How can I manage stress?

Manuel Villacorta
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

The same principles that control hunger and help you energize—like eating breakfast—will help you control your dopamine and serotonin. The following are the core principles of withstanding stress and energizing:

  • Be sure to eat a blend of carbohydrates, fiber and protein for breakfast. It's the most important meal and it drives your entire day. It determines how much you're going to eat at 4:00 pm, and it gets your brain to start with the proper levels of serotonin and dopamine. If you exercise in the morning, maybe have a pre-exercise meal, like half a banana or a string cheese. This will increase your metabolism, help with clear thinking, improve alertness and concentration, enhance memory and improve cognitive abilities.
  • Do not skip meals. Because stress affects your dopamine and serotonin levels, eating throughout the day keeps you alert and relaxed. Just remember to combine protein and carbs at each instance for best results.
  • At every meal or snack, try to combine carbohydrates and proteins. The amounts don't matter so much as the simple act of consciously combining. This way, you get the optimal blend to fight cravings, control hunger, gain energy, simulate fullness and produce dopamine and serotonin. This way you're less likely to eat emotionally. Protein increases your metabolism and carbs lower ghrelin (hunger hormone), which helps with brain function and decreases cravings.
  • Take brief walks during the day. Even a five- to ten-minute walk works wonders. You can also pause and practice taking ten deep breaths.
  • Take time to eat: Sit down, relax and enjoy your meal. This time of relaxation helps to control stress and gives you enough time to send signals to your brain that you are full.
Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good

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Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good

Eating Free reveals why the prevailing wisdom on weight loss--low-calorie, no carbs, high-intensity exercise--sharply clashes with the facts of human biology and human nature, setting dieters up for...
Dr. Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Stress is the body's way of fighting or fleeing its way out of a bad situation. Manage stress by going for a walk, exercising, laughing and avoiding negative people. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about stress and how to manage it.

Here are some tips on how to deal with emotional problems in a healthy way.

  • Choose exercise instead of drinking alcohol. Exercise ramps up pleasure-producing endorphins and happy-time neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. You know my exercise passion is walking 10,000 steps a day, but swimming, jogging, kick boxing—anything that washes away frustration and restores calmness—works too.
  • Benefit from the calming effects of meditation. Just 10 minutes a day can soothe frazzled nerves.

Stress can bring on bad behavior in anyone, so get over distress and destress. Exercise, meditate and . . . oh, did I mention have a one-on-one with your partner? Sex tones muscles, lowers blood pressure and cranks out happy hormones.

Dr. Joshua C. Klapow, PhD
Psychology Specialist

We all experience stress at one time or another. What can you do when the pressures of life become too much? Stress has a way of building up to the point that you feel overwhelmed. The trick to managing it is to have a game plan. Try these suggestions:

  • Make a list of the stressful situations in your life. Put a checkmark next to the ones you can change. Cross out the ones you can't. This will help you focus on what you can do versus what you can't.
  • Don't let stressful thoughts grow bigger than the situation warrants. Take a look at the situations on your list. Can you think differently about some of them so they feel less stressful?
  • Pay attention to your stress levels during the day. Every hour or so, take a minute to breathe deeply and collect your thoughts.
  • Eat healthy, exercise regularly and get enough rest. As hard as this seems, it will make you feel better.
Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever

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Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever

The myriad of books and programs that encourage people to stop smoking, get organized, spend less, or exercise more tend to focus on what or why to change, but rarely explain how to change. Living...
Ben Kaminsky
Dermatologist (Skin Specialist)

As you seek to control your stress response, it’s important to look at your “To Do” list to avoid becoming overly committed. Especially if you are balancing career, children, and other commitments, you should not feel guilty about prioritizing what is humanly possible.

Write down tasks that face you each day. As you schedule your day, budget ample time to get your work completed by calculating how long a project will take you, then add on an extra 15 to 30 minutes to allow yourself to go at a more moderate speed instead of always dashing in high gear. This will cut you some leeway, especially on those busy days when life’s stressors hold you back from optimum performance.

If you find that you have more tasks scheduled than time available, rewrite your list and prioritize the projects you must do, putting the lesser important projects or activities at the bottom of the list. These can always wait until another day, or you can delegate them to others. Sharing the load is crucial as you learn to balance your day, doing what your body will let you do without excessive stress or fatigue.

