Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
How to cope with life’s challenges
Stress is caused by the
body’s instinct to defend itself. This instinct— sometimes called
the fight-or-flight response—is good in emergencies, such as getting out
of the way of a speeding car. But it can cause physical symptoms if it goes on
for too long, such as in response to life’s daily challenges and changes.
When this happens, it’s as though your body gets ready to jump out of the
way of the car, but you’re sitting still. Your body is working overtime,
with no place to put all the extra energy. This can make you feel anxious,
afraid, worried and
What changes may
Any sort of change can
make you feel stressed, even good change. It’s not just the change or
event itself, but also how you react to it that matters. What may be stressful
is different for each person. For example, one person may not feel stressed by
retiring from work, while another may feel stressed. Other things that may be
stressful include being laid off from your job, your child leaving or returning
home, the death of your spouse, divorce or marriage, an illness, an injury, a
job promotion, money problems, moving, or having a
Can stress hurt my
Stress can cause health
problems or make problems worse if you don’t learn ways to deal with it.
Talk to your family doctor if you think some of your symptoms are due to stress.
It’s important to make sure that your symptoms aren’t caused by
other health problems.
• Anxiety • Back
• Constipation or diarrhea •
• Fatigue •
• Heart attack • High blood
• Insomnia • Problems with
• Shortness of breath • Stiff
• Upset stomach • Weight gain or
The first step is to learn to
recognize when you’re feeling stressed. Early warning signs of stress
include tension in your shoulders and neck, or clenching your hands into fists.
With your doctor’s help, you can learn to identify things in your life
that are causing stress and you can learn to become aware of how your body
reacts to the stress.
The next step is
to choose a way to deal with your stress. One way is to avoid the event or thing
that leads to your stress—but this is often not possible. A second way is
to change how you react to stress. In many cases, this is the best
What can I do to
reduce my stress?
Tips for dealing
- Don’t worry about things you can’t
control, like the weather.
- Do something about the things you can
- Prepare to the best of your ability for events
you know may be stressful.
- Work to resolve conflicts with other
- Ask for help from friends, family or
- Set realistic goals at home and at
- Get away from your daily stresses with group
sports, social events, hobbies.
- Don’t try to do more than you really can.
Say no if someone asks you to do something you don’t have time to
- Try to look at change as a positive challenge,
Exercise is a good way
to deal with stress because it is a healthy way to relieve your pent-up energy
and tension. It also helps you get in better shape, which makes you feel better
Meditation is a form of
guided thought. It can take many forms. You may do it with exercise that uses
the same motions over and over, like walking or swimming. You may do it by
practicing relaxation training, by stretching or by breathing
This is easy. Start by
choosing a muscle and holding it tight for a few seconds. Many people find it
helps to start with the muscles of the feet and work their way up. Relax the
muscle after a few seconds. Do this with all of your
can also help relieve tension. Roll your head in a gentle circle. Reach toward
the ceiling and bend side to side slowly. Roll your shoulders. All of these
things can help you relax.
breathing (see below)
breathing by itself may help relieve stress. This helps you get plenty of
oxygen. While you’re meditating, don’t try to stop yourself from
thinking about things. Just try not to focus on any one thing for too long. Let
your thoughts flow. If you want more help treating stress symptoms, ask your
family doctor for advice or for a referral to a health professional with special
Steps to deep
- Lie down on a flat surface.
- Place one hand on your stomach, just above your
navel. Place the other hand on your chest.
- Breathe in slowly and try to make your stomach
rise a little.
- Hold your breath for a second.
- Breathe out slowly and let your stomach go back