Patricia Alvarado is a psychotherapist and owner and director of the group practice, Alvarado Therapy.
How often have you heard the phrase, “tiene nervios?” This is a common phrase that I heard growing up in my Mexican household. Yet nervios was never something that was directly associated with mental health and instead, nervios was seen as a trait that someone had, similar to someone having black or brown hair. As a first-gen Latina therapist, I can now recognize that this thing called nervios is actually this very familiar thing called stress.
Now to understand nervios or stress, we need to know what we are actually talking about. Stress refers to a state of worry or mental tension when feeling under pressure or threatened due to a difficult situation. It’s important to remember that it is a natural human response and ultimately, it allows us to address challenges or threats that are around us. We can experience stress through our emotions, within our body, and in our thoughts.
Oftentimes, as Latinas we struggle with the pressures of advancing within our careers, taking care of our elders, job pressures, or taking care of children while also working, just to name a few. Thankfully, within the therapy world there are many tools and resources that can help you manage stress in different ways. Not all stress is bad as good stress can motivate you to push forward and keep going. Bad stress on the other hand can be debilitating to say the least. Check out these tools to understand which therapy approach makes sense for you as you begin exploring ways to manage your own stress.
…involves focusing on the present moment and accepting the thoughts and feelings as they come, without judgment. This can help you notice what is coming up and acknowledge that it is okay to feel this way.
Therapy approach: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
…encourages you to write down your thoughts, feelings, and experiences as a way to reflect and process them. It allows you to gain insight into your own emotions while identifying patterns that may come up.
Therapy approach: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
…involves taking slow, deep breaths to help calm your nervous system while reducing stress or tension. There are different ways you can use deep breathing during your day, often involving inhaling through your nose and slowly exhaling through your mouth.
Therapy approach: Mindfulness-Based Interventions
…this coping skill focuses on the things that you are thankful for as a way to notice positive emotions and reduce stress. Gratitude can be expressed by being thankful for the people in your life, personal strengths you are proud of, positive experiences or opportunities, to name a few.
Therapy approach: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
Leaning on Social Support
…involves seeking support and comfort from family, friends, or other support people when you are needing a sounding board. This can remind you that you are not alone in what you are experiencing while also normalizing what you are going through.
Therapy approach: Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
…encourages you to verbalize thoughts and feelings as they come to mind in order to gain insight into unconscious thoughts and feelings. The goal is to be able to do this without censorship or judgment to really go deeper and gain insight into patterns that may be influencing the present.
Therapy approach: Psychodynamic Therapy
…helps you calm down your nervous system so that you can feel much more grounded and present. Slow bilateral tapping helps you activate the brain’s natural healing process while focusing on positive thoughts.
Therapy approach: Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
The Miracle Question
…involves asking yourself to imagine that your problem is resolved. Then, you would be encouraged to share how life looks at this time and what steps it took to get there. This allows you to really focus on your goals and identify solutions to achieve them in the present moment.
Therapy approach: Solution Focused Therapy
…encourages you to change the way you tell your story to promote healing and growth. The goal is to overcome feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness while developing a stronger sense of self. This is a great tool for individuals struggling with feelings of helplessness.
Therapy approach: Narrative Therapy
Art or Creative Expression
…encourages you to use a creative outlet such as paint, drawing, music, etc. to explore experiences that you’ve had in a safe and supportive environment. These coping skills can also help you reduce stress and help your overall emotional well-being.
Therapy approach: Humanistic Therapy
…encourages you to pay attention to the here and now to feel regulated and centered. It often incorporates your five senses to help you notice how you are feeling. People having trouble with stress will find grounding incredibly helpful as it helps you feel much more connected and present.
Therapy approach: Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), EMDR, CBT
There are many options depending on what makes sense for you. The great part about this is that you can explore different techniques and therapy models; you have choice! As you work through your own therapeutic journey, pay attention to your mind, body, and spirit. Listen to your intuition and trust your judgment. The work can feel overwhelming at first but with time, it will all make sense.