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Is Stress a Form of Self-Harm?

By February 19, 2020April 6th, 2021Blogs, Jennifer Lynch, Psy.D.

My colleagues have already mentioned various aspects of self-harm, but self-harm can also be more generalized.  Activities or thoughts that do not allow us to engage in self-care could be harmful to our bodies and minds.  For example, how many times have we overbooked ourselves at work, skipped that work-out at the gym, or canceled on friends due to sheer exhaustion?  How many of you have laid awake at night thinking about those tasks that still need to be done or replayed a conversation from earlier in the day?

Prolonged chronic stress affects our bodies in multiple ways.  It can lead to health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, and a compromised immune system.  Stress may also impact weight (over or undereating), mood (increased irritability/sadness), cognition (decreased motivation or focus), and sleep.  Additionally, increased stress may lead to poor coping strategies including increased substance use or poor eating habits.

While some stress is normal and even beneficial, prolonged chronic stress is harmful to your physical and mental state. Here are some ways to start managing stress and decrease self-harm

  • Maintain a healthy diet – Set aside time to plan meals during the week so that you are not as tempted to stop for fast food after work
  • Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night
  • Make time for self-care
  • Plan social events with friends and loved ones
  • Exercise regularly – Identify times of the day that you can fit in a quick 20-minute cardio activity
  • Schedule out time for tasks
    • Make lists and prioritize items
    • Break down larger tasks so that they appear more manageable
  • Work/life balance – Set clear boundaries for hours spent at work
  • Laugh – Laughter triggers endorphins which increases mood so take a few minutes to watch that funny video or read that joke

Let’s start lowering our stress levels and take care of ourselves!