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New year, no stress, part 2

PacMed doctor explains how to embrace 2018 with open arms

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In part 2, Pacific Medical Center Psychotherapist Chia-Wen Moon, LMHC, has some sound advice for coping with post-holiday stress, making it easier to embrace 2018 with open arms.

What negative effects does stress have on the body and mind? Reversely, what positive traits can be found once this stress is treated?

When people are faced with stress, there are a variety of symptoms that take a toll on the body such as fatigue, issues sleeping, severe headaches, stomachaches and even chest pain. Mounting stress and anxiety can also greatly affect our psychological thoughts and can cause us to be less resilient, more agitated, easily distracted and depressed. When someone is completely enveloped in stress and anxiety, he or she can completely shut down, become withdrawn and be unable to function normally.

With these serious side effects in mind, it's imperative for people to be aware of potential stress triggers and symptoms so they can address them early on. The first step to eliminating stress is to change your perception of the stressors that are triggering a negative response. By taking a moment to reflect and let go of things you have no control over, you will feel relief and prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed over things you can't change. Once you have a different perspective on your stressors, being proactive to address them directly will also help prevent stress from building. Once people are able to take a deep breath, reflect and put things in perspective, they often notice improved focus, fewer body aches, fewer headaches and better relationships with those around them.

If stress does ensue, what practices and resources can people utilize to cope with it?

The easiest way to cope with stress is to address it right away and practice breathing exercises that focus on the body and mind. A simple exercise such as inhaling and counting to four, exhaling and counting to six and repeating can help reset your mind. Additionally, learning from past mistakes will help you plan for the future and reduce potential negative outcomes that can urge stress. For example, if you have overcommitted to responsibilities in the past and found that it led to anxiety and burnout, give yourself permission to take a step back and eliminate some of your commitments. Instead, make time to give yourself space and evaluate what's on your plate before saying yes to additional requests.

When faced with stress, taking a mental break is another quick way to compartmentalize your thoughts and determine a thoughtful approach. Going for a walk, taking a long shower or talking to a friend can help you reflect on your thoughts and determine the best approach to tackling your responsibilities head on.

If stress becomes a recurring issue that greatly affects your well-being, it's always good to assess the resources at hand to help resolve issues with anxiety. Reaching out for support and talking to your primary care doctor, or making time to see a therapist to discuss your concerns, will leave you feeling relieved and supported knowing that your feelings are justified and easily cured.  

Do you have any physical, emotional and mental daily practices to alleviate stress on a regular basis?

Start the day with some intentions -- write down three things to focus on today.
Below are some tips for practices that can help reduce stress on a daily basis.

  • Take a break from work. Schedule mini-breaks throughout the workday where you can step away from your computer and squeeze in some quick stretches, a water break, or a walk around the block to clear your mind.
  • Eat healthily and mindfully. Making sure that you never under eat or over eat will ensure that your body is properly fueled and ready to take on any challenges that come your way.
  • Practice yoga, exercise or meditation. These thoughtful exercises promote mindfulness, being present and encourage one's personal connection with the body and mind, leaving people feeling calm, focused and relaxed.
  • End-of-the-day reflection. At the end of your day, reflect on one positive thing that you enjoyed or accomplished to celebrate the small milestones. Taking a moment to be grateful for the positive aspects of your life will help release the burden of negative stressors.

What else would you like readers to know about stress and healthy coping mechanisms?

Stress is not always bad for you. It depends on how much we are aware of it and how we deal with it. We all have stress, and it can actually motivate us to do positive things. However, when stress levels get overwhelming, such as when we accumulate too much responsibility, then it can become a problem and have an adverse effect on health.

It's imperative to increase awareness of stress triggers and see how people relate to their stress. By being able to identify the symptoms and take a step back to organize your thoughts, you're able to control and alleviate the negative effects of stress.

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