How Can We Better Manage Stress in our Lives?

Everyone experiences stress in life - this might be related to financial concerns, employment issues, relationship struggles, anxieties regarding parenting, etc.  Some stress is normal and natural and is, in fact, a motivator for us to achieve things in our lives.  However, when we begin feeling emotionally overwhelmed by people, situations or events then stress can negatively impact on us on multiple levels - physically, emotionally, psychologically, and behaviourally.

How we handle our stress is also very important.  If we just keep pushing ourselves through stressful situations while ignoring the impact they are having on us, we might make things worse for ourselves.  It is very important to review and evaluate the things in life that cause us stress.  We can then identify key areas and begin to work on addressing those we have control over and learn how to accept those we cannot change.

So how can we manage the stress in our life in healthy ways?

Dr. Mike Evans is a founder of the Health Design Lab at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, an Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto, and a staff physician at St. Michael's Hospital.  He has developed a series of very informative and fun videos on a variety of topics.

Learn how to manage your stress more effectively by watching his wonderful video!

Take time out of your busy schedule to watch this as part of your "de-stressing" plan for today!

Confronting Anxiety!

Anxiety is something everyone experiences - some of us more than others. Anxiety is something we need in our lives. It is a primitive self defense mechanism which is designed to alert us to danger and keep us safe. However, anxiety can take over our brains and it can be debilitating. Anxiety CAN be managed and reduced with counselling and through a number of other strategies.

Dr. Doug Lukinuk, a local Peterborough chiropractor ( recently posted this very interesting link which helps us release and manage our anxiety using the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is a form of psychological acupressure. Worth trying!

EFT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments.  For more information follow this link:

Conquer Your Anxiety!

Anxiety can sometimes take over our lives because it can feel so debilitating.  Our minds perceive something as being threatening or dangerous which prompts our body to go into self-defence mode.  This activates adrenaline which tells our body to drain the blood from our core and our brain in order to send it to our hands and feet.  It is preparing our bodies for the "flight or fight" response.  Our heart starts racing, breathing becomes shallow and sometimes we might start sweating or shaking.  People report symptoms such as feeling dizzy (which makes sense because the blood is draining to your limbs), tunnel or blurred vision or feeling sick.  Once the adrenaline has runs its' course, we are left feeling drained and exhausted.  Often people in the full rush of a panic or anxiety attack believe they are dying or experiencing a heart attack.

So what can you do about this?  Lots!  The first steps are listed below in terms of beginning to recognize just what anxiety is and to understand the physiological impact it has on us.  Secondly, we need to start taking back our senses and prevent our anxious mind from escalating into a panic attack.

This takes time, patience and practice.  People often come to counselling hoping for the "quick fix," that somehow a therapist will miraculously cure us from all that ails us.  Life would be great if this were true!  However, we do not have such great power.

Anxiety can be minimized or even removed by addressing and confronting issues which have caused anxiety for us in the first place.  By becoming aware of our negative self-talk and more conscious of how it impacts on us, we can reduce the escalation of anxiety.

The following website offers lots of free, great worksheets to help you manage your anxiety.  By monitoring your thoughts and emotional reactions to events and evaluating them in a calm and clear manner (see thought records) you can begin to reduce your emotional reactivity to events in your life.  As the old adage goes ~ PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT!


In a previous post I discussed the ways in which our language (both what we say to ourselves in our head and what we voice to others) can directly escalate or diminish our anxious feelings. Many people are unaware of how frequently they use these statements or of the impact they can have on our emotions, physical body and behaviours. These statements are:

  •  I should….
  •  I shouldn’t… (or I shouldn’t have….)
  •  Why didn’t I…..
  •  I can’t….
  •  What if…..

In the previous article, I reviewed how the first three statements are negative in tone and reduce our confidence in our ability to make decisions or have choices in our lives. Often these messages are ones which we have heard from others (i.e. or parents, teachers, partners, etc.) which we have now internalized and have taken on as our own without evaluating them.

The statement “I can’t…” often leads to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness. It again conveys a sense of being incapable or unable to make a change in something within ourselves or our lives. These words trap us in a box and colour our view so that we are no longer able to take a step back to gain perspective and consider the options available to us. This might also be connected to some issue/event from our past in which we experienced a sense of failure and have now taken that failure to be a definition of who we are. This type of statement keeps us stuck in the past as well as in our current lives.

The statement “What if….” projects a constant worry or apprehension of what is yet to come. One can easily see that if we are always wondering what will happen next, we will be filled with anxiety and worry about the future. We spend hours of our day mulling over these thoughts and worrying about things which might never happen!

It is important to begin recognizing and identifying the way you speak to yourself as well as the messages you are giving others. The above statements pressure us to either live in the past and experience ongoing regret, remorse or resentment or have us living with a foot in the future and obsessing about the things we worry will come but might never occur.


What we do, think, feel or say right now becomes our past and our future. The decisions we make, the beliefs we have, the way we act in turn define who we are in each moment. Living in the moment allows us to take a step back and gain perspective.

So as the old saying goes and still holds true, stop and take a moment to smell the flowers and reflect on who we are today, not who were we yesterday or might be tomorrow.  Don't let anxiety rule your life.  Counselling can help you work through this.


Everyone experiences anxiety once in a while but for many people anxiety or panic attacks can be a crippling experience. Exposure to world events, everyday life stressors, busy jobs and families can all lead to people feeling stressed or emotionally overwhelmed. A feeling of helplessness or fear can sometimes overtake us and leave us feeling incapable... of socializing, making decisions for ourselves, etc.

The reality is that we actually need anxiety in our lives. It is a primitive built in self-defence mechanism which is designed to protect us from danger. For instance, if a car is heading right for us, anxiety and adrenaline helps us to recognize this and motivates us to jump to safety. The difficulty comes when our brain begins telling us that everything is unsafe and it attaches a fear response to things which actually are not dangerous at all.

The way in which we talk to ourselves can directly increase the amount of anxiety we experience. There are five statements which many people use on a daily basis but which cause us to feel negatively about ourselves or what we are doing (or NOT doing as avoidance is the kingpin anxious behaviour!). Many people are unaware of how often they use these phrases or of the impact they have on us. These statements are:

  • I should…..
  • I shouldn’t….(or I shouldn’t have…..)
  • Why didn’t I…….
  • I can’t…..
  • What if….

The first three statements suggest that there is a singular path to take in life and that if we are not on it then there is something wrong with us or that we are doing something wrong. The reality is that there are always many paths to the same goal…we might not like them but they are there. Saying “I should…” or “I shouldn’t….” has a negative overtone and does not allow us choices. Saying something like “It would have helped if I had worked out today and it is too bad I didn’t have time. I will do my best to get there tomorrow” rather than “I should have gone to the gym” can make a big difference in how we perceive ourselves.

Try to begin paying closer attention to your language and see if the above statements are part of your everyday use. Pay attention to how you feel when you say them. What type of emotional, physical or behavioural response do they generate? Try to reframe or re-state the sentence but remove the words “should,” “shouldn’t have” or “Why didn’t I.” Observe if there is any difference in how you feel.

This takes time, practice and self-awareness but these are beginning steps to conquering your anxiety. 


Karen Searle, M.S.W., R.S.W., Psychotherapist
544 George Street North, Peterborough, Ontario
K9H 3S2 ~ 705-875-7442


Photo ~ Southhampton beach on Lake Huron