Stress Management

Dr. Kaili Chen

Dr. Kaili Chen

Dr. Kaili Chen is originally from Singapore and has lived in various countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, China, and the United States. She has worked in the field of psychology for six years in several non-profit organizations and community mental health centers providing therapy to individuals, conducting group therapy sessions, and psycho-educational seminars. Read more about Kaili here.
Dr. Kaili Chen

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Stress is the body’s physical, emotional, and physiological automated response to any situation. Prehistorically, stress has been linked to the flight or fight response in dangerous situations, however, in modern times, it is associated with being overwhelmed with having:

  1. Too many changes
  2. Too high expectations
  3. Too much responsibilities
  4. Information overload

Nevertheless, not all stress is bad for one’s health. Positive stress is associated with being short term, motivational, improves performance and productivity, and enhances concentration. On the other hand, negative stress is associated with being harmful, especially when experienced for extended periods of time.

Early Warning Signs Of Stress

Stress can present itself in multiple ways and each person is different. Answer the following questions with ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

  1. Are you feeling sad and no longer finding activities pleasurable?
  2. Are you easily agitated, restless, or have a sense of unworthiness?
  3. Do you find yourself being defensive, irritable, or argumentative?
  4. Are you mentally exhausted and have difficulty concentrating at work?
  5. Do you find yourself overcompensating, avoiding, or denying there are any issues?
  6. Are you participating in compulsive behaviors such as gambling, substance, and/or sex?
  7. Are you encountering legal problems because of potential anger impulses or have become indebted?
  8. Are you experiencing insomnia, headaches, sore muscles, stomach problems, and/or a low sex drive?
  9. Do you find yourself getting sick more often than usual?

If you answered ‘yes’ to more than 4 of the 9 questions, you are probably exhibiting the early warning signs of stress.

Ways to Handle Stress

Stress can definitely be alleviated. It may not seem plausible in the beginning but small changes in your life can help you achieve your goals.

  1. Getting enough sleep. This time is used for body maintenance and repair from the stress it has endured for the day. Thus, for healthy adults, the amount of sleep may vary but the recommended amount of sleep time ranges between 7-9 hours. (National Sleep Foundation)
  2. Regular exercise. The goal is to have at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, even if it’s just a walk. Enjoy that time away from the chair.
  3. Eat well. Try avoiding processed foods and choose to eat fresh ingredients when possible.
  4. Relax. By finding activities or hobbies which are pleasant and enjoyable can help significantly reduce your stress.
  5. Develop a support system. Whether it is friends you meet or family in the country, it is important to maintain regular contact with them on a social basis.
  6. Prioritize and manage time properly. Consider creating a to-do list and prioritizing what needs to be done versus what you would like to get done on that particular day. If the item does not have a deadline, it does not need to be done today. Moreover, this can help in identifying what is causing the stress.
  7. Seek help. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeking help from a psychologist or a mental health professional who can assist in managing stress effectively.

Everyone deals with stress differently and it is important to remember this. Just because you may not be able to manage your stress levels does not mean you have somehow failed. It just may mean that you have never encountered this level before and need extra support from others. With some help and time, the stress can subside and it will be important to continue understanding and managing your own stress over time.

Have you recently wanted to tell your partner something but decided not to because you were too afraid that it would hurt your partner’s feelings?

Oftentimes, couples are afraid to open up to their partners and say what they really need because they are worried about hurting their partner’s feelings and rocking the boat while simultaneously suppressing their own voice and their true inner needs. This leads to a disconnection in knowing more about each other’s inner worlds and a missed opportunity for the other partner to listen and be supportive. When this occurs consistently overtime, one partner’s will feel that his/her needs are not met ending up in arguments and conflicts.

Try this activity next time you want to express your needs:

First, set some ground rules before you start. This is extremely crucial to having a conversation about what you want to discuss so that your partner understands that he/she needs to become an active listener. Make sure you and your partner refrain from any judgment, blame, contempt or criticisms and to just become all ears for you while you express your needs.

By using “I-statements”, your partner will feel less confronted/attacked. The finger-pointing behavior is taken away and your partner will be more willing to listen.

Identify what it is that you feel and what it is that you need. For example,

“I feel _______.” (angry, upset, lost, overwhelmed, insecure, etc.)

“I need _________.” (to be alone, someone to listen to me rant, your guidance a hug, space.)

Here is an example of what that conversation might look like:

“Honey, lately I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed and worried about family, work and life balance. I appreciate your support and time given to me but I also need some space and time alone to re-balance myself.”

What are your needs? What do you need from your partner today?

A healthy relationship starts by being able to express yourself to your partner without feeling criticized, blamed or judged. Learning the skills in communicating effectively with your partner is essential and crucial to building a strong relationship foundation. A counsellor can help couples learn how to become active listeners and effective communicators.