Take it from the pros: 8 things therapists do when they’re stressed

Fast-track your way to zen

Many of us will have sat in front of a professional and taken tips from them about how we can improve our mental health.

But what do they do when it comes to looking after their mindset?

Our friends over at HuffPo went straight to the source, asking therapists what they do when they’re having a stressful morning and how we can follow suit.

Check out the list below.

[Credit: Mathilde Langevin]

1) Journaling

Putting pen to paper in times of stress can feel like the last thing you want to do, yet kickstarting the day with a simple journaling exercise is known to decrease anxiety.

It not only allows you to make the abstract thoughts in your head more tangible, it can also help you to understand or remember things with more clarity.

Offering his pearls of wisdom, Jack Turban, a fellow in child psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, said he combines his to-do list alongside mantras.

Turban said: “First, I write out my tasks for the day, which helps alleviate any worries I have about forgetting something.

“Next, I jot down a mantra – a short, positive phrase that I’m going to repeat to myself throughout the day.

“Lastly, I add a few things that I’m grateful for and a few things that I’m excited about to begin my day on a positive note.”

[Credit: Andraz Lazic]

2) Go for a short walk

If you’ve ever complained of there not being enough hours in the day, then you’ll know escaping outside even for five minutes can be tricky.

Yet if you prioritise it as a self-care tool, you will see a huge shift in your mood.

Speaking about her commitment to the great outdoors, Jessica Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine, recommended listening to podcasts too which can help with relaxation and de-stressing.

Gold said: “When I wake up in the morning, I typically take my dog for a walk.

“We walk together for about 10 to 15 minutes, which is just enough to start the day with some activity and a good decompression.”

[Credit: Lina Trochez]

3) Concentrate on the present moment by engaging the senses

This may sound a little jargon-y, though essentially it involves dedicating a few minutes to quieting the mind by focusing on the here and now.

Consequently, you allow yourself to just be, instead of analysing past situations or future scenarios that have not yet happened which can induce anxiety.

Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said it is a great tool for whenever she’s feeling antsy in the morning.

Chaudhary explained: “When I wake up stressed, I actively give myself permission to enjoy the start of my morning while not thinking about whatever the stressor is.

“I focus on the sensations I’m experiencing from my coffee, from the smell to taste to warmth of the mug in my hands. Sometimes, I’ll also listen to soothing music.”

[Credit: Thought Catalog]

4) Read or listen to something inspirational

If you love a positive quote or meme, then this tip has your name written all over it.

By simply drinking in a few words, whether from a book, poetry or Insta itself, absorbing affirmations will lead to a more positive mindset.

Riana Elyse Anderson, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said it best when she says it’s about prevention over cure.

Anderson said: “Engaging in something positive that sets the precedent is better than an intervention in the midst of midday stress.”

[Credit: Christian Erfurt]

5) Sit in your stress for a while

Urgh, not the easiest piece of advice for those who want to self-medicate or squash it all down so that you don’t have to feel your feelings.

However, Brittany Johnson, a therapist in New Albany, Indiana, says acknowledging the anxieties within us actually gives us power.

Johnson said: “I take up to 10 minutes every morning after I wake up to feel any negative, heavy or stressful feelings I may have before the day starts.”

She added: “I use mindfulness to visualise my thoughts and feelings as words or images that I am pushing away.”

[Credit: Brands People]

6) Set boundaries right away

If you ever say no when you mean yes, or yes when you mean no, then this one sounds like it’s for you.

Setting boundaries not only gives you autonomy but also boosts self-esteem.

Rebecca Leslie, a psychologist in Atlanta, says that the perfect time to do this is when you wake up stressed and need a practical way to work through it.

Leslie said: “I will intentionally wait to respond to emails, phone calls and texts until I have taken time to check-in with myself and cultivate calmness.”

[Credit: Fabian Moller]

7) Take a few deep breaths

Ah, simple yet so effective.

How often do you forget to just breathe, then find yourself battling palpitations or shortness of breath due to high stress levels?

Kristin Meekhof, therapist and co-author of A Widow’s Guide to Healing, says the art of deep breathing is a powerful one to let go of stress.

Meekhof champions a practice known as ‘alternate nostril breathing’, where you take turns breathing through the right and left nostril while keeping the other one closed.

The results can have a profound effect on your body, mind and nervous system.

[Credit: Toa Heftiba]

8) Cuddle in bed

It’s time to grab your partners, kids, pets or teddies and hold on tight, as a cuddle a day keeps the doctor away.

The reason why getting your snuggle on is so powerful is because hugs release feel-good endorphins that significantly reduce anxiety and boost happiness.

Katelyn Anderson, a therapist and founder of Equip Sleeping Co., said she always spends the first five minutes of her day cuddling in bed as a way to ground herself.

Anderson said: “Before jumping out of bed in a hurry, slow down. Whether it’s a soft blanket, partner, pet, cuddling helps relax the nervous system and decreases stress.”

We think we can at the very least try number 8 if it means five more minutes in bed!


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