In our last stress post we focused our attention on tactics to better handle the sensations of anxiety and overwhelm through mental training and practice. This provided a solid foundation to move into many of the environmental factors that could also be causing hidden stress that takes a toll on us emotionally and physically.
We sat down with teen counselor, artist, non-toxic advocate, and friend Kirsten Cobabe to glean from her wisdom on pursuing a happier, more connected life during ‘high-stress’ phases. She’s also known as ‘The Teen Whisperer’ for her ability to help teens and their parents navigate stages when communication is challenging. Our interview with Kirsten was so packed with wisdom we had to break it into 2 parts and know you’ll love the tactical insights you can implement immediately.
Part 1: Identifying and Reducing Stress in our Everyday Environment
Give us a little background on how you found yourself helping others work through stressful times?
I grew up in a natural, conscientious household in New Hampshire and was made aware of the importance of sustainable, organic living from a very young age. I’m an artist, entrepreneur and counselor who focuses on helping young people who are struggling.
What are you observing with the families who are coming to you?
We’re seeing an extreme increase in stress and especially in teens. There’s greater feelings of stress, overwhelm, exhaustion and loss of inspiration for life. Stress is multifaceted, as humans our bodies are designed to experience cycles of stress with a clear beginning and ending, which supported us during our hunter and gatherer days. We’re not equipped to handle the constant stress we’re now experiencing. A few examples of this are emails around the clock, financial pressures, and unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves.
In this chase for ‘The American Dream’ we are feeling more anxious, stressed and depressed than ever before. Compound this emotional stress with the toxic chemicals found in the majority of homes that cause hidden environmental stress and our bodies are crying for help.
As a busy entrepreneur, how do you navigate stress and anxiety in your own life?
- Windows for work: In my most balanced times I have windows dedicated to working, and windows of time-off. I create structured hours to complete 1 task. Even if that means you just get 1 thing done, that’s enough. This is more effective than trying to work around the clock. In the ‘off’ time I try to spend it doing yoga, being in nature, and consistently practicing meditation (link to meditation article).
- Creative expression: Finding a creative outlet can be hugely effective for anxiety. For me, that’s painting, when we’re not being creative we experience anxiety. Anxiety is creativity gone array.
- Maintaining quality sleep: I wind down with magnesium and listen to something from the Calm app or guided meditation podcasts. It gives my mind something to follow. Aside from listening, I turn off all technology.
- Indulge in rest: Listen to your instincts, what rest do you need? Sometimes binge watching a Netflix show is important for you to get reawakened to do something healthy. I also invest in tools that help me rest, such as: Migun bed, chi machine for your legs, and lavender essential oil.
Great tips, what are some of the overlooked causes of stress we should be paying more attention to?
- Not getting enough sleep: sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health, 8+ hours, it’s something we take for granted, it restores our cells.
- The chemicals in our homes: toxins in the home is huge! We’re fed this idea that we need scents, and that we shouldn’t smell like ourselves in order to be likable and loved. Anything that is unnatural is going to affect the environment leading to hormonal issues, depression, etc. because it’s causing stress on the cellular level. Take out anything that has perfume or added fragrance, colors, etc. Start reading your labels. Laundry detergent is one of the worst and often overlooked offenders that we’re always in contact with. You don’t need harsh chemicals to clean your clothes. We have to remember it goes into the ground and ocean.
- The foods we eat and drink: since we’re always on-the-go, many of the things we’re now ingesting introduce chemicals that aren’t natural to the body and make us act differently. Stick with veggies and whole grains. Many of the quick-fix, processed foods are high in sugar and there’s mounting evidence that exitotoxins from food can impact the behavior of kids and adults.
- Observing internal clues and implementing small changes: sometimes we have to go into the negative feelings associated with stress before we can move away from them. There are clues in those hard times, and it’s okay that everything isn’t alright. Accept where you are, and start by changing one thing. We get overwhelmed thinking we need to change ‘all the things’ at once. Focus on making one change for 21 days to build a habit.
We’ll wrap up part 1 with a final take-away from Kirsten, “Like other desired outcomes in our life, reducing stress requires knowledge, practice and effort. It’s such an instinctual response that we forget we can be present, and have an influence on our surrounding environment and circumstances.” This is a perfect teaser for next week’s article that discusses how we can more effectively listen and communicate to reduce stress in our relationships with loved ones.