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  • Writer's pictureHeidi Schreiber-Pan, Ph.D., LCPC

Understanding and Effectively Putting Down Stress: A Guide to Managing Anxiety

Person holding a glass of water, symbolizing the analogy of holding onto stress
Contemplating the weight of stress: how long you hold onto it matters more than its actual weight.

Stress and anxiety are pervasive aspects of our modern lives. They can creep up on us from any corner, at any time, and often, we carry them around much longer than we need to. In fact, dealing with stress and anxiety can be quite like holding a glass of water.

Imagine a psychologist teaching stress management. She holds up a glass of water and asks the room, "How heavy is this glass of water?" Responses range from 8 to 20 ounces, but the psychologist reveals a different perspective: "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

Stress and anxiety are much like that glass of water in the 'Putting Down Stress' analogy. At first, they may seem insignificant or manageable, but the longer we cling to them, the more energy they drain from us. When we let these worries consume our thoughts throughout the day without putting down stress, it can lead to feelings of being paralyzed, hindering us from accomplishing anything else.

Understanding Your Stressors

Stress can sneak up on us in many forms. It could be due to juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, such as balancing work demands with family life. Maybe you're working as hard as you can, but financial pressures are still looming over you. Or perhaps you're dealing with a significant life change like retirement, and the lack of routine and purpose is leaving you feeling uneasy.

Learning to Put the Glass Down

Despite these stressors, it's crucial to remember to let go of your burdens. As the evening approaches, it's a good practice to put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the night, into your time of rest and rejuvenation. We need to learn to put the metaphorical glass down.

But how do we do this? For some, it might involve physical exercise or spending time in nature. It could be as simple as walking your dog in a forest, where you can leave your worries behind and be present in the moment. Or it might involve engaging in a hobby that absorbs your full attention, taking your mind off your worries. Others might find comfort in social connections, spending time with loved ones, or sharing their thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or therapist.

The Importance of Mindfulness

Another powerful approach to managing anxiety and stress is mindfulness. This involves focusing your awareness on the present moment, calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. By practicing mindfulness, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed or consumed by what you're feeling.

The Role of Therapy

If your anxiety and stress feel too heavy to manage on your own, remember that there is no shame in seeking help. Therapists and counselors are trained professionals who can provide tools and techniques to help you better understand and cope with your stress and anxiety. They can guide you in exploring underlying issues and provide strategies to help you manage your feelings and reactions more effectively.

We all carry our share of burdens. But just as the psychologist and the glass of water teach us, it's crucial to remember to put down our burdens regularly. By doing so, we can better manage our stress and anxiety, leading to a more peaceful, fulfilling life.


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