With all of life’s responsibilities, deadlines and appointments, stress can be almost unavoidable. It can come from moments of frustration, or long-term problems. Chronic stress can suppress immune, digestive, sleep, and reproductive systems, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. For optimal health, it’s important to know how to deal with the stresses in life, and to know when it’s time to seek help.
David J. Puder, MD, medical director of the MEND partial and intensive outpatient program at the Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center (BMC), offers three tips on how to keep stress at bay and help you manage the hectic times in your life.
Put it in perspective.
Stress can seem like an overpowering presence, but by taking a step back, you can see the bigger picture. “You may need to look at the deeper meaning of the stress and at any cognitive distortions that might be present in the midst of your thoughts about the stressful event,” Puder says. Things like overgeneralization, and all-or-nothing thinking can make a stress worse, and make it seem overwhelming, he says. To avoid this, try to remove yourself from the middle of the situation, and parse out the positives instead of seeing a situation as purely bad.
It’s well known that a sedentary lifestyle leads to a wide array of health problems, but people don’t always consider the ways exercise can contribute to good mental health. A strategy to help with the recovery from a current stress, or better tolerate future stress is to establish a good strength training exercise routine, Puder says. “I often recommend people start with full body exercises like squatting and deadlifting, and progressively increase the amount of stress (or weight) in those exercises over time,” he says. “This will impact how you tolerate future stress — both psychological or physical.”
By controlling your diet, you can reduce the effects of stress on the body. Due to increased levels of the stress hormones, stressed people are more likely to indulge in emotional eating, Puder says. “I often recommend people include good sources of fat in their diets, such as olive oil or nuts,” he says. “Green leafy vegetables are also a great choice because they are shown to improve overall cognitive function.”
By making these simple additions to your life, you can feel in control when life may seem overwhelming. Though these tips can help your life, it’s also important to recognize when you need more help. “If stress becomes too much, or you are thinking about suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker or professional counselor,” Puder says.
If you’re interested in learning more about stress-management or feel like someone you care about needs tips on dealing with stress, visit our behavioral health services website and learn more about how Loma Linda University Behavioral Medicine Center can help. Request information on a diagnosis or treatment, or any behavioral health concerns, and one of our intake coordinators will contact you.