Dr. Lisa Damour Shares 5 Go-To Tips For Coping with Anxiety
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Lisa Damour says stress and anxiety are normal human reactions that are meant to protect and aid.
on April 24, 2020
Stress can mean different things to different people. Some days, stress looks like forgetting to take the chicken out of the freezer to thaw overnight or not sending your most recent Instagram Photo Book Series volume to print. Other days, it can feel a little more troubling. If you’ve ever experienced anxiety (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t) then you know what we’re talking about. That’s why we got down to businesses with Dr. Lisa Damour, a clinical psychologist and New York Times columnist, to get her expert tips on how to cope with stress and anxiety. You may have heard of Dr. Damour from her incredible work with teens — she coined the phrase "quaranteenager" to address young people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Stress Is Totally Normal
Did your jaw just drop? SAME. Stress is the body’s response to a perceived threat — the body tries to keep itself safe by entering into a more heightened and alert state. There’s also some other cool body stuff that happens, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, like changes to the neural circuits in the brain involved with data processing. When a true threat shows itself (like you stumble upon a bear during a hike), stress is an important physiological response to getting you outta there. Dr. Damour explains, “stress can build durability, and we can welcome it.” Basically, you cannot live a completely stress-free life, but you can figure out coping mechanisms to keep stress from taking a toll on your mental health.
It’s not really stress that’s the issue — it’s chronic stress. “The definition of chronic stress is having no chance to recover,” says Dr. Damour. This is the kind of stress that keeps you from sleeping, may inhibit your judgement, and can affect your overall mental state.
Find Coping Mechanisms That Work For You
Dr. Damour says there are negative and positive coping strategies: “Negative strategies are what I call ‘junk habits.’” Eating poorly, not getting enough exercise, looking at social media when you should be sleeping and being sedentary are all examples she provides of junk habits. She also warns that emotional isolation and substance abuse are dangerous negative strategies.
Instead of these negative habits, try turning towards coping mechanisms that will leave you feeling uplifted and fulfilled. “Maintain emotional connections, exercise, get outdoors and eat well,” says Dr. Damour. These will all become happy distractions when you are starting to feel overwhelmed, and can help redirect anxious feelings into an effort that can help relieve them.
Face Your Anxieties
“Avoidance feeds anxiety,” explains Dr. Damour. This means that when you avoid a problem, there’s a chance it will just create bigger barriers down the road.
“You don't have to be comfortable in order to do something,” Dr. Damour says. If you accept that there is discomfort in the growing zone, you will be able to improve each time you face your anxieties.
Know That You’re Good Enough
Dr. Damour shared a beautiful insight with the MomForce Podcast from a psychoanalyst, Donald Winnicott, who said “we need to be good enough parents.” Perfection isn’t real. All we can do is our best. Love hard, be open to change and try to be as gentle with yourself as you are with your friends and family.
Look To The Future
“Stress builds growth,” says Dr. Damour. So know that, whatever stress you’re feeling right now, you’ll likely feel very differently about it a week or month into the future.
Check out the MomForce Podcast! Vanessa Quigley, mother of 7, entrepreneur and co-founder of Chatbooks, hosts this refreshing take on all things mom. Along with her 4 sisters, they’ll get into the nitty-gritty of real life parenting together, bringing you some tried and true tips and tricks to help make mom-life a little easier. Check out the #MomForce By Chatbooks Facebook page and find us on Instagram @TheMomForcePodcast.