Looking for stress management advice

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sl-owl-orris
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Looking for stress management advice

Post by sl-owl-orris » Sat Jun 02, 2018 4:59 pm

Hi guys, I’m asking you for help because many of you are far more advanced in this field and have some real wisdom to share. I’m going to write this as specific as I can so hopefully the advice you can offer will be applicable to me.

Background:
I’m an introvert and a highly sensitive person (INFJ if anyone is interested) and I don’t loose my temper or get angry (this only happened twice in my life and I was ill both times). Hence, I don’t have a natural mechanism to release built up emotions and stress. I get many stress symptoms, such as anxiety, sweating, headaches, stomach pain, nausea etc. What is more, if I experience stress for longer period of time, my body finds a way to make me take a break and I get ill. I would get things such as asthma, splitting headache for months, tonsillitis, flu and shingles – the symptoms usually went away miraculously as soon as the stress factor disappeared. I used to have many issues because of this, for example had to drop out of college and had problems keeping a job. I actually thought for a while that I’m unemployable. Through the years I learned many coping techniques, such as finding the right perspective, using logic, good organisation skills, contact with nature etc. All of them are working to a point, so my quality of life improved greatly in the last few years.

Situation:
I’m 33, working full time in an office job that I like. I like what I do, I like the people there and the fact that I have a lot of control over what, how and when I do. I started working there not even a year ago and I was recently promoted. So far, I thought that since this is a nice place that I generally like, I will actually be able to work there full-time without getting ill with stress. Recently I started to feel physical stress symptoms before and at work (although I didn’t feel stressed otherwise) and after a couple of weeks I got shingles. I worked from home for a week, my symptoms went away and I came back to the office but that very same day in the evening I got struck by postherpetic neuralgia – a stress-induced complication of shingles. I felt really awful and had to take a couple of weeks off. I will be back at work in a couple of days. The situation at work before and during my stress symptoms wasn’t different than usual. I had a bit more work that I could manage but so did everyone else due to staff shortage and there would be no consequences if I didn’t do things on time – they just expected me to do as best as I can, considering.

Possible solutions I thought of so far:

1. Exercise.
I’m one of these people who don’t enjoy exercising at all. I don’t like to get sweaty and out of breath and I don’t feel the endorphin rush the others do. For years I tried to get myself to exercise, tried different things, but I really dislike it and can never get the habit to stick. I’m still recovering from the illness so I’m getting tired and out of breath even doing house chores, so, for now, I’m only doing some stretching every day. In a couple of weeks, I plan to wake up early every day and either run or use an outdoor gym in the nearby park (I don’t mind the outdoor gym). This way, if it’s an everyday thing I can build the habit more easily and start the day doing something good for myself before the day actually begins.

2. Meditate.
I tried to get into meditation for years but just couldn’t get it. Last year I got an app which had free 3-minute meditation every day and that actually seemed to make me feel calmer and emptier. I did it for a couple of months then got bored. It’s an on and off thing for now. I don’t feel the positive effects of the 3-minute meditations anymore. I know there are topics here about that and I tried to read them but I get bored. I also tried to read a couple of books about it and also got bored. I suspect my logical mind has hard time digesting the metaphysical stuff. The plan is to stick to doing the 3-minute meditations from the app, but I find it harder and harder. Does anyone have any advice on how to get into meditation?

3. Read stoics.
I read some of the ancient stoic and modern stoic stuff and I find it helpful in recalibrating my thinking. I always liked this philosophy and I’m very familiar with it, but I guess it’s not a matter of ‘knowing’ but a matter of ‘practice’. The plan is to read stoics everyday (even if just a sentence) to keep myself in the right mindset.

