Stressed out? Tips for taking control

January 14, 2013

While part of everyday life, stress seems to intensify around the holidays and into the new year.

Resolutions lead to reflection, which often causes added to our thinking:

  • "I spent too much."
  • "I couldn't afford what my children wanted."
  • "I didn't get to see my family."
  • "I didn't have time to travel."
  • "I was supposed to get in shape and lose weight."
Dr. Alan Gelenberg, chair of the Department of Psychiatry, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says the added pressure can take a physical, mental and emotional toll.

Outward signs of stress may include an increase in coping habits like picking skin, pulling hair, cracking knuckles, or chewing your lip. Physical symptoms also are common including lower back or due to tension, fatigue, heartburn, constipation, abdominal cramps, , or . Some people may be