We’ve all been there: days when everything seems overwhelming, when there is already too much on your plate and life hands you another double-whammy, and your head feels like it’s going to explode.
Whether it’s work stress, conflict with someone you love, a family crisis, a devastating loss, or any other distressing circumstance, it’s often tempting to turn to unhealthy means of coping. Alcohol and drugs, for example, can numb the pain temporarily, but they usually have unintended side effects or consequences that make things worse in the long run.
Stephen Milburn, LPC, a therapist at Psych Choices who is also a doctoral student at Widener University, offers his clients a number of tools to help them tolerate distress. He recommends using your five senses to soothe painful emotions. “Take a hot bath; wrap yourself in warm towels or blankets fresh from the dryer; eat a favorite food, listen to music – but choose music that soothes rather than incites anxiety or frustration – perhaps oldies, from a time when things were not so stressful.”
Seeking out activities that make you feel the “opposite” of distressed or depressed can also be helpful. “Go for a run,” Steve suggests, or “Watch a funny movie.” Just going outdoors and looking up at the trees or sky can be a stimulant to your senses, and will often bring some relief.
“It’s important to build upon the five senses concept, and find things daily to actively work at relieving stress,” Steve reminds us. “One does not relieve stress overnight. Stress can be gradually relieved if we take a daily and active stance at tackling distress. So suffice it to say we don’t need to be good to ourselves only when we are stressed, but always. Take the tools you have developed from the ‘five senses’ idea, and continually build upon them as you go along.”
Stephen Milburn, LPC, CAADC is a therapist at Psych Choices of the Delaware Valley. To make an appointment with Steve or with one of our other therapists please use our Make An Appointment page or call the Intake Coordinator at 610-626-8085, ext. 213.