Do you guys have any advice regarding those points or any other advice regarding stress management for me? Any comments will be appreciated.

suomalainen
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by suomalainen » Sat Jun 02, 2018 7:49 pm

As someone dealing with anxiety, yes, I agree you can attempt at-home solutions such as diet, exercise, meditation or other deliberate decompression exercises and deliberately managing your stressors by, for example, taking a low(er)-stress job, working less, not having kids, avoiding stressors like people you find stressful or certain news articles. I've done all that other than the not having kids thing. The other thing I'd advise is professional help such as therapy and/or anti-anxiety medication. I declined medication, but found therapy helpful in that it brought me to the point where I felt that I could manage on a go-forward basis with the at-home solutions. Prior to therapy, the at-home solutions weren't doing much good. Good luck.

jennypenny
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by jennypenny » Sun Jun 03, 2018 5:51 am

There was a good thread with some concrete suggestions but I can't find it now. Maybe it had to do with meditation? Does anyone else remember it?

EdithKeeler
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by EdithKeeler » Sun Jun 03, 2018 6:15 am

I was hospitalized for stress that turned into depression—or maybe depression that manifested as stress—possibly a chicken-and-egg issue, I dunno. I think it’s good that you’re aware of it and taking positive steps to deal with it (I didn’t and it got bad for a bit). I’d say diet and exercise are huge, and finding ways to pull back and take time for yourself is really important. At least it was for me—I am also low-level OCD (diagnosed and everything!) and tend to ruminate on stuff even when I’m not “in” it. So stuff that takes me out of my own head is good for me. Sleep is probably the most important thing—make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours of good quality sleep a night. All kinds of important things happen in your brain when you sleep—you process and file experiences and memories, you make new chemicals and balance things out. Anti-anxiety meds helped me some, but not enough to tolerate the side effects. I think if i’d’ve had a better doctor we could have figured out something. Finally, cognitive behavior therapy helped me a lot—helped me recognize situations that were issues, helped me rationally deal with those issues and see in so many ways the things I was anxious about weren’t issues. I still have my moments, but it really did work.

Good luck, and it’s goid that you’re aware and looking for solutions.

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Stahlmann
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Stahlmann » Sun Jun 03, 2018 7:10 am

you know... it's like... sometimes it's better to speak with pro (in this case some MD fella)
or you play smart and find syllabus for psychiatry residency, then check footnotes in "Stress issues" presentation/lecture/textbook, then dig deeper into next books :lol:

Nomad
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Nomad » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:06 am

Although you said that you don't like exercise, have a nice walk every day helps to clear the mind.
I know I feel a lot better generally if I go for at least 30 minutes every day. Swimming is also great.

Do you have a pet? Pets like cats and dogs are great stress relievers and a dog needs walking...

Good sleep helps with stress reduction; so ensure you do sleep well.

Diet, ensure you eat very good food and avoid caffeine. There is also a specific stress reduction diet.

Tyler9000
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Tyler9000 » Sun Jun 03, 2018 10:20 am

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is that stress and anxiety are two different things. Stress is your natural reaction to a difficult outside force, while anxiety is the internal negative feedback loop that allows your mind to spiral out of control and transform even minor external stressors into major physical and emotional issues.

So if you’re struggling, there are actually two separate things you need to address: 1) removing unnecessary stressors from your life, and 2) learning how to shut down the internal feedback loop of anxiety. Reading your positive description of your current job compared to the negative personal physical manifestations you’re dealing with, I’d wager your primary issue is anxiety, not stress. Address that, and dealing with stress will be a lot easier.

Everyone is different, but one thing that works for me is to mentally reframe stressful situations into challenges. “This is hard but I’m fully confident I can figure it out.” Once you succeed in getting past it you get a positive feeling of accomplishment. Weirdly enough, that sort of positive feedback loop can eventually lead you to seek out new challenges to conquer. Eventually, stress will fear you rather than the other way around. :twisted:

Riggerjack
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Riggerjack » Sun Jun 03, 2018 3:41 pm

I would like to help more, but I'll share what I have learned.

