STRESS AWARENESS MONTH
Finding solace in connection
It’s no secret that stress is an increasingly common concern for Americans. With everything going on in our world, it affects our lives, and stress levels are high. There doesn’t seem to be any consensus on how to deal with it.
In moments like these, it’s normal for people to feel alone in their struggles, and to avoid sharing with others how they are coping. There is an expectation that we deal with our stress in private while projecting an image of perfection to the world around us.
Struggling with the weight put upon us is seen as a weakness, and sharing those struggles with others is seen as putting an unfair burden on them. As a result, many people suppress their stress, which leads to even greater struggles and a feeling of intense isolation.
The secret that no one wants to admit is that everyone struggles — if not now, then at other times of their lives. With everything we’ve been through — in our families, communities and nation — most of us are feeling the effects in one way or another. Pretending as if we aren’t struggling is doing nothing to solve these problems. We often frame burying our stress as a sign of strength, but the truth is that our stress will always come to the surface one way or another, and ignoring it just increases the chance that it will show its face in ways that we can’t control.
An alternative to hiding your true emotions, as scary as it might seem, is to be honest with the people around you with how you’re feeling. Opening up to someone about what you’re going through not only gives you the opportunity to talk through your emotions and process them in a healthy way, but it also gives others permission to do the same. It can be challenging to be the first person to show vulnerability, but once someone else has taken that step, it doesn’t seem so hard.
It takes courage to be honest with yourself and with others about how you really are doing. When we can let go of the need to be perfect and instead prioritize honesty on every level, we can take steps to finding solutions, and let others know they are not alone.
Grace Smith, BA, M.Ed. candidate, is a graduate student completing her field experience internship for her Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She currently provides reduced-fee counseling at StLWC. You can contact her at email@example.com.