As a mental health professional, it’s amazing to me when I think about how utterly complex and powerful stress can be. The effects of stress, or what some might consider a mad rush of adrenaline pumping through the body, can drive a person to accomplish incredible things. On the flip side, stress can become so strong and consuming that it can bring on major anxiety and panic. This high level of stress can disable a person or literally paralyze them in fear. So whether it is an adrenaline-fueled feat or paralyzing anxiety, it is undeniable that the effects of stress are crazy powerful.

I think what has surprised me the most about stress is related to its treatment. Treating it by a simple use of our five senses is underrated, yet it has shown to make or break someone’s stress levels. If a person is feeling uneasy, what do you think listening to a loud song or sitting in a car during rush hour traffic will do to them? Or what about the smell of rotten garbage or eating spicy food when you’re feeling tense? Those things are probably going to ramp things up to the next level, internally speaking, and keep your stress level elevated. In contrast, we can use that adrenaline “rush” to help us thrive, like by listening to a pumped-up song, drinking an energy drink or watching a Rocky movie to raise our momentum.

Now, think about how our senses can help us relax. One of the simple stress management techniques that I teach in therapy is to use our senses to become mindful and present in this very moment. Try a soft blanket, pillow or squishy toy to touch, a beautiful sunset to look at, a piece of chocolate to melt in your mouth, or the sound of waves at the beach. Describe every detail of what you see, smell, feel, hear and taste, as if you are telling a person on the other end of a telephone call. This is a fantastic way to stabilize thoughts and emotions, and to hopefully reduce some of the painful symptoms that stress can bring.

It may sound cliché, but whoever came up with the quote, “Take time to stop and smell the roses,” was on to something!

Lynn M. Lauria MA, LMHC is a practicing clinician who works with children, adolescents, adults, couples and families.  She offers traditional cognitive behavioral therapy, family systems, mindfulness/meditation and solution focused therapy. Lynn has extensive knowledge and experience in trauma focused counseling. Read more…