Stressercise: Self care techniques with Counseling and Physiological Services

By Angelina Miller
May 3, 2018

How many of us STRESS about STRESS before there’s even stress to stress about

How about stressing about STRESS and over s t r e s s that doesn’t even need to be stressed about? Like…

If this is you… DON’T STRESS. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! I am right there with you.

So is Carolina Alshon, a licensed social worker in Cabrini’s Counseling and Physiological Services.

And Dr. Carol Kessler, an Associate Professor of Education at Cabrini.
And Janit Gorka, a manager of Cabrini’s Dixon Center and the head coach of Cabrini’s rowing team.
And even Kassie Ockford, a junior Business Administration major at Cabrini. 

At work and school, it’s endless deadlines from peers and professors.
In our daily environment, it’s the noise, traffic and buzzing energy from running the race of every day life.
Technologically, we are connected to and bombarded by our phones, laptops, televisions and now, even watches, 24/7.
Physiologically, we even go through changes in hormones at different times in our life, which literally just makes stress worse and harder to manage.

And then all of the sudden, one day, you feel a little something like this…

Yup, we’ve all been there. This is why Carolina Alshon held “Stressercise,” an event on Wednesday, April 18, to discuss the utilization of self care techniques to keep calm during the stress of life.

First off, it is important to understand that stress all comes down to PERCEPTION.
This is, how we perceive and think about our reality, and any given situation in it.

Sorry… I know that sounds weird. I’ll break it down for you. Just take the present, for example!

We are a quarter of a way through the New Year, and many of us perceive our reality to be one where that “FRESH START” and all of the New Years RESOLUTIONS that we aspired to stay true to back in January seem like nothing but a distant memory.

Instead, we let the clutter of things starting to pile up day, by day, by day get in the way of what we really wanted for ourselves a few months ago – and still want for ourselves every day.

You with me?

You WANT to go to the gym every day, but you don’t have time.

You WANT to eat healthier and lose weight, but eating fast food is so much more comforting and also so much easier.

You WANT to become a happier, more independent, bad-ass version of yourself, but can’t even think about working towards that when you barely have time to breathe every day.

Especially with bathing suit season right around the corner, male or female, we’re all like…

With that… I have good news and bad news. I’ll break the bad news first.

Bad news is… that’s LIFE. Buckle up for the ride, baby! Because these things are never going to go away. Chances are, they will most likely just get more complex and continue to add up as we grow and mature. Sorry if that scares you.

Good news is… it’s YOUR life! We all experience life differently. We all react to stress differently. Forget the fact that it’s not longer January and the prime time for New Years resolutions. It is NEVER too late for positive change – ever.

Let’s talk about a little phrase called “fight or flight.”

Ever heard of that before? Well, first off… don’t beat yourself up over stressing, or managing it poorly, if that applies to you right now.

Stress is literally in our HUMAN NATURE. It goes ALL the way back to the time of the first humans hunting and gathering for food. These humans learned to perceive situations as safe, or dangerous. They would either stay in the present moment of a situation and fight it, flee the situation by running away completely, or freeze temporarily in the present moment, literally unable to do anything, because of the overwhelming amount of stimuli that clogged their brains.

Nowadays, this fight or flight response is still literally still in every single one of us. Like I said, it’s in our nature. However, life is different now, and we have developed more and more trouble expressing our fight or flight response properly.

We are faced with many situations where we become mentally or physically unable to leave the situation or fight it in a proper manner. A lot of us even freeze up, because of the overwhelming amount of stimuli and hormones that clog our brain.

Stress can come and go like waves, though. Sometimes we encounter an event that is stressful, deal with it, let it go and move on.
However… for those of us that have trouble letting stress go, it CAN accumulate and allow us to have chronic stress, which can actually lead to some serious illness.

And that looks a little more like this…

WHO want’s to deal with THAT?

NOT ME. That’s for sure! And I’m sure you don’t want to either! That is why it is so important to learn how to COPE WITH STRESS.
Now, I know you’re rolling your eyes, thinking you know exactly what I’m going to say next…

Exercise!!! Right?!


Yup, I said it – and so did Alshon!

As I said in the beginning, I am one of many that stresses about stress. For many years, I HAVE turned to exercise or physical activity as my go-to, ride or DIE way to cope with stress. And I still preach about how exercising is my stress relief most of the time! However, there have been points in my life where that has quite literally backfired for me. Sometimes during this time of year, when I do go to the gym, my mind is mentally in a million different other places, which can actually prevent stress from exiting my body even after a solid workout.

This happened with Alshon as well. Normally, Alshon goes to the gym to run and lift weights. However, all of that changed when she went to graduate school. “The environment gave me stress in my personal life and with my finances,” she said. “When I entered graduate school, I got to a point where I felt like it was the worst mistake of my life. It was too much pressure to handle.”

However, when Alshon went to the gym, she was mentally stressed there, from thinking of other things that she could be doing. Her mind and her brain were constantly going, and she lost her balance of life.

At the same time though, people like myself and Alshon don’t want to suffer from chronic stress or any kind of mental or physical disease.

So… what do we do?!

Alshon says: tuTn to SELF CARE.

Exercise is not the ONLY way to relieve stress. There are actually many other self care techniques out there that work just as well, if not, even BETTER.

Going to the gym is really only a piece of the big pizza pie that is WELLNESS. That’s right, only one piece.

WELLNESS and SELF CARE do not just involve physical elements – but also emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, environmental AND occupational.

Alright… let’s wrap things up.

Here’s how to manage your stress, WITHOUT WORKING OUT:

1. Physical: Eat a healthy BREAKFAST.
Your body burns calories when you sleep, which makes your blood sugar drop. When you wake up in the morning, eating a healthy breakfast will bring your blood sugar back up to a healthy level to make you feel more awake, energized, happier, and ready to take on the day. Do this for lunch and dinner too, without letting your blood sugar drop, and you instantly have a good day down the hatch of your week.

2. Social: Spend some time with friends, family, or anyone with POSITIVE energy!
Somebody told me, “Think of that one person who can always make you laugh. Give them a call for 5 minutes and see how you feel after that!” Personally, my mom has been my go-to for venting about my every day stress, too. She’s my phone call away to a weight off my shoulders. No shame!!

3. Intellectual: Explore curiosity and something NEW.
As cliche as that sounds, going out of your comfort zone is proven to make you happier. This year I picked up a minor in exercise science and health promotion out of COMPLETE curiosity as to if I would like studying something outside of communication (the only thing I’ve ever studied), and now that is the kind of work that I want to pursue as a career in the next chapter of my life. It makes me SO happy, has truly brightened up my life, and I only discovered that from just giving it a TRY.

4. Emotional: Kassie say, “Remember to BREATHE.”
A very wise woman once told me, “Breathing is a mini meditation.” And it truly is. Sure, we breathe all day long. But how often do we really BREATHE. Try it right now. Inhale for 8 seconds filling your stomach with air, then exhale for 8 seconds with a soft jaw, letting it all out, as if you are fogging up a mirror. THAT’S breathing. Try that every time you reach a stoplight while you are driving, or whenever you are feeling stressed or overwhemled. Who CARES how you look – or what other people think? Just DO IT. It’s the cheapest and easiest, most convenient, form of stress relief.  Kassie has an app on her phone that alerts her with a notification to breathe every hour. This helps her manage her stress. 

5. Environmental: Dr. Carol says, “Get OUTSIDE!”
Open your blinds as soon as you wake up for an instant burst of environmental exposure and energy. Sure, this can be hard on a rainy day. Or maybe, it isn’t! Whatever the weather may be, just go connect with nature. Appreciate the sun on your skin when it’s warm, the breeze on your face when you need to be cooled off, the tranqulity of the rain on a rainy day (by curling up with a sweatshirt, a book, and a warm blanket on the couch), and the beauty of the world every day – no matter what it is. Dr. Carol does this by working outside in her garden at her house. This allows her to be physically active and brings her to a peaceful place, mentally. 

6. Occupational: GET MOVING.
Most of our days seem to go right over our heads. Wake up early, go go go until lunch, then go go go until dinner, then go go go until you head hits the pillow at night. DON’T let the day escape from you ANYMORE! Be intentional about getting up from where you are sitting every 30-60 minutes to walk around, interact with people, drink some water, eat a snack, whatever it may be. But I would recommend walking for 1-5 minutes to re-energize yourself from whatever you are doing!

7. Spiritual: BELIEVE in yourself.
Whether you are religious or not, make some time to just reconnect with your core. This could be in a church, sure. Or, just in any other quiet place that can make you feel at peace with yourself for an HOUR a week. Just one hour out of the 7 days each week presents to you – for nothing but yourself. And believe you can transform your life, if you truly aspire to.

And I’ll close with this:

A habit becomes a routine after 42 consecutive days. 

Motivation is what gets you started, and habit is what keeps you going.

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Angelina Miller

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