Relax, Relate, Release!

ID-100290415Relax, Relate, Release!

Are you struggling in school, overwhelmed with deadlines at work, or frustrated with family responsibilities?

No worries; stress is a normal physical and/or emotional reaction to balancing the ever-increasing demands of life that may leave one feeling stretched to the limit.  For example, both negative (e.g., job, relationship problems, and/or financial difficulties) and positive events (e.g., buying a house, starting a new job, and/or getting married) could potentially contribute to high levels of stress.  However, the American Psychological Association suggests that women, younger Americans, and parents, in particular, consistently endure levels of stress that may be detrimental to their overall health (APA, 2014).

Relax:  Understanding Your Stress Response

All stress is not bad stress.  Some may find that they perform “best” under time constraints.  On the other hand, the brain and body was not designed to remain on high alert for extended periods of time.

The brain is hard-wired with an alarm system that was set in place for protection.  For example, if the brain were to perceive a threat, it would notify the body and decide whether the potential life-threatening situation required a “fight-or-flight” stress response.  But once the threat, either real or imagined, has been resolved, the body is meant to return to its normal relaxed state.

Relate:  Identifying Your Stressors

What triggered your stress?  What time of day did it occur?  What were your thoughts?  Did you have a behavioral, emotional, and/or physical response?

Identifying the source(s) of one’s stress may seem like an obvious step in the resolution process.  Nevertheless, it is one that is often overlooked, thus causing one to develop a negative stress cycle.

Common Effects of Stress

On your body

On your mood

On your behavior

  • Headache
  • Muscle tension/Pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Upset Stomach
  • Sleep Problems
  • Anxiety
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of motivation/Focus
  • Irritability/Anger
  • Sadness/Depression
  • Overeating/Undereating
  • Angry outburst
  • Drug/Alcohol abuse
  • Tobacco use
  • Social Withdrawal

Mayo Clinic, 2013

Release:  Managing Your Stress

Incessantly high levels of stress may lead to the development of serious health problems (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and anxiety) later in life.

Creating a Wellness Toolbox is a healthy way to reset the brain’s alarm system to manage current or impending stress.  For example, one’s toolbox may include the following self-care activities:

  • Proper rest – the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults aged 18-64 years get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • Proper nourishmentWebMD recommends 3 nutritious meals plus 3 healthy snacks per day.
  • Physical activity – the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recommends at least 20 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking or swimming), 10 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity (e.g., running or Zumba), and strength training (e.g., light weight lifting and yoga) as needed on a daily basis.
  • Therapy – to assess one’s current level of stress and recommend further successful interventions, such as:
    • Keeping a stress journal to track and monitor one’s current stress cycle as well as clarify one’s needs.
    • Practicing meditation/relaxation techniques (e.g., counting, deep breathing, and art/music therapy) to help one instantly achieve a calm state in highly stressful situations.
    • Practicing positive self-talk to replace negative thoughts regarding one’s situation with more positive and constructive thoughts.
    • Developing a support system (e.g., close family and friends) to assist in times of high stress.


For more information, please contact Hillcrest Center at (202) 232-6100 or email us at

 **Subscribe to receive blog updates, comment, and share**

Amelia Hall, M.A.Amelia R. Hall, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student, with a special concentration in diversity and multicultural related issues.

“I Matter, You Matter, We Matter” Youth Leadership & Empowerment Summit

200th Anniversary Celebration Continues

Hillcrest Children and Family Center is proud to host

“I Matter, You Matter, We Matter” Youth Leadership & Empowerment Summit

August 12, 2015 – Walter E. Washington Convention Center

PURPOSE: To expose youth to information and experiences that will empower, encourage and promote their overall emotional health and wellness.
WHAT TO EXPECT: One day event designed for youth ages 12 to 18 to better equip them to make positive and healthy choices. Our theme, “I matter, You Matter, We Matter,” highlights the importance of youth to our community and the significance of maintaining good physical and emotional health.   Activities include a Pep Rally with Former Washington Redskin, Clinton Portis as the Keynote Speaker, Health Exhibits and Breakout sessions. There will also be live performances by local celebrities.
BACKGROUND: Hillcrest Children and Family Center (Hillcrest Center) is a behavioral health care and social services agency that provides behavioral health treatment and prevention as well as community and family support services. We are a private not for profit organization founded in 1815 by First Lady Dolley Madison and chartered by an Act of Congress. Throughout its history, Hillcrest Center has offered primary prevention and mental health services to children and families. With a commitment to provide each client with the highest quality, cost effective, and timely service to meet their needs, we promote wellness and the well-being of our service population, staff, and the general community. Hillcrest Center serves approximately 900 clients and families per month. The majority of our clients are residents of the District of Columbia.   For more information, visit
PARTNERS: RealTalk DC; EventsDC; The National Council of Behavioral Health Organizations; The National Council on African American  Behavioral Health; DC Department of Behavioral Health; DC Department of Parks and Recreation;
WHO: FREE for Ages 12-18; Must Be registered, visit
WHEN: Wednesday, August 12, 2015
WHERE: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place, NW, WDC
TIME: 10:00am-3:00pm; Doors Open at 9:00am
CONTACT: Debra Kilpatrick Byrd
Phone: (202) 262-3987

Are You Trapped In A C.A.G.E.?

Man behind jail bars

  • Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever felt Annoyed by criticism of your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever felt Guilty about your drinking or drug use?
  • Have you ever taken a morning Eye-opener of alcohol or drugs to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?

Research suggests that if you answered ‘YES’ to at least one of the aforementioned questions, there is an 80% chance that you may have an addiction.

Anything in Excess can be Harmful to your Health

  • Did you know that alcoholism is the 3rd leading preventable lifestyle-related cause of death in the nation?
    • Nearly 88,000 people die annually from alcohol-related causes (e.g., alcohol poisoning, driving fatalities, drowning, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, risky sexual behavior, and violence) (CDC, 2014)
  • Did you know that youth initiation of substance use is highest in December, January, April, May, June, and July?
    • Despite 21 being the minimum legal drinking age, approximately 8.7 million (22.7%) persons aged 12-20 years old had consumed alcohol (NSDUH, 2013)
    • In 2014, 6.5% of 8th graders, 16.6% of 10th graders, and 21.2% of 12th graders reported daily use of marijuana (NIDA, 2014)

Substance use among youth is a public health problem, as it increases the risk for physical problems, poor mental health outcomes, social difficulties, and even death.

Take Action Today

Research has shown that effective treatment can improve one’s chances of overcoming addiction.  Some positive preventive actions include:

  • Assessing Risk (e.g., C.A.G.E. Substance Abuse Assessment)
    • Focus:  To access whether one’s substance use has a negative impact on their daily functioning
  • Targeting Prevention Services(e.g., outpatient treatment clinics)
    • Focus:  To identify and utilize protective factors (e.g., parent and other support) as well as provide one with appropriate coping skills to help support a healthy and balanced lifestyle change


For more information, please contact Hillcrest Center at (202) 232-6100 or email us at

**Subscribe to receive blog updates, comment, and share**

Amelia Hall, M.A.Amelia R. Hall, M.A. is a clinical psychology doctoral student, with a special concentration in diversity and multicultural related issues.