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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante   

Feeling more stressed?

Find more ways to cope

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante


In 2021, Statistics Canada introduced a survey called the Canadian Social Survey (CSS). The goal is to understand social issues more rapidly by collecting information on relevant social issues every three months.

One of the results of the survey was that overall, 46 per cent of Canadians perceived their stress level as somewhat or much worse than it was prior to COVID-19. Women (49 per cent) reported worsening stress levels compared to men (44 per cent). Also, Canadians that identify as LGBTQ2+ reported feeling high levels of stress most days in higher proportions (35 per cent) than non-LGBTQ2+ individuals (24 per cent).

If people do not make a conscious effort to manage stress in healthy ways, it could lead to negative behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and addictions. Consequently, our relationships could be negatively affected because we are more likely to be irritable, anxious, or depressed.

The key to overall wellness is to be proactive in our approach to health by practicing self-care and positive stress management on a daily basis. To think about what can work for you, let us consider what kind of a learner you are. Howard Gardner was a developmental psychologist who is famous for his theory on multiple intelligences. Essentially, this theory supports that there is not one overarching trait of being “smart.” There are actually at least nine different ways that people learn, understand, and perceive the world. You may find that you fit into more than one category.

1. Linguistic Intelligence – “word smart” is the ability to use spoken or written words. People with this capability have a large vocabulary and are eloquent when they speak, such as authors and poets. They often think in words and learn best by hearing the explanation. If you fall into this category, the right stress management outlet for you may be reading, writing poetry or stories, or playing word games. Crossword or word search puzzles will likely be fun and relaxing for you. If you really want to be creative, try learning a new language.

2. Visual-Spatial Intelligence – “picture smart” refers to the ability to mentally visualize objects and spatial dimensions, such as what architects, designers, photographers, and physicists do. These individuals are very aware of their environments and have a good sense of direction. If you have always had a tendency towards learning better through visual aids like charts and pictures (and think that you would be great on the reality TV show, Amazing Race) you are likely high in this type of intelligence. Regarding stress management, try drawing or painting, putting together puzzles, or taking photos. Maybe even go and explore your city like a tourist would.

3. Logical-Mathematical Intelligence – “number smart” refers to reasoning, calculating, using logic, and the use of numbers and abstract pattern recognition. People with this type of intelligence would excel as accountants, computer programmers, scientists, and mathematicians. They learn best by experimenting and solving puzzles. They need to understand the concept first before paying attention to details. Stress management activities could include playing Suduko, chess, or computer games. Even cooking and baking could work for you because it involves following steps to achieve a goal.

4. Body-Kinesthetic Intelligence – “body smart” is the ability to control one’s bodily motions and handle objects well. These people have good hand-eye coordination and a sense of timing such as athletes, dancers, police officers, and fire fighters. If you fall into this category, some ways for you to unwind after a stressful day could include going for a walk, run or bike ride, playing a sport, yoga, or taking a dance class.

5. Musical-Rhythmic Intelligence – “music smart” refers to sensitivity to rhythm, pitch, melody, and tone of music. These people learn best through songs, patterns, rhythms, instruments, and musical expression, such as musicians, singers, and dancers. Some strategies that could work for you could be to simply hum or sing when feeling stressed, playing an instrument, watching music videos online, or taking a Zumba class.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence – “people smart” is the ability to communicate well with others and develop relationships. These people empathize with the situations of others, are sensitive to the moods and feelings of others, and can cooperate well. People with high interpersonal intelligence enjoy discussion and debate and are often counsellors, teachers, politicians, managers and sales people. In order to de-stress, it is important for you to talk to someone when you are troubled, rather than bottling it up inside. An evening out with friends or family, joining a volunteer group or book club could be opportunities to get that social interaction that you look for.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence – “self smart” refers to beings highly aware of one’s own feelings, interests, and goals. If you belong to this category, you have wisdom, a strong will, and are confident. You also value your privacy and enjoy time spent alone. Good career choices for you might include being a psychologist, counsellor, clergy member, or entrepreneur. Some appropriate stress outlets for you might include writing in a journal or diary, reading, or going for walks on your own. You might find massage therapy to be relaxing.

8. Naturalistic Intelligence – “nature smart” is one of the most recent additions to Gardner’s original theory. People that possess this kind of intelligence are more in tune with nature and are interested in preserving and exploring the environment and the animals and plants within it. If you are high in nature smarts, you might enjoy work as a gardener, biologist, veterinarian, or farmer. Some recreational activities that would reduce stress for you include gardening, hiking, and camping. Even if your job requires that you remain inside most of the time, use your breaks to go outside. A quick walk around the block could do wonders for you.

9. Existential Intelligence – “spirituality smart” can be defined as the ability to be sensitive to deeper questions about human existence, i.e.. What is the meaning of life? How did we get here? Why is there pain in the world? Such people have a desire to be connected to others and likely to a higher being. If you feel you are one of these individuals, you would do well in employment as a motivational speaker, philosopher, counsellor, clergy member, or a researcher. Ways that you can nurture this part of you would be through prayer, meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness exercises. Since you enjoy theory and making sense of the world, you may benefit from taking a theory, philosophy, or science class for fun. Volunteer work could be worthwhile to you, as you would get satisfaction out of helping others.

Whatever outlet you choose, it is crucial that you learn how to best reduce your stress. Without effective stress management tools, your body will frequently be operating on high alert. Eventually, high stress will lead to serious health problems. Start by trying a new stress outlet today. You might be surprised by how you feel tomorrow!

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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