Keeping Stress at Bay When Worries Mount
Solutions abound, but finding what works for you can be key
(HealthDay News) -- With money, housing and job woes still populating many Americans' worry lists, stress is often not far behind.
A poll last year by the American Psychological Association, in fact, found that nearly half of the 1,791 adults who participated said that their stress had definitely increased.
With stress can come a range of negative effects, including sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure, heart disease, increased risk for cancer, fatigue and irritability.
But such problems don't need to automatically follow stress, according to stress-reduction experts.
Exercising, eating right and finding a way to calm down can help reduce stress, but you need to find the specific techniques that are best for you, said Dr. Paul J. Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress and a clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College, in Valhalla, N.Y.
"You have to find out what works for you so that you will practice and adhere to it because it relieves tension and makes you feel better," Rosch told HealthDay. "Jogging, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and listening to music are great for some, but dull, boring and stressful when arbitrarily imposed on others," he said.
Deborah Rozman suggests trying to practice appreciation and gratitude, such as feeling thankful if you still have a job. Rozman, a research psychologist, is president and co-chief executive of Quantum Intech, the parent company of the HeartMath Institute in Boulder Creek, Calif., which conducts research on stress management.
This type of mental exercise "helps the heart stay open" and can also help you reconnect with feelings of hope, Rozman told HealthDay.
A study published in Emotion also found that taking time each day to appreciate the positive things in life can help increase a person's overall satisfaction and create a reservoir of resilience to cope with difficult times.
"A lot of times we get so wrapped up in thinking about the future and the past that we are blind to the goodness we are steeped in already, whether it's the beauty outside the window or the kind things that people are doing for you," Barbara Fredrickson, a psychology professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a co-author of the study, said in a university news release. "The better approach is to be open and flexible, to be appreciative of whatever good you do find in your daily circumstances, rather than focusing on bigger questions."
Another potential way to cope with stress is through volunteering because it can help take your mind off your own problems, Rozman said.
Complaining about those problems, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. People who've been laid off or fear losing their jobs sometimes sit around and complain, but Rozman said that only adds to the stress and drama.
"Drama is when we amp up anger, anxiety or fear," she said.
So instead of complaining, try to change the subject or tone of your conversations by talking about how to improve things.
For instance, if you're experiencing difficult times, don't compare the present with the past. Instead, give yourself time to heal from a job loss or other major setback and then make plans to move on. Rather than thinking, "I've lost my nest egg," turn that into "Here's what I'll do to get it back," Rozman said.
"It's about shifting focus to something that doesn't bring you down," she said.
On the Web
To learn more about managing stress, check out information from the U.S. National Health Information Center.
SOURCES: HealthDay News; Deborah Rozman, Ph.D., research psychologist, president and co-chief executive, Quantum Intech, Boulder Creek, Calif.; Paul J. Rosch, M.D., president, American Institute of Stress, and clinical professor, medicine and psychiatry, New York Medical College, Valhalla, N.Y.; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., news release, July 8, 2009; American Psychological Association (www.apa.org)
Author: Robert Preidt
Publication Date: July 31, 2010
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