Tools for Distress Tolerance Life Building

Category: Mental Health
9 minute read.

Stress and anxiety are common and sometimes inescapable elements in our day-to-day lives. Most people will experience stress and anxiety to varying degrees at some point. Depending on how severe your levels of stress and anxiety are, they can have a detrimental impact on your quality of life. When you experience stress, it can lead to many physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms such as uneasiness, tension headaches, elevated blood pressure, and loss of sleep. It is essential to consider how stressors impact you, the triggers that contribute to stressors, and how to manage triggers effectively.

Stress and anxiety are not always bad. When experienced for a short duration or related to a specific event, stressors can help you overcome a challenge or a dangerous situation. Examples of everyday stress include worrying about employment, feeling nervous before a big test or medical appointment, or being embarrassed in certain social situations such as presenting at a meeting. If stress or anxiety were not part of the equation for conditions such as these, we might not find the motivation to do the things we need to do to overcome the moment.

However, when ongoing distress interferes with everyday life, it may indicate a more serious mental health issue. If you find that you are avoiding situations (or people) due to irrational fears, constant worry, or feeling severe anxiety about traumatic events weeks or months after it happened, it may be time to seek help. At The Los Angeles Outpatient Center, we can help you understand more about stressors and how to manage them without feeling overwhelmed by distress.

What is Stress?

Stress is most commonly a response to an external event (or cause) such as arguing with a significant other or a deadline at work or school. These emotions typically subside once the situation has been resolved. Stressors are a demand that is put on your brain or your physical body due to an external factor. Because an external event or stimulus causes stress, choosing to confront these situations head-on can help to alleviate them. On the other hand, if you find you are experiencing prolonged or chronic stress, it may be beneficial to seek an alternate way to help alleviate your symptoms.

Self-Care for Managing Stress

It is normal to experience stress and anxiety on occasion. There are several self-care and lifestyle alteration strategies you can use to make the feelings associated with various stressors more manageable. Take notice of how your body and mind respond to stressful and anxiety-producing situations. The next time a similar stressful experience occurs, you will be able to anticipate how you will react to it. This means the situation is likely to be less disruptive to your day-to-day tasks and your overall emotional health.

You can also try specific lifestyle changes that may help alleviate the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. Trying some of these techniques can be used either alone or in conjunction with various therapeutic treatments such as those offered at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center to help reduce your symptoms. Below are examples of self-care and distress reduction techniques you could try.

Don’t Procrastinate

One key technique to avoid the stress associated with daily obligations or responsibilities is to plan ahead to meet your tasks head-on. If you have an upcoming meeting, take the time to consider what you need to get done in the days beforehand. If you have arrangements for a dinner party at your home, what things can you do to accomplish some of the tasks related to it in advance? Planning ahead and not waiting until the last minute to consider your tasks can help reduce the stress and anxiety that can come with knowing you have obligations but worrying about getting them done. If you worry that your stressors are linked to a more profound mental health struggle, consider reaching out to your medical or a mental health provider at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center to discuss your symptoms and what options are available to help.

Exercise Regularly

Fatigue and sometimes exhaustion often accompany stress. When you are tired, anxious, or otherwise distressed, it can be challenging to get motivated to exercise. However, incorporating some type of physical activity will help reduce stress levels, manage potential weight gain and even help with your mood and sleep. For some, a trip to the gym or running works, whereas others prefer meditation or Pilates. It is not necessary to engage in strenuous or excessive workouts. Start simple and pick what works for you. Choosing an activity you enjoy will help you develop a routine you can stick to and turn to when you feel distressed. You may also find that using exercise as a form of stress management will help reduce stress and anxiety by helping you feel physically and psychologically better. The health benefits of routine physical activity are more than well documented and beneficial for everyone.

Get plenty of sleep

This is a challenge when faced with a busy schedule. However, sleep is a vital factor in many things. Exhaustion not only impacts your mood and emotional well-being, but it can also contribute to weight gain and lead to excess stress. When you are tired, you are more likely to skip a healthy breakfast in favor of an easy drive-through meal and something with espresso to get you going. You may also feel inclined to skip your workout because you’re just too tired. Your day may end with ordering take-out again for dinner (because you don’t want to cook) before heading to bed on a super full stomach feeling exhausted and miserable.

A day like this here and there is ok, but when you settle for quick and easy because you are fatigued, it can worsen your mental and physical health with time. A good night’s sleep is essential for your physical and emotional health. It also helps your metabolism and can improve energy. When you are tired, the stress hormone cortisol is activated, which triggers your body to conserve energy-this means it holds onto fat. An increase in stress hormones, unhealthy eating, and feeling emotionally drained all contribute to weight gain. Couple this with regular daily activities, and it may feel impossible to overcome these stressors.

Maintain a healthy diet

Similar to following a healthy exercise routine, a healthy diet may be difficult to maintain day in and day out. However, also like exercise, a regular diet can help reduce stressors and improve your physical health. It will also make participating in regular exercise and other self-care practices easier as you are not focused on feeling tired or worn down due to poor dietary choices.

Practice Self-Care

Another vital tool you can use to reduce stress is self-care. The definition of self-care looks different for everyone, but most importantly, it is those healthy activities or habits you can use when you need to center and focus your mind. Examples of common self-care practices include yoga, meditation, reading a book, taking a warm bath, going for a walk, playing music, taking a nap, etc. Essentially, self-care is any tool you can use that takes your mind off your stressors and helps you focus on the moment.

Learning and practicing self-care tools is a part of many mental health and addiction treatment programs. People struggling with significant stress or trauma can learn to manage their symptoms without engaging in unhealthy or dangerous habits such as drug or alcohol abuse by focusing on self-care.

Seek Help When You Need To

If you still feel anxiety and stress that you worry you cannot manage despite all your best efforts, reach out to your medical provider, family, or a member of our team here at The Los Angeles Outpatient Center. Learning how to best manage stressors while remaining actively engaged in your daily routine will help you today and when faced with future stressful experiences. By better understanding your stressors and how to manage them, you will find you know which tools to use when faced with distressing events or situations.

If you experience stress and anxiety regularly, it may be time to consider seeking treatment. Long-term stress and anxiety can result in significant physical and emotional challenges. There are many ways to seek treatment for stress and anxiety. There are many options for treatment, including our individually designed outpatient treatment programs here at our Los Angeles area treatment center.

In addition to therapy, your provider may also recommend medications to help treat a diagnosed anxiety disorder. There are several medications on the market that are used for this purpose. These may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as sertraline (Zoloft) or paroxetine (Paxil). Sometimes Your provider may prescribe anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) such as diazepam (Ativan) or lorazepam (Valium). Due to benzodiazepines’ addictive nature, these medications are generally used on a short-term basis to reduce the risk of addiction.

Ongoing stress can lead to anxiety disorders and other mental health challenges. Anxiety and the symptoms associated with anxiety disorders are generally the direct results of a stressful event or chronic stress management difficulties. If you struggle to cope with stress and anxiety symptoms, it may be time to consider a treatment program like ours. Long-term stress and anxiety can lead to harmful physical effects on your body systems and overall emotional health. We will work with you to design a treatment plan centered around your health and your specific needs. We can help you determine the root cause of your stress and learn the tools needed to face distress safely and effectively. If you are ready to learn more about our programs and how we can help, contact The Los Angeles Outpatient Center today.