Take time weekly to evaluate your commitments and focus on those that are most important, saying “no” to the remaining tasks. Saying no, when appropriate, can bring your stress to a manageable level and give you some control over your life. Also, when you successfully follow through with your commitments, you can live without undue pressure and stress. 

Beyond Botox: 7 Strategies for Sexy, Ageless Skin Without Needles or Surgery

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Beyond Botox: 7 Strategies for Sexy, Ageless Skin Without Needles or Surgery

Sexy and ageless skin is possible for a woman at any age--and she doesn't have to resort to invasive treatments like Botox to get it-as long as she cares for her skin properly, says Ben Kaminsky, founder of B. Kamins, Chemist and leading authority in helping women's skin look healthy and beautiful. In Beyond Botox, Kaminsky provides a groundbreaking 7-step plan to help skin look younger and sexier...without Botox or surgical procedures. The book's plan is based in science and targeted specifically to women who are searching for a common-sense alternative to eating fish 6 days a week (a la Perricone). This plan includes scientific secrets on how exercising too vigorously can rob your skin of vitality; how getting 8 hours' sleep for a week will take years off your skin; and how using the right amount of moisturizer (and the right weight of moisturizer) will actually make a difference in how your skin looks and feels. Beyond Botox will not advocate use of only B. Kamins products. Kaminsky will talk about popular products and how to find creams that will make a difference on your skin type. B. Kamins, Chemist has established itself as THE skincare brand for women in midlife, and this book will establish itself as THE book for women who want vital-looking skin in midlife and beyond.

It is impossible to remove all stress from the human experience. However, persons can vastly improve the quality of their lives by better knowing the triggers for their stress, identifying the common symptoms of their stress, improving the management of their stress and enriching their self-care techniques, habits and rituals when times get tough. The following are guiding principles in stress management and common strategies to overcoming the burden of stress in our lives:

  • Avoid tobacco, alcohol and drug consumption.
  • Find support and a listening ear from a partner, family member, friend, counselor, doctor or clergyperson.
  • Do not isolate; instead connect socially, schedule activities, spend time with friends and loved ones.
  • Make health a priority, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet and enjoy what you cook.
  • Take a break and treat yourself to a therapeutic massage and regularly and vigorously exercise.
  • Establish a routine with regular and vigorous exercise aimed at relief of mental and physical tension.
  • Stay physically active, volunteer and give-give-give because smiles, humor and laughter are medicine.
  • Get plenty of sleep, a minimum of 6-8 hours each night and take steps to reduce insomnia from stress.
  • Slow down and take a time out, find solitude to nurture yourself before reaching the breaking point to cultivate inner-strength, self-awareness and emotional healing.
  • Try not to worry, set limits and boundaries, do not overextend or make too many commitments, find balance in work or school, family and friends.
  • Get organized, make "to do" lists, focus on tasks one at a time, plan ahead and allow enough time to get things done
  • Accept the things that cannot be changed and focus on breathing deeply and exhaling slowly and completely during tense moments, disappointments or stressful situations.

A healthy diet and physical activity will always be at the core of any stress management plan. In addition, you can manage stress with any technique that helps you relax, regroup and redirect yourself in a positive way, mentally and physically. In general, effective “stress-busting” techniques often include:

  • muscular relaxation (such as stretching, yoga or Pilates);
  • a quiet environment (such as going for a walk, or listening to soft, soothing music);
  • a passive attitude (easygoing and positive, not quick to anger);
  • deep breathing, sometimes with the repetition of a word or phrase; and
  • skills training to identify and reduce stress.

Of course, sometimes you may fall into a pattern of attempting to manage stress in unhealthy ways. These include overeating or under eating, smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, withdrawing from friends, or even using illicit drugs, to name a few. These behaviors are unhealthy and, more importantly, they do not ultimately help you manage stress. Rather, they may create more problems and challenges and continue the cycle of stress. 

