While this blog started with a weight control focus, I soon realized that the answer was in living a healthy life, eating intelligently and exercising regularly. Right in harmony with those physical habits, I found that you can’t overlook the mental side of life and expect to succeed. As a result I have written numerous posts on dealing with stress. So, I was very pleased to run across this work on the subject from Harvard Medical School.
Protect yourself from damaging stress
To better cope with stress, consider how you might minimize factors that make it worse. Here are some tips that can help you better manage stress and hopefully prevent some of the damaging effects it could have on your brain.
Establish some control over your situation. If stress isn’t predictable, focus on controlling the things that are. “Having a routine is good for development and health,” says Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Predictability combats stress.
Get a good night’s sleep. Stress can result in sleep difficulties, and the resulting lack of sleep can make stress worse. “Sleep deprivation makes parts of the brain that handle higher-order functions work less well,” says Dr. Ressler. Having healthy sleep habits can help. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, avoiding caffeine after noon, and creating a relaxing sleep environment.
Get organized. Using strategies to help manage your workload can also reduce stress. For example, each day, create a concrete list of tasks you need to accomplish. This way, your duties won’t seem overwhelming. Making a list also gives you a clear end point so you know when you are done. “Laying tasks out like this helps reduce the feeling that the brain is being bombarded,” he says. It can also help you predict when you are likely to be stressed.
Get help if you need it. Reaching out can help you become more resilient and better able to manage stress, which may ultimately protect your brain health. Earlier intervention may reduce disability caused by stress-related complications later on.
Change your attitude toward stress. “A life without stress is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting — in fact, a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth,” says Dr. Ressler. So, rather than striving for no stress, strive for healthier responses to stress.
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