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Central California Life Magazine

An Expert's 5 Easy Tips to Manage Stress

Jun 21, 2016 04:50PM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Your personal health is an important part of not only being successful, but being happy and healthy. However, stress tends to be a part of the daily lives of so many people. Stress is one of the leading causes of a variety of health issues, and is one of the more difficult things to overcome in such a demanding world. 

Hoyle Leigh, MD
Professor of Psychiatry

Luckily, we were able to get in touch with Hoyle Leigh, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco and the Fresno Medical Education Program, and hear his top 5 tips on how to reduce and manage stress. 

Stress is a reaction to something that challenges our resources, be it physical (for example, extreme heat, or a disease like cancer) or mostly psychological (for example, conflict with the boss).  Stress activates our fight-flight reaction initially, but if it becomes chronic, it can cause chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and many other medical problems and may even shorten one's life.  

On the other hand, overcoming acute stress can strengthen us and make us more resilient.  So, what can we do about stress?  To begin with, we must recognize that stress is a part of life - the only way to be free of stress is not to be alive. 

Recognizing that stress is part of life, we can think of two different ways of reducing its harmful effects.  

One is prevention - build up our resilience so that we are ready and even welcome challenges.  This means developing good coping skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and building up bodily resources through exercise and relaxation techniques including mindfulness, yoga, etc.  This is probably the most important measure in preventing noxious effects of stress. 

Second is stress management - What to do once we find ourselves stressed.

5 Stress Management Tips:

1. Identify the stressor and formulate a way of dealing with it, and write it down as an action plan.  This could even be "Action plan to be formulated later". Once you have written down the action plan, consider the problem solved for now. Then,do below in sequence or in any order:

2. Take a deep breath, exhale. Think of a face that always will make you smile - maybe the face of your child, loved one?  Then pay attention to your breathing, in and out, in and out. For as long as it takes, until your mind is focused only on the breathing.  If other thoughts come to you, recognize them, do not dwell on them, go back to paying attention to breathing.

3. Exercise. Take a walk, climb stairs, swim.  If you are so inclined, get a punching bag, a stationary bike, or any other exercise equipment.  Use it regularly.

4. Do a fun thing. Go to a movie, listen to music, read, play a video game. 

5. Talk with someone you can trust, a friend, spouse, or a therapist.  If you have chronic stress, talking to a therapist can do a lot of good.  Also, if there are physical consequences of chronic stress, medications may be needed.

By Dr. Hoyle Leigh, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, the Fresno Medical Education Program.

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Happy Reading,

Karen Maroot