The following steps can help you control stress in your life:

  • Understand what you can control: Stress often comes from trying to control situations or people's actions that are beyond our control. Avoidance also raises stress. Recognize the choices you do have. You may not be able to control world financial markets, but you can read your statements, control how you invest and make choices about how to spend your available income.
  • Say good things about yourself: This one is so simple, but many of us reinforce our stress by piling on with an internal negative voice. Research shows that affirming your personal values keeps production of cortisol, the stress hormone, low. The next time you catch yourself putting yourself down in your thoughts, say or write something good about yourself instead. And make the goals you set for yourself realistic.
  • Encourage the relaxation response: Try activities that use repetitive motion or sounds while also pushing aside everyday thoughts that might pop up. This helps quiet your mind. Good stress-relieving repetitive activities include knitting, running, prayer, playing a musical instrument, meditating or chanting a word or phrase.
  • Keep meals and sleep healthy: Eat more veggies, fruits and whole grains. Avoid sugar, caffeine and fatty foods as much as possible. Good fuel promotes emotional resilience and calm. And avoid eating when you're not hungry— another sign of chronic stress that can just lead to more tense feelings. Stress might also cause sleep loss, which makes you feel more stressed. Support healthy sleep by winding down at night, avoiding caffeine or food before bed and leaving enough time for a good night's rest.
  • Find a passion: Stress can narrow your vision, so it helps to move outside the boundaries of your current situation. Start with a small step—a one-night class in an artistic interest you haven't pursued before or two hours of volunteer effort for a community or charitable project—then see where that first step takes you. Many women find stress relief through a new passion for a career, hobby or cause.
Ann Gatty
Health Education Specialist

Stress creeps into our lives as we try to balance the always growing responsibilities in our professional and personal lives. So what can we do?

Take some time and make a list of all the demands you currently are trying to meet. By becoming aware of these responsibilities, you can sort and choose which you can personally handle, which tasks you should delegate and which tasks to eliminate. In other words, time management is an important component in reducing the stress in your life. Don't allow yourself to feel guilty delegating some of your responsibilities and cutting out the activities that are no longer relevant in your life. Pruning your list is a great way to re-establish your priorities.

Setting realistic and attainable goals is probably the best stress management for women. With clearly defined goals you begin to have a sense of priority and direction. When you are having trouble aligning yourself with the world around you, check your goals and see if you need to modify things to make the goals reflect your current living situation.

Thirdly, you can manage stress better if you are nice to yourself. Watch the negative voice inside your head.

Negative self-talk is always going to increase the amount of doubt and self-criticism that we experience. Review the strengths you bring to each situation and rely on those rather than criticizing yourself for not being the best at everything. Truly, we can be our own worst enemy.

With well-honed time management strategies, well-crafted goals and a positive attitude, we can move mountains and achieve our life ambitions. Stress is a barrier that, when well-managed, does not have to cause you to stumble.

Dr. Lisa Palmer
Marriage & Family Therapy Specialist

It has been said that "there is no stress, only stressful thoughts!" Truth be told though, we have all experienced stress, so it is very real to us when it happens, and affects us mentally, emotionally, physically and in our relationships!

There are many ways to manage stress. Here are a few quick tips:

  • First, be aware that stress is happening! You must be mindful of yourself enough to know that you are experiencing stress within your body and life, and how you are experiencing it. Sometimes individuals develop coping mechanisms to numb out or tune out their stress such as through a work addiction, shopaholism, drinking alcohol, bingeing and purging food, over exercising etc. Ultimately, these behaviors just lead to more stress!
  • Second, recognize that there is wisdom behind your experience! Stress is often a warning signal that something is off, and it is time to make a correction to get back in balance. Maybe you need to communicate more clearly about an important situation, set better boundaries and make more "margins" in your life for rest and self-nurturing activities. Sometimes stress is warning of danger or a need to protect yourself from a vulnerable situation. 
  • Third, you need acknowledge what it is you need to correct, and correct it. Noticing what needs to be different is important, but acknowledging and taking action to create balance is crucial. So, in the words of the old Nike advertisement "Just Do It!" Take charge of your life and begin to break habits and routines that are producing stressful thoughts and experiences. 
  • Fourth, practice outsmarting stressful situations. We all know that there are certain things and people we cannot escape such as our bills, our bosses, our co-workers. It would be so easy sometimes if we could snap our fingers and make our stressful issues disappear, but that is not the reality! The reality is learning how to be happy and balanced in spite of stress! So, ask yourself if there is a time when you feel a little less stressed in spite of the situation at hand, and what is happening then? What are you doing? What helps? Sometimes a small difference makes a difference! Perhaps you need a little more sleep or "Me Time". Maybe you need to process your thoughts and feelings. Figure out the times when the stress is not so stressful to you. Remember the WOWW rule. Work on What Works! Figure out what works and do more of it!
Dr. Patricia A. Bloom, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

