Too often people use unhealthy methods such as alcohol and over eating to reduce stress. Unfortunately, such unhealthy stress reducers can have a negative impact on a person’s life. To help understand what type of impact unhealthy stress habits can have on someone’s life and healthy tips for reducing stress, I have interviewed therapist Ellen Marino.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I have an M.B.A. from Duke University’s Fuqua’s School of Business. My first career was in Human Resources Management where I saw my share of stressors taking their toll on employees and their bosses. The positive impact of my counseling and consulting role in business led me to obtain a Master’s in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco so I could focus more on individuals’ life and growth goals. I am currently a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at Oak Creek Counseling Center in San Francisco and Berkeley. I have worked with many different types of clients, from those with substance abuse issues in a recovery center, to the terminally ill in a hospital setting, to teens involved in the juvenile justice system. Most of my current clients seek my help because of relationship, family, work, or even existential stressors that begin to take away a sense of joy and fulfillment in life.”
What are some unhealthy ways people try to reduce stress?
“All of us, regardless of our backgrounds, career, and family issues face stress as a normal part of daily life. It is how we appraise and react to stress that will determine whether we grow or simply struggle with it. Perhaps one of the extreme stressors is loss and grief. In their book, The Grief Recovery Handbook, John James and Russell Friedman talk about “short-term energy relievers” as the unhealthy coping mechanisms and addictive behaviors that only temporarily make us forget about stressors. Trying to cope with stress in the short term by over-eating, increased use of alcohol, keeping busy in the extreme, excessive caffeine consumption, or over-reliance on sleeping pills or anti-depressants can lead to even more stress for our bodies and self-esteem. While we may forget temporarily when using “short-term energy relievers,” we are not facing our stressors head-on and turning them into opportunities for growth.”
What types of impact can those unhealthy ways of reducing stress have on their overall life?
“Using addictive behaviors to cope with stress takes us down a self-destructive path. We find there is usually not a “silver bullet” to solve our problems.”
What are some healthy tips you can give readers for reducing stress?
“In contrast, long-term strategies for healthy coping include being gentle and patient with ourselves: realizing that there will always be pressures in life, and remembering the strengths and talents that have helped us be successful in the past. Chris Kleinke in Coping With Life Challenges, speaks of developing “an attitude of hardiness” as the most effective response for stress. If we have purpose in life, take a problem-solving approach to challenges, and make good use of social support systems; we will be less likely to rely on avoidance and self-blame'”the unhealthy strategies for coping.
Here are some basic relaxing activities/diversions, which can help with everyday stress, which I recommend to clients:
1. Moderate exercise will help our bodies feel stronger and our mind clearer.
2. Take a walk outside, appreciate the beauty of nature, and enjoy the company of animals.
3. Practicing meditation/yoga has been proven to remove the hold that stress has on us.
4. Listening to relaxing music and interesting reading helps us to de-stress.
5. Doing something creative such as art, writing, and journaling.
6. Taking time for hobbies such as gardening, sewing and even housecleaning.
7. Spending time with supportive family and friends; reaching out to mentors and clergy.”
What type of professional feedback is available for someone who is having a difficult time reducing stress on their own?
“I spent a year at the Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco where I learned and utilized guided imagery techniques, which helped hospital patients in their recovery. I have applied these techniques successfully with subsequent clients. Guided imagery is a type of mind-body healing which allows us to harness the power of our imaginations and deep states of relaxation to access our own inner wisdom and our natural healing response. Guided imagery employs self-hypnosis, which taps into our autonomic nervous system thereby freeing up processes like blood flow, breathing, digestion and most importantly the body’s immune response. By accessing our own positive imagery in a relaxed state we can gain insights into our unconscious, which can help us relieve and understand stressors and move forward in our lives. There is a growing body of medical research, which indicates that practicing guided imagery in combination with appropriate medical treatment can enhance healing and recovery of the body, as well as our emotions/spirit. Guided imagery is used effectively as a supplement to medicine at major hospitals.
There are many trained psychotherapists, personal trainers, and life coaches who are immediately available to help with stress. I would encourage those having difficulty reducing stress to take advantage of brief individual psychotherapy (including guided imagery), group therapy, guided meditation and yoga practice as well other organized physical exercise programs.”
Thank you Ellen for doing the interview on healthy tips for reducing stress. For more information on Ellen Marino you can check out her website on www.ellenmarinomft.com or www.oakcreekcenter.org.
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