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Expert tips for managing stress in your life

The word 'stress' inside a red circle with line through it.

Expert tips for managing stress in your life

August 03, 2012

Stress is a constant in today's fast-paced world. Turning off the news might offer some relief, but it probably won't make a difference in the long run. Dr. Carol Kryder, a clinical psychologist who runs her own practice and is a Expert on JustAnswer, shares insights about popular sources of stress and what to do about them.

JustAnswer: So why do you think stress levels are increasing?

Dr. Kryder: I believe it's because people are feeling the uncertainty in job security, finances, the economy and the future of our country, and it has a trickle-down effect to families and even children, manifesting in symptoms of stress.

It is of the utmost importance for people to learn how to manage stress, since it not only impacts mental health, but physical health. The reason is that when we are stressed, we activate the Amygdala, which is an organ in the brain, called the center of emotional memory. You may recognize it as the organ that produces the "fight or flight" response by pumping out mass quantities of adrenaline and cortisol, which are the stress hormones that feed the muscles allowing for the person to take action. This response was only meant for a short term reaction, but we can literally spend months in a state of this type of arousal, causing the brain to "marinate" in these stress hormones.

The emotional response to stress is anxiety, tension, irritability, insomnia, memory, and concentration problems and even phobias. The physical response is fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and muscle aches. Also, studies have shown that years of untreated depression and anxiety have a positive correlation with dementia, heart disease, and diabetes.

JustAnswer: Is managing stress difficult, and what can we do to handle ourselves in nerve-racking situations?

Dr. Kryder: Fortunately, it is not difficult to relieve stress. The first thing I recommend is that people learn how to do deep breathing. The way to do it is: Breathe in through the nose to the count of three -- hold your breath to the count of three -- then exhale through the mouth to the count of six. Repeat three times. This simple exercise clears the mind, reduces anxiety and actually will lower blood pressure.

The other thing I recommend is daily aerobic exercise. Our bodies are designed to move, and we all spend entirely too much time in sedentary activities. Anything will do, from walking to bicycling, to running to dancing. The trick is to find something you like and then do it daily. If you can manage 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day (and it doesn't even have to be consecutive!), you will notice that you have less stress and more energy.