket inside of you, with a variety of faucets pouring stress into that bucket. It may come from a family member who is toxic in their communication with you, a partner who betrays you, a friend who spreads rumors about you, or a boss who has unrealistic expectations of your work performance. It might be driven by a health challenge, financial difficulties, or secrets from your past catching up with you.

Regardless of the faucets pouring stress into your bucket, it eventually will overflow — creating feelings of being overwhelmed, shut down and unable to cope — if you are not draining it from the bottom with spigots. Those spigots that drain stress also are different for everyone, but they consist of healthy coping skills such as talking to trusted friends about your stressors, journaling about them, attending 12-step meetings if you’re in recovery, meditating consistently, and having friendships or some type of community in which you are involved.

Other effective drains for stress include exercising on a regular basis, eating healthy meals, getting proper sleep, laughing and having fun whenever you can, volunteering for an organization in which you strongly believe, and replacing critical self-talk with affirmative self-talk.

The more of these types of stress-busters you employ, the better you’ll be able to dissipate stress in your life and manage the resulting anxiety you feel. So, while you cannot eliminate stressors in your life, you certainly can balance them by engaging in healthy activities. When, for any reason, you are not able to drain your stress bucket, you may need the help of a licensed mental health counselor who can guide you in developing healthy coping skills.

All of our New Leaf Center therapists are licensed and experienced in helping clients manage anxiety and respond to stressors in a way that promotes growth and healing. In addition, we regularly host a workshop titled The Gift of Calmness: Healthy Ways to Manage Stress. Our next scheduled program is on Saturday, October 13 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The cost to participate is $195 and includes a light lunch. To register, call our office at (407) 644-8588.

Jackie MacKay, M.A., LMHC, NCC, CSAT

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