First, I have never as an adult had stress so badly that it did in my health. So my ideas may not be enough. But when I experience stress, it's usually because something has gone wrong, badly enough to require an improvised solution, or something at work has gone wrong. In each case, it's an unusual, short term stressor, rather than long term, constant stress.

However, one of my best friends is also an INFP, and has trouble with dealing with negative feelings. I'll give you the same advice I gave him. I'd tell you how it worked out for him, but he ignored my advice.

We NEED to have effective ways of dealing with negative emotions. My preferred method is chopping wood, or anything where I get to hit something with a tool. Preferably with no accuracy or delicacy required. Landscaping is an excellent example. Whatever it is should be both strenuous, and impactful, so weeding doesn't work. Using a Kaiser blade on blackberries, does.

Now, I'm not suggesting hitting things just because it feels good, though it does. But our brains are just bags of chemicals, and stress releases hormones that are used up with physical work, and there are feedback loops that reward physical strain when stressed. So rather than avoid the anger, and try to be calm, I would recommend channeling your anger and getting worked up, and beating something with a sledgehammer. Then you don't have to work yourself up to exercise to calm yourself, but work up your anger and allow the exercise to be calming, if that makes sense.

Find your anger. Use it. Control it, so it doesn't take control of your body. (Though I'm pretty sure there's a Darth Vader joke in there somewhere.) :D

SustainableHappiness
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by SustainableHappiness » Sun Jun 03, 2018 5:45 pm

Ditto riggerjacks advice on doing something strenuous as a release. It can be as simple as finding the biggest hill near your house, then just run up it as fast as you can...maybe shouting out BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWHWEHER!!!! at the top.

Yelling helps, although it sounds like that may not be your style.

Riggerjack
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Riggerjack » Mon Jun 04, 2018 10:44 am

BTW, my preferred method is tomahawk throwing. I have a small collection of throwing axes, and a target, and undergrowth to lose them in when I miss. But I'm pretty backwoods. Maybe not the ideal solution in condo hallway, but if you give it a go, please send transcripts of the next HOA meeting! :D

FBeyer
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by FBeyer » Mon Jun 04, 2018 12:12 pm

Pro tip: Stress, actual clinical stress, gets worse if you exercise. I was forbidden to exercise for the better part of a year due to stress-turned-into-depression.

Exercise releases cortisol which is already fucking up your brain majorly in the event you've actually got stress.
Exercise helps only when you're under a lot of pressure but have not yet fully gone under.

What people call stress, and what the medical profession calls stress are two very different things. Just... you know, a heads up.


Edit: What you seem to be suffering from is psychosomatic not stress. Well, yes you can get stressed from the constant onslaught on your emotions but you could treat that shit and never be better off unless you address the root issue. Learn to get angry! And learn how to get it out.

Incidentally my psychologist told me of a patient he had. The psych stood in his office and watched the patient park his brand new car. Seconds after he parked the car, someone hit it and tore the corner of the back fender off. The patient stood there calmly and talked with the other guy who was very apologetic. They swapped numbers and talked quietly. Then the patient left the parking lot and attended his appointment with the psych.
When the patient stepped in, the psych told him he'd seen what happened and then he asked him if he wasn't angry as hell about the accident?
No he answered; the other guy just made a mistake. It wasn't like it was deliberate or anything. He'd lost a plastic fender, and no one got hurt so he didn't see what there was to be angry about. At the end of the consultation, the patient was starting to feel hot and had developed a splitting headache that seemingly came out of nowhere…

Does any of that sound even remotely familiar?



Step 1) Learn to express your emotions good or bad, in a productive manner.
step 2) Fail at 1 one million times.
step 3) think there is something wrong with you.
step 3.5) realize that is nothing wrong with you.
Step 4) return to step 1.
step …)
step N) Gradually start to feel better once you're not passively letting the entire world shit on your personal space.

jacob
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by jacob » Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:30 pm

@OP - Well, you said INFJ, so in armchair-theory ... FWIW:

If you're not familiar with the car-model of functional stack theory, your functional stack as an INFJ is Ni, Fe, Ti, Se, where in the car-model, Ni (introverted intuition) is the driver (how you think), Fe is your co-driver (how you direct the Ni to interact with the world), Ti is the 10-year old, and Se is the 3-year old. (The remaining 4 would also exist in your brain-space and perhaps someone can invent a "van-model" to account for all of them. However, the arrangement of the most dominant 4 expressions is what determines your type for the MBTI.)

