With Stress and Boost Your Health
Excerpt By John Reinan, HealthScoutNews
in stressful times.
And that would
be true even if Sept. 11 hadn't forever changed our lives, if the
economy hadn't sagged, if war hadn't broken out in the Middle East.
The fact is,
life is full of stress even in good times. But there are ways to
manage your stress so it doesn't get the better of you.
May is Mental
Health Awareness Month, and experts say learning to cope with stress
is one of the best things you can do to improve your mental health.
is a constant. But though a situation may be beyond your control,
how you respond to it isn't," says Kathy HoganBruen, a clinical
psychologist and senior director of prevention for the National
Mental Health Association.
says physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand, and the
steps that promote one also promote the other.
generally taking care of yourself is a key," she says. "Start
with exercise and healthy eating, and getting enough sleep.
exercise has been found to reduce stress and depression," HoganBruen
adds. "And when we eat better, we feel better. A lot of people's
self-esteem is related to their body image, so when you're looking
better, it helps a lot of people feel better."
to stress reduction include:
"It can help a lot of people," HoganBruen says.
"There is evidence to suggest that faith can be helpful,"
she says. "We do find that people with an active faith life
report fewer mental health problems."
"Lie down with candles and soft music," HoganBruen says.
"Or get a massage. It's hard to be stressed when you're getting
The most common
sources of stress are work, relationships and money, experts say.
But distant events are increasingly heightening the stress in our
a psychologist in Oklahoma City, says that modern mass communication
has greatly expanded the list of things we worry about.
now impacted by things that go on at the other end of the world,"
he says. "The world is our place of residence."
near and far can stir our emotions. But we shouldn't be frightened
by our emotions, even angry ones, Dlugokinski says.
are automatic. You don't have a choice," he says. "What
we do with them is what matters, not that we have them."
professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences
Center, advocates a four-step approach to dealing with stressful
- Try to put
a word -- or several words -- to the emotion you're feeling. Just
describe the feeling as best you can and you'll feel better.
- Pause. Take
a deep breath. Count to 20. Give yourself a chance to think before
you react automatically.
- Think of
ways to express the feeling that don't hurt yourself or other
people. "I'm irritated because I feel I was treated unfairly,"
- Act. Do something
that makes sense to you right now. It may not make sense next
week, and it may not make sense for someone else. But if it makes
sense for you, right now, then do it.
who learn to cope more effectively with their emotions can reduce
the impact of what they're feeling," Dlugokinski says. "People
with unresolved feelings experience a toxic effect.
go to alcohol, they go to drugs. They become depressed, they become
phobic, they become mentally distraught," he adds.
And when it
comes to dealing with stress, men and women can learn from each
other, says Amy Flowers, a psychologist in Macon, Ga.
women tend to deal with stress in different ways," Flowers
tend to do something more physical: run, go to the gym, go to a
ballgame, have sex. Women tend to talk to their friends more when
they're stressed. Women are more likely to use their support system,"
the most successful people are the ones who have a variety of options,"
Flowers adds. "It's nice to have a support system, but it's
nice to have other outlets, too."
you have only one particular coping style, that can get you in trouble
when you can't use it or it doesn't work," she says.
Do: Get answers to frequently
asked questions about mental health from the National Mental
Health Association. Or get a referral
to a psychologist through the American Psychological Association.
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