Super Tools for Handling Stress

I have written about stress here several times. It plays a major part in our overall health, both mental and physical. A secondary negative from not coping well with stress is overeating. So, if you are battling a weight problem, the way you cope with stress may be one of the reasons.

Today I want to go over some really good points on coping strategies that can apply to anyone including the over eater.

I go to the Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program ® which is free to adults over 55 years of age who are interested in learning about a variety of healthcare issues. The program offers educational lectures that discuss symptoms, risk factors and treatments for a variety of medical conditions.

Today’s presentation was on “How Thoughts Impact Our Mood” delivered by Maggie Crowley, Psy.D., a Health Psychologist at the center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group.

Dr. Crowley offered some very useful insights on stress as well as coping mechanisms which we have not covered previously in the blog.

She listed the following maladaptive coping strategies:
*Demand our circumstances be different
*Devalue ourselves and others
*Demean/blame ourselves and others
*When the above fail to work, do we choose another strategy?
*Or, do we double our ill-conceived efforts and feed our downward spiral.

It’s good to see these enumerated and ask ourselves how many times we react to stressful situations with one of them.

She noted that “Stress is not caused by events alone.” What we say to ourselves – our thoughts – plays a big part in the stress experience.

Dr. Crowley said that we needed something to shift our mental gears out of the stressful/fearful response that triggers that damaging cascade of negative emotion. She suggested the following activities that set off the parasympathetic approach:
*Practicing appreciation
*Making choices that are positive
*Using constructive language
*Employing our strengths and personal power.

When we practice appreciation, we turn off the anxious instincts triggered by the stress response. The heart, brain and endocrine system work in sync and heal. It is impossible for the brain to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time. So, appreciation is the antidote for fear and stress.

According to Dr. Crowley, engaging in appreciation creates a perceptual shift. It doesn’t change the facts confronting us, but it does change how we view them.

She suggested we do daily an appreciation audit in which we reserve 3 to 5 minutes to think about something that we deeply appreciate/love. It can be anything, spouse, child, parent, chocolate chip cookies, a pet … the quality of the feeling is the key.

She said this is a form of focused meditation which has shown to have a powerful impact on the balance of the nervous system. It affects the brain’s neurotransmitters. The cardiovascular profile is impacted positively in that the parasympathetic state creates strong readings on electrocardiograms. Lastly, it releases muscular tension.

Dr. Crowley credited the appreciation concepts to Dr. Dan Baker PhD. who explained them in his book What Happy People Know.

Dr. Crowley’s insights and tools form a useful addition to our previous blog posts on stress as well as relaxation.



Filed under aging, brain, relaxation, stress

9 responses to “Super Tools for Handling Stress

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  2. I’m in a very stressful situation with someone right now. She really thinks that I’m lying to her when in fact I told her everything. It’s been more than three weeks into the stressful situation for me and I seriously needed something good going for me. I guess this article can be very helpful in a way that I can smile a bit even if I’m in a terrible terrible point in my life.


    • Eric –

      Based on this blog entry as well as our others on stress, I would say that at this point you need to realize that the problem is hers not yours. Once you have told your partner all the facts, the matter is out of your hands. It is her decision whether to believe you or not. You can not control what someone else thinks or feels, no matter how right or wrong they may be and no matter how much you may love that person.

      What you can control is how you react to her decision. Continuing to torture yourself over it is very distressing on you mentally, but possibly worse, you are putting your body in a state of chronic stress that can cause you serious damage as we have written in numerous blog posts. You can find them with the search function or click on the stress tag.

      You need to accept and live with her decision, right or wrong, and move on.

      I suggest you read over the blog items on handling stress as well as relaxation.

      Good luck!



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  7. Dr. Crowley brings up excellent points. We spend more time worrying about stress than we do learning how to find positive methods to channel it. Stress is NOT always bad. Exercise creates a stress response within the body, yet doesn’t produce long term harm unless the exercise exceeds healthy boundaries. People need to learn to find these healthy channels to offset the harms of chronic stress. These healthy channels are all part of a LIFESTYLE seeking Physical, Mental and Spiritual BALANCE.

    Liked by 1 person

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