A very effective way to reduce stress is to take the mind’s attention away from its usual set of worries, plans and reliving the past, and focus attention on something in the immediate moment. This practice is called mindfulness, and has been shown in many scientific studies to both reduce physical stress responses in the body and strengthen areas of the brain that can diminish the brain neural circuits of stress. Some people practice mindfulness with meditation practices, others with “active meditation” like yoga, and others by becoming fully absorbed in an experience, like appreciating a beautiful scene in nature or listening deeply to music. It’s what athletes call being “in the zone.” Find a way that you can teach your mind to spend more time in focused attention, and you’ll be treating yourself to stress reduction.

To avoid feeling stressed, broken and not in control of your life, take charge and make some changes. Here are few a tips that can go a long way:

  • Strive for a healthier lifestyle through proper nutrition, regular exercise and healthy sleep habits. This will give you the extra energy you need to tackle daily challenges.
  • Schedule downtime. Your mind and body need an opportunity to re-energize. The practice of mindfulness—staying in the moment and not worrying about the past or future—is helpful for many.
  • Avoid blurring the boundaries between work and home. In our always-connected world, this can be difficult. However, those who achieve this separation tend to do better in both areas.
  • Make a plan for the upcoming day or week. This will give you a sense of structure and direction. If necessary, write down, or use a planning tool, to enter your tasks and goals.
  • Be realistic about the things you can and can't do. There are only so many hours in a day, and many overschedule.
  • Learn to say "no" to those demands that don't align with your goals.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

We all deal with stressful things like traffic, arguments with spouses and job problems. Some researchers think that women manage stress in a unique way: they tend and befriend.

  • Tend: women protect and care for their children
  • Befriend: women seek out and receive social support

During stress, women tend to care for their children and find support from their female friends. Women's bodies make chemicals that are believed to promote these responses. One of these chemicals is oxytocin, which has a calming effect during stress. This is the same chemical released during childbirth and found at higher levels in breastfeeding mothers, who are believed to be calmer and more social than women who don't breastfeed. Women also have the hormone estrogen, which boosts the effects of oxytocin. Men, however, have high levels of testosterone during stress, which blocks the calming effects of oxytocin and causes hostility, withdrawal and anger.

This answer is based on the source infromation from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Dr. Dawn Marcus

The following are tips on how you can manage stress.

  • Learn good time management. Schedule a reasonable amount of activities, chores or goals for each day. Overloading your schedule will inevitably result in a stress response:
  • Write down which activities must be completed each day and delegate chores among members of your household.
  • Accept that life won't be perfect. It's more important to have a relaxed home than a spotless one.
  • Don't be afraid to say no. You can't volunteer for every worthwhile cause, and your kids don't need to participate in every possible afterschool activity. Prioritize what's important for you and your family.
  • Research shows that the healthiest volunteering is limited to no more than 2 hours per week.
  • Schedule "down time" every day for reading, reflection or a fun family activity.
  • Identify your stress buttons. Learn what events typically make you feel stressed. You might be stressed after meeting with your boss, helping with a school project or talking with a relative.
  • Anticipate when your stress buttons will be pushed, and practice relaxation techniques beforehand.
  • Stretch muscles when they first become tense.
  • Provide positive encouraging messages to yourself before the beginning of a stressful activity to reduce your stress response.
  • Practice daily "stress-busting."
  • Recognize and accept stressful events you can't control, such as the weather or other people's attitudes and behavior.
  • Plan for stress by recognizing when stressful events are most likely to occur.
  • Practice relaxation techniques and cognitive restructuring before encountering stress.
  • Ask for help from others—you don't have to do everything yourself!
  • Do aerobic exercise every day.
  • Consider learning and practicing yoga, Tai Chi and/or mindfulness meditation.
  • Eat regularly—don't skip meals.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Sing and find humor in your day.
The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

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Migraines are a common, controllable type of headache that affects one in every six women, more than 20 million in the United States alone. The Woman’s Migraine Toolkit helps readers take charge of...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.