Talk with your doctor about stress. Discuss your life stresses with your physician. He may want to evaluate you to rule out anemia, diabetes, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, etc. as causes of your symptoms. Check with your physician before using any of the coping strategies below to see which are appropriate for you. If your doctor prescribes medication or other treatment be patient and remember you didn’t get this way overnight. It will take time for any treatment program to work.
Maintain balance in your life. Each one of us has an emotional bank account. When we overwork, over worry, or deal with too much stress, we make withdrawals from our emotional bank account. When we play, relax, laugh and take care of ourselves, then we make deposits into our emotional bank account. Too many withdrawals in too short a period or not enough deposits into our emotional bank account. Therefore, in periods of high stress, we must be especially careful to take care of ourselves and keep our emotional bank account balanced.
Talk. Don’t hold all of your thoughts and feelings inside. Talk with a friend, loved one, minister, counselor, or physician.
Take care of yourself. Spoil yourself with a hot bath, massage, manicure, shoeshine, or visit to the beauty parlor, etc.
Reduce or eliminate self-medicating your stress. Try to minimize caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for good health.
Have more fun. Take time to laugh, play, read, listen to music, fish or take up a hobby.
Keep a “Worry Book” or diary – The first-day write down all your thoughts, feelings or concerns about a given problem and then read them out loud. On the second-day separate the problems from everything else and then read them out loud. On the following day now separate the problems or worries into those you can control and those you cannot. Your goal is to concentrate your efforts on the issues you can control and how best to resolve them.
Perception – Work on how you perceive the world. Things that look so terrible now may not seem so bad if you ask yourself who will remember or care about this five to ten year from now. Also, try to look for a brighter side of things and if that doesn’t work, think of someone less fortunate than yourself. Remember the story of the man who was upset because he had no shoes until he met a man with no feet.
Simplify your life. If you are too over-burdened, then you may be like a ship that sails fine in calm water but is too overloaded to withstand the stress of even a minor storm. Learn how to say no and how to avoid unpleasantness when you are overburdened.
Do not beat yourself up over the past. We cannot change our past. Each one of us has made mistakes and one thing we regret. Forgive yourself, be a friend to yourself. Use past mistakes as stepping-stones to grow and learn from and not as stumbling blocks.
Accept responsibility for stress. Try not to blame work, relatives or other people for stress. These things, while stressful, would not be as stressful if we were in an excellent and positive emotional place. It is only assuming responsibility for our stress that we may begin to make the necessary changes to reduce our stress.
Be flexible in your approach to stress. There is no one right answer for dealing with stress. No one has a magic formula. Sometimes dealing assertively and directly with a stress problem is correct. Other times compromise or acceptance of a stressful situation is appropriate. At other times, a situation may be so stressful for us that avoidance is the necessary world. One example woman who got upset daily after reading the obituary column in the afternoon paper. She was able to reduce her stress by simply avoiding that section of the paper.
Rest and exercise. Try to get six to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep at night and try to walk 15 to 20 minutes daily or every other day.
Anger. Try to release anger as it occurs and not store it inside your body where it can do great harm. According to Dr. David Viscott “A person who carries too much-unsettled anger around with him is likely to find the world he encounters also to be angry and so justify and perpetuate his feelings of anger.” He recommends that if your anger starts to build up and you cannot directly confront the source of your anger then try the following:
Write a furious letter, but don’t mail it.
Phone the offending person, but don’t go through with the call. Just let your anger out as if you are speaking to them.
Use your imagination to see the person who has upset you dressed in a silly costume making an embarrassing speech.
It is also helpful to go to the place where you can say express your anger verbally such as the privacy of your bedroom will help you release anger.
Pray or Meditate. Take five minutes each morning to be thankful and appreciate the good things in your life. Start the day in a positive way.
Life is not fair. There will always be stress. The unexpected often occurs. Learning how to manage the stress in our lives by developing effective coping skills is one of the most important things we can do to stay healthy, because while stress may not cause illness, it does contribute to the circumstances in which diseases may take hold and flourish.
About Morgan Ashurst, MD
Hometown– Montgomery, Alabama
Undergraduate– University of Alabama
Medical School– University of Alabama Medical School
Internship and Residency– University of Alabama and University of South Alabama
Specialty– Internal Medicine
Certification– American Board of Internal Medicine, Geriatric Medicine and Hypertension
Personal – Ashurst has been with Internal Medicine Center, LLC since 1976, and is married with three children.