Stress and Stress Management
Like anxiety, stress is a natural and appropriate physical and psychological response to a perceived threat or demand. Stress can help individuals stay focused and motivated when experienced in small, finite amounts. Stress is that feeling of pressure, tension, or discomfort that arises when the demands placed on us exceed our perceived ability to cope. When we experience stress, our bodies automatically respond by releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol and a fight or flight response can occur, preparing us to either flee the perceived threat or confront it. When left unchecked over time, chronic stress can lead to a range of physical, emotional and cognitive challenges, including anxiety, depression, digestive problems and decreased immune function, not to mention high blood pressure. Work-related issues, relationship challenges, parenting, financial stressors, and health concerns are all common sources of high stress. Michelle believes that people are often very good at minimizing high levels of chronic, toxic stress, which is why addressing one’s experience of stress by engaging in therapy is so important.
Life Transitions and Lifespan Stressors
Throughout the course of our lives, we can experience significant stressors unique to where we are on our journey. Adult lifespan stressors can include relationship difficulties, separation or divorce, parenthood, relocation, financial and career-related stress, retirement, health issues, caring for aging parents and supporting struggling adult children. Lifespan stressors related to aging can include physical or cognitive decline, social isolation and the loss of independence. And of course, experiencing the death of someone we love can occur at any point throughout our lives. Everyone experiences different lifespan stressors, although some people may be more vulnerable to certain types of stressors than others. The impact that these stressors may have on one’s emotional well-being varies widely depending upon one’s arsenal of healthy coping strategies and support. This is why Michelle loves working with her clients to develop the cognitive and emotional resilience necessary to navigate these major lifespan stressors with grace and fortitude.
Generational trauma is the transmission of traumatic experiences and their associated psychological and emotional effects from one generation to the next. This type of trauma can also be passed along through unexamined familial beliefs, sociocultural norms and narratives that describe traumatic events. People with family histories that include systemic oppression or abuse, war, genocide, or marginalization can experience this type of trauma. Generational trauma can manifest as anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, and a sense of disconnectedness or isolation. It can also impact family dynamics and relationships, including the ways in which individuals relate to their families of origin, their partners and their own children. Michelle believes that recognizing and processing generational trauma in therapy is an integral step towards putting an end to the legacy of traumatic experience and promoting healing within individuals and their families.
Self-identity is a person’s understanding and perception of themselves, including the values, beliefs, and experiences that make them unique. Self-identity can be shaped by one’s social and cultural background, one’s experience in their family of origin, their education, and experience of important relationships. Michelle sees the development of self-identity as a fluid, continuous process that evolves throughout the course of one’s lifetime. She believes that developing a strong self-identity is foundational for emotional health, in that it allows us to understand ourselves better and make choices for ourselves that are congruent with who we truly are. It is a tremendously important, challenging, and always deeply rewarding topic to dig into in therapy.