Tip the stress scale in your favor

[3 min read]

In this article: 

  • It can be difficult to find time for a break when stress levels rise. 
  • Long-term stress can put us at risk for mental health challenges and seriously affect our physical health. 
  • A Swedish behavioral health expert shares a short exercise we can use to let our mind wander and lower our everyday stress. 

Stress is a normal reaction to life's pressures, but it can also have a long-term impact on your mind and body. A recent report from the American Psychological Association (APA) found that stress among American adults is rising, with those between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting the most significant increase in mental health diagnoses since the pandemic. 

Coping with long-term stress requires a different set of skills than managing temporary stressors, and most of us have activities or hobbies that are a break from the pressures of everyday. Whether it’s hiking, biking, a creative project or playing a game — these things serve as a respite from our busy lives by allowing us to focus on the enjoyment of what we’re doing.

But in today's world of multitasking and packed schedules, it's not always possible to take a break when we need it. While most of us can’t just head up into the mountains in the middle of the workday, we can let our mind get away for a few minutes.

Angie Christensen, LICSW, an integrated behavioral health provider here at Swedish, shares this short exercise for diffusing our stress by letting our mind wander. Try it for yourself.

  • Imagine a stress scale from one to 10. What’s your number right now?
  • Now take a breath and, if you're able, close your eyes.
  • Pull up an image of somewhere; it can be a beach, forest or field — anywhere that feels peaceful to you. Zoom in on some of the details of where you are.
  • What do you see there? Are there mountains, trees or clouds?
  • What does it feel like? Is it warm or cold? Is it sunny or snowing?
  • What do you hear? Ocean sounds? Sounds of the forest?
  • What are you smelling? Seawater, moss, dirt or grass? Maybe wildflowers?
  • What might you taste in this place? Salty air? Maybe a ripe blackberry from a vine?
  • Now, come back to present and think about your stress scale. What number are you?
  • Take a minute to see how it feels and think about what that number means to you.   

Learn more and find a practitioner

If you have questions about behavioral health services, Swedish is here for you. Contact Swedish Behavioral Health and Well-Being. We can accommodate both in-person and virtual visits.

Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options. You can also connect virtually with your provider to review your symptoms, provide instruction and follow up as needed. And with Swedish ExpressCare Virtual you can receive treatment in minutes for common conditions such as colds, flu, urinary tract infections, and more. You can use our provider directory to find a specialist or primary care physician near you.

Information for patients and visitors

Additional resources

Mental health care disparities deserve our attention

Understanding mental health counseling

Recognize and manage the signs of mental health struggles

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At Swedish Ballard, care and support for adults with acute psychiatric needs

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

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About the Author

Whether it's stress, anxiety, dementia, addiction or any number of life events that impede our ability to function, mental health is a topic that impacts nearly everyone. The Swedish Behavioral Health Team is committed to offering every-day tips and clinical advice to help you and your loved ones navigate mental health conditions.

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