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How To Keep Daily Stress From Becoming Distress

Dr. Isaiah Pickens
By Rosaland Tyler
Associate Editor
New Journal and Guide


Do you think it is normal to feel chronically frustrated, angry and resentful? If so, think again. You are not suffering from a short fuse. Instead, these symptoms show you are suffering from psychological distress. Specifically, the term describes ongoing emotional suffering. This means psychological distress is launched by a lot of small (unmanaged and unacknowledged) symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, restlessness, and tension.

“When we are in distress, we need something,” Dr. Margarita Tartakovsky wrote in Nine Healthy Ways to Deal with Distress. “We may have an emotional need to feel accepted or heard,” Tartakovsky wrote. “ We may have a tangible need to have more help around the house. We may have an environmental need for peace and quiet. We may have a psychological need to treat ourselves with kindness.” This means that rather than that thinking that chronic frustration, anger and resentment are normal, instead, acknowledge you are feeling distressed. “Ask yourself, ‘What do I need right now?’ “ Tartakovsky said.

Keep asking questions after easy automatic responses surface: “I need less stress in my life!” or “I just want to be happier!” Dig deeper for answers by asking yourself, “What does that answer mean exactly? What does that look like? What does that feel like? What does that entail? How might that be achieved?” To find the exit that will lead you out of a maze of troubling emotions, focus on what you want – not on what you don’t want, Tartakovsky said.

In a recent phone interview with the New Journal and Guide, Dr. Isaiah Pickens said from his office in California, the first step is to stop in your tracks and acknowledge the problem. In other words, acknowledge you are suffering from psychological distress. Pickens is currently assistant director of System Services at the University of California, Los Angeles National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. He is the founder of iOpening Enterprises, a multi-media company that specializes in creating books, films, and life skills workshops for teens and the adults who care for them.

“First, I would say acknowledge that there is something wrong,” said Pickens, a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in consulting, counseling, and educational services for families, teens, and young adults. His work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Psychology Today. He has been a guest on Melissa Harry Perry’s show. “Acknowledging psychological distress can be difficult because of the stigma,” Pickens said. “And it may explain why fewer people of color seek professional treatment. Or they wait before they seek help.”

“Second, connect with someone you trust,” Pickens said. “That is important because our inclination is to feel shame and to withdraw from others. And this is the time when we need to connect with people most.” “Finally, be patient and understand many people go through this,” Pickens said. “Sometimes people feel they are the only ones going through it. But if you understand that others are going through it, be aware and patient with yourself. This will help you get back to a healthy place, where you want to connect with people.”

“Be diligent to stay connected with people and resources that can help you,” Pickens said. “It will pay off in the end.” Numerous studies show that people of color, especially women often deny feeling psychologically distressed. And this group may attribute ongoing emotional suffering to the devil or Satan. Romans 8:36 actually mentions the word distress. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Here, distress loses its mystique in Romans 8. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

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