This post was written by Dr Krystal Stanley of Re-New Psychological Services, located at 600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the overarching goal for the month is to reduce the stigma around “mental illness” and seeking mental health treatment. It is a common belief that only those people need therapy. For me, a goal for the month is to show that we can all benefit from increased focus on our emotional health.
By way of introduction, I am a licensed psychologist and the owner of Re-New Psychological Services. We have an office here in Capitol Hill, as well as 2 additional offices in DC (Thomas Circle and Dupont Circle), and one in Downtown Silver Spring. We work with around 500 individuals per week, and the bulk of our client base is between the ages of 25 and 45. The majority of our clients are adult professionals who work in a variety of settings (e.g., hospitals, the Senate and House, law firms, lobbying firms, universities, etc) who seek mental health treatment to help them cope with a variety of stressors (work, relationships, family).
There is increasing attention paid to the mind/body view of health, and stress is particularly harmful when it goes unchecked. In 2016 the Mayo Clinic published an article exploring the physical, emotional, and behavioral consequences of stress. Common physical effects include frequent headaches, pain or tension in muscles, upset stomach, fatigue, chest pain and/or shortness of breath, and disturbance in sleep and sex drive. Some of the emotional outcomes include anxiety and depression, difficulties maintaining focus or motivation, feelings of irritability or anger, and feeling overwhelmed or experiencing brain fog. Finally, common behavioral implications are social withdrawal, reduced participation in previously enjoyed activities, increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or drugs, outbursts of anger, and changes in eating habits (e.g., under eating or overeating).
Much can be done to combat stress, but you must be committed to making time for stress-reduction activities on a regular basis. A common refrain from people in a city such as ours is, “I don’t have time.” I want to remind you of the well-known phrase, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Here are a few ways to help you manage stress:
- Eat regularly: Not eating exacerbates the emotional and physical symptoms of stress.
- Sleep: Learn how much sleep you need for optimal functioning and aim to get as close to this as possible nightly.
- Increase physical activity: Increasing your heart rate for 30-minutes 3 or so times a week is ideal. At the very least, try to get outside for a walk for 15 minutes during your work day.
- Make time daily to “decompress”: Give yourself 15 minutes at the end of the day for a “brain download.” Review the day and create a balanced list of what went well and what did not.
- Set boundaries: Be mindful of your commitments avoid overcommitment. Set a firm ending to your work day at least one day each week.
- Get a hobby: Adults need to play, too.
About Dr. Stanley
Dr. Krystal Stanley is a Psychologist who is licensed in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and New York. She received her doctorate from Penn State University, and she has called Washington, DC home for close to 10 years. She and her spouse own and manage Re-New Psychological Services, LLC, a mental health practice that has offices in Capitol Hill, Dupont Circle, Thomas Circle, and Downtown Silver Spring. In her free time she enjoys taking spin classes, practicing yoga, baking, spending non-work time with her spouse, and learning to play the ukulele. Info about Re-New can be found at www.renewpsych.com or on Instagram and Twitter @renewpsych.