Note that the INTJ stack is similar: Ni, Te, Fi, Se ... so you should be able to apply some INTJ-anecdotes, but not all.

In the car-model under moderate/well-managed stress, the driver tells all the others to shut up so the driver can concentrate on navigating the problem. The brain can only do so much at any one time, so the voices of the other 7 get diminished. Since the primary/driver function is Ni (both for INTJs and INFJs), this results in a "leave me a alone, I need time to simmer on all this". For INTJs, the auxiliary function is Te. For INFJs, the auxiliary function is Fe. A stressed INTJ would benefit from NOT having to explain (a Te function) everything to everyone. A stressed INFJ would benefit from NOT having to to care for and soclalize with everyone around them. Since neither type is any good at switching that tendency off, avoidance is a good strategy. INTJs stop answering emails. INFJs get sick in order to stay away from other people.

Fun fact: INFJs are the most likely type to experience stress/anxiety ... similar to how ISTJs are the most sensitive to [physiological] pain of all types.

Indulging in the primary function works insofar one gets an easy assist from one's other functions. INTJs, therefore, like reading the stoics. Stoicism is attractive to INTJs since it indulges the co-driver and the 10-year old at the same time. It's similar to why SJ's like to read the Bible in times of stress. I think different religions work better for different personality types and that if people mainly picked such things according to their internal compass rather than whatever meme they inherited from their parents, the distribution of world-religions would look different. Point being, while reading the stoics... which is Te (aux) communicated to Fi (tertiary) is good for the INTJ (being stereotypical on the gender pronouns, driver dad is listening to co-driver mommy talking sense to the 10 yo) ... it might not be as good for the INFJ (Ni listening to Fe talklng to Ti .. what you might like is a spiritual book telling nerds (Ti) how to care for other people (Fe). I can't think of a title/religion for that).

Now, in the car-model under heavy stress, the front seats and the back seats switch places. Suddenly the 3yo is in charge with the 10yo making excuses or trying to justify the driving with the maturity of a 10-yr... kinda has the right idea, sort of, but not really tempered by experience if that makes sense. And now the "parents" take the back seat.

For the IN*J, the Se leads to extreme behavior and indulging in Se pleasures. This can be behavior like over-eating, snacking, drugs, or drinking ... or it can be a heavy exercise regime or risky sports (driving fast on motorbikes). Whatever gets the Se's goat on to drown out the Ni which is now failing and desperately needs a break. Ideally (which many recommend above) one takes these [Se distractions] in small doses to give the Ni a break. When it becomes bad is when Ni gets a permanent break and having the Se 3yo take over.

The INTJ 10yo (Fi) will justify their Se behavior by how living out their 3yo makes them a nicer person or a better person or a more human(e) person. The INFJ 10y (Ti) will justify their 3y along the lines of following a logical system or a system or rules that make them a more disciplined person.

There's a lot of Forer-effect risk here, so apply this conceptual model prudently!

Like in regular family cars (that is, families in cars), the driver mostly do their thing following the road as they must, whereas it's really the co-driver who interacts with the world and decides where to go ... and hence tend to be/become the stressed one. (This holds for introverts. The e-side is where the stress is applied.)

My recommendation, therefore, is to reduce the co-driver stressor which in the INFJ case means doing less of the Fe ... so "less caring about others". Since you prob. want to maintain quality, it's best to reduce quantity, so take-on less people. Learn to let some of them go. FBeyer once said something like "not my circus, not my monkeys". A good mantra?

The similar advice for an INTJ would be to take on less projects. You can't solve every problem in world. Learn to say "I don't care about that" or perhaps more functionally "I'm just gonna plan to steer around it".

ZAFCorrection
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by ZAFCorrection » Mon Jun 04, 2018 2:17 pm

My first question is how comfortable are you with feeling bad? You indicate crippling physical symptoms of stress but barely a mention of a single negative thought. That is amazing because life is objectively terrible. You might spend some time thinking about what, specifically, is stressing you out and work on being able to maintain some bad feelings about it.

Then, once you can summon up an emotional response, go hit something. You are never going to be a pure logic machine, so don't try.

Tyler9000
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Tyler9000 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 5:18 pm

@jacob — You should really consider becoming a “personality consultant” if there is such a thing. Your knowledge on this topic is truly impressive.

And thanks for the links. I know I’ve been skeptical about over-dependence on Myers-Briggs in the past, but the functional stack descriptions really do help a lot.

Campitor
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Campitor » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:27 pm

Do you have any hobbies that you can lose yourself in? Something that pulls you out of yourself? There are so many activities that have meditative like qualities if done right - they make your mind focus on something other than you and your problems:
  • Target practice with gun/bow
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Martial Arts
  • Crafting something, i.e., woodworking, carving, painting, etc.
  • Fishing
  • swimming
Or have you tried just hiking in the wilderness and staring out into the countryside? I read it too long ago to remember the source but I read a study where sitting outdoors and staring at nature has the same benefits as meditation in regards to stress attenuation.

I hope you find your stress relief mechanism - it does a number on the body and mind. It's worth putting you're best effort into finding something that works for you. Buena suerte!

enigmaT120
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by enigmaT120 » Mon Jun 04, 2018 11:37 pm

Jacob wrote: "Fun fact: INFJs are the most likely type to experience stress/anxiety ... similar to how ISTJs are the most sensitive to [physiological] pain of all types."

Huh? I (ISTJ) never noticed that, and have run ultra-marathons. Weird.

Farm_or
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by Farm_or » Tue Jun 05, 2018 6:56 am

This all reminds me of the Disney cartoon movie "inside out".

@RJ - chopping wood works here too. I resist my old tendencies and leave a little pile of unsplit wood for therapy. I tell my DW to shout out the frustration before swinging. For a school teacher, it goes something like this -" Common core! Hii yah!" And the extra force drives the maul faster and deeper. "Administration this! Whyyy yah!" "No child left behind! Heeee yaaaa!"

But here's the thing that I might add? Stress and anxiety can be your driving force. It is the reason that I was hell bent on early retirement. I think that we can all relate to that struggle.

Just know that it is comforting to work towards a goal. Then, one day you will have more control over your life and many of the stress demands of the working world will be left behind.

jacob
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by jacob » Tue Jun 05, 2018 10:59 am

@enigmaT120 - In the chronic or grinding sense, like, e.g. joint pain or headaches. The primary Si-function is inward directed sensing, so the brain pays a lot of attention to what it's sensing/sensory signals including those from the body like e.g. pain signals. Other types would be more oblivious to e.g. a tooth ache or whatever.

chenda
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by chenda » Tue Jun 05, 2018 12:35 pm

jacob wrote:
Mon Jun 04, 2018 1:30 pm
I think different religions work better for different personality types and that if people mainly picked such things according to their internal compass rather than whatever meme they inherited from their parents, the distribution of world-religions would look different.
@jacob - This is an interesting idea; would you care to hazard an opinion as to what personality types match what religions ?

sl-owl-orris
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Re: Looking for stress management advice

Post by sl-owl-orris » Wed Jun 06, 2018 5:07 pm

Thank you all for your advice and all the encouragement, I really appreciate it.

@suomalainen

I agree that managing stressors helps and I already made many lifestyle changes to reduce stressors in my life. Funnily enough, I didn’t stop to think that our decision to be childfree matters here. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I had children!

@EdithKeeler

Thank you for sharing, it must have been really difficult for you. I also had depression few years ago, and I couldn’t find a “good reason” to have it. On the surface my life was fine, but I guess the stress issues could contribute to that. Before you mentioned it, I didn’t connect that depression with stress. When I was recovering from depression I found many ways to keep myself happy and healthy and you mention satisfying 2 of the most basic needs in a correct way: diet and sleep.

I eat mostly whole-foods plant-based diet in the Warrior variation – works for me. It helped me with my allergies, skin and stomach issues. It also helped me to stabilise my sleeping pattern. I used to have very poor-quality of sleep, issues falling asleep or staying asleep, some insomnia etc. I had to spend around 11 hours in bed “sleeping” in order to have any energy to go around my day. At the moment I usually sleep 7-8 hours a day and I manage to fall asleep quite quickly. The only exceptions are if I’m ill or stressed :/ I also try to go outside every day, even if just to go around the block.

@Nomad

I quite enjoy walking, I can do that well 😊 I walk to work and always go out to walk during my lunch break (unless the weather is truly horrendous – then I just go up and down the stairs few times). Swimming won’t work for me – too many issues with that to list them here.
I really love animals, especially cats and dogs, but we are both allergic to fur and it’s too much or a commitment (not only financial one) to keep a pet. I have a masterplan to befriend a neighbour with a cat and pop in once in a while to play with the furball! :D
I will look up the stress reduction diet, thanks for the tip.

@ Tyler9000

Yes, my issue is both stress and anxiety and I do use reframing to reduce their impact on me. I prefer to look at the worst possible outcomes and realise they are not that scary at all – it gives me a lot of comfort.

@Riggerjack

I didn’t even consider that ‘find your anger’ may be an option for me. I’m a female raised in a patriarchal society, some things are so ingrained in you that you don’t even realise they are there. I was immediately inspired by you and I remembered the only thing I enjoyed from my self-defence classes – punching and kicking the punching bag. Chopping wood or cutting bushes are not options for me but I can punch things! I tried this immediately with my husband – he held a sleeping bag, which I punched and kicked and it was fantastic! I felt so much fun and a sense of relief (?) I felt much better immediately and slept really well that night. We will look now to buy a proper punching bag, maybe a used one.

@SustainableHappiness

Thanks, yelling is indeed not my style and there are no appropriate hills nearby. But I did think about yelling after reading Riggerjack’s post.

@FBeyer

I do behave a lot like the guy in your story. You could have described me. This is scary.

@Jacob

Thank you, I wasn’t familiar with those models. Your post blew my mind a little bit. I’m still digesting it, but I understand myself much better now. This is invaluable. BTW: Reading stoics was recommended by DH who is INTJ 😊

@ZAFCorrection

I rarely have negative thoughts, but often experience anxiety and psychosomatic stress. I don’t think life is objectively terrible, quite the opposite. I consider myself a happy and positive person and I marvel at wonders of life every day. Logically, the things that stress me out have very little impact on my life, so realising that sometimes helps, but most often it doesn’t stop the psychosomatic stress response.

@Campitor

Yes, I have many such hobbies, such as crochet, jigsaw puzzles, reading fiction. I agree that contact with nature helps. Especially experiencing the vastness of the sea or the majesty of mountains – you feel so small, which is oddly reassuring. Your problems also seem tiny 😊

@Farm_or

A bit off stress can be very motivating, it exists for a reason. I just feel too much of it and have the undesirable body reactions, which I hope to reduce.

It seems like the consensus is that I need to find a way of releasing my emotions, especially the negative ones. Many of you mentioned professional help/ therapy, however I’m reluctant to go this route yet, especially that it is often expensive. I’d rather try to achieve balance in my life through lifestyle changes, and I give myself a 3-month deadline to reconsider. After 3 months, I will evaluate and see if I want to continue with the lifestyle changes or is it time to look into getting professional help.

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