General Guidelines for Coping

Revised 6/26/99

by Charles H. Booras, MD

 

Up to 80% of ALL health problems can be caused or aggravated by stress!

Think about that for a second. Stress accounts for 8 out of every 10 health problems. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that learning to more efficiently manage our stress would lead to a heck of a lot less illness! The problem is that we silly humans seem to think that we are supposed to worry about a bunch of things that we NEVER seem to change by worrying about ‘em!

Managing stress is not a skill that most of us are born with naturally (don’t we sometimes envy those "Type B’s" who never seem flustered by anything?).

Stress management is, however, a skill that we can acquire with a bit of practice and patience. So, kick back…relax, and take your time reading this information sheet. The purpose is to get you started down the road towards learning how to lighten up and relax.

Life truly is a journey, not a destination. Happiness is contagious. Nobody likes being around stressed-out people ‘cuz it makes us feel even more nervous and uncomfortable, right?

You know that each and every one of these items is important but, be honest with yourself, can’t you find some areas that could stand a little improvement? If so, you are well on the way to a new, calmer you.

Tips for reducing Stress:

  • Eliminate self-inflicted physical stressors such as smoking, caffeine, drugs and alcohol.
  • Take good care of your health. Eat nutritionally balanced meals and practice good sleep habits. Take a daily multi-vitamin. There really is a "Mind-Body Connection". A stronger, healthier Body will lead to a stronger, healthier Mind.
  • Exercise at least 3-5 days a week. Check with your physician about starting a regular exercise program.
  • Observe and, if necessary, change the way you perceive yourself or your world. Much stress can be avoided or at least better handled by interpreting events neutrally or positively.
  • Learn and regularly practice relaxation skills in order to release accumulated tension or anxiety. Go to a bookstore or library or borrow some self-help tapes by experts like Stuart Wilde or Dr. Wayne Dyer. Many of us process information better by listening than by reading.
  • Examine whether you are a Type A (high-strung) personality type and how this personal style can affect your stress levels. If you do have a stress-prone personality, resolve to become a Type B (mellow) person in a Type A body. Become actors and pretend you are relaxed even when you are not. In this way your brain will fool your body into feeling calmer and less stressed. (That Mind-Body thing again!)
  • Learn and practice good time management. Get organized! Check out the "One Minute Manager" series of books.
  • Set a reasonable pace for your life. This means keeping the rate of change in your life at a comfortable level by scheduling "breathers" when overwhelmed. Avoid too many major life changes occurring within too short a period of time. Take a few responsibilities off of your "platter" if you are overloaded. Learning to say "No" can have magical properties when you are stressed out.
  • Schedule and enjoy creative pursuits and hobbies that you find personally satisfying and relaxing. Do some activities alone and some with others (ex. grow flowers, read, play tennis, take walks, go to an art exhibit or a movie). Learn to escape and give your mind a rest. (My upset stomach is a sign that I'm getting a bit stressed out and that it’s time to go fishing!)
  • Evaluate your network of friends and family. Hopefully, they can offer you emotional and other support that can help buffer you from the negative effects of stress. You are not "dumping" on them. A true friend WANTS to be there for you when you need them. Rely on professional or spiritual help as you see fit. Psychologists and other professionals are specially trained to help us develop and maintain healthy stress management techniques.
  • Improve your relationship with others by learning to more assertively express yourself. Understand and learn to manage destructive or stress-provoking emotions (ex. anger, frustration, and jealousy).
  • Become philosophical by learning to accept those things over which you have no control or cannot change. Does the problem have enough significance that it will matter to you in five years? If the problem "does not mean poop to a tree", take a deep breath and relax! Very few (if any) things are EVER changed by worrying about them.

"You Worry…You Die.
You Don’t Worry…You Still Die.
So Why Worry?"

  • Read up on, and become a master of, stress management. Go to your local bookstore and pick up a book or two to help strengthen your coping skills. Try "Relax, How You can Feel Better, Reduce Stress and Overcome Tension," by J. White, or "Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and it’s all small stuff," by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. for example.
  • Learn to recognize the physical cues (headaches, muscle tightness, jaw pain, upset stomach, loose bowels, heart flutters, shakiness, lightheadedness, disturbed sleep, irritability, panicky feelings, frequent urination, etc.) that you are getting a bit stressed out. They are warning signs and can lead to more serious health problems if neglected and ignored.
  • Schedule a Massage. Even the word "massage" sounds relaxing, doesn’t it?
  • Activities like Tai Chi, YOGA and Meditation can help build inner peace and strength in a low impact fashion that is very easy on the body and quite relaxing for the mind. The concept of Tai Chi is to develop internal energy ("Chi") through a series of beautiful, dance-like, movements. Focusing on connecting the body and spirit by way of the mind, Tai Chi is now being utilized to effectively reduce stress, promote internal peace and help in preventing disease (like Osteoporosis). It has also been shown to significantly improve balance in the elderly, thus helping to reduce the incidence of falls a hip fracture.
  • Go back and re-read this page often. Each and every one of these thoughts is critical to your overall success so incorporate as many as you can into your daily thought processes.

Nothing is worth having unless it is earned! So, Practice…Practice...Practice.

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