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Nicole Ball 

Deadlines, busy schedules, taking care of others, dysfunctional relationships, unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others can all bring about feelings of stress.

Even through intensely stressful times many of us can function, go to work, care for their families, and even participate in social events; all while ignoring the need to care for ourselves.

Oftentimes we hold off on addressing the stress or feelings of anxiousness until it has reached a high level of intensity.

In other words, we are on the defense with our stress.

We wait until the damage has already been done to address it.

We feel the effects of this damage in the form of muscle tension and body aches, gastrointestinal issues, sleeping problems, skin issues, increased racing thoughts, feelings of hopelessness and increased moodiness.

What’s worse is long-term effects of chronic stress include high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression or anxiety disorders.

But there is another option to address our stress. We can be on the offense. When we are on the offense we can be anticipate what our minds, bodies and relationships need before the damage comes.

We can honor ourselves by practicing self-care on a daily or weekly basis.

By doing this we are building up reserves for ourselves to better handle stressful situations, be present for others and all while not feeling like we are on empty.

So, what can you do to be on the offense?

Take care your mind. Make time for yourself, offer a quiet space for your thoughts, meditate, journal how you are feeling or talk a mental health professional about your stress. Treat your body.

Make time for exercise, yoga, got for a walk, meditate, visiting your massage therapist, acupuncturist or chiropractor.

Also set boundaries with your time, say “no” when you can, and remember that it’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.

Rather than waiting until the damage has already been done and then attempting to defend our sense of balance, we can be on the offense.

Nicole Ball is a social work professor at Ferris State University, a clinical mental health therapist and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling: A Holistic Mental Health Center in Traverse City. Learn more about its services at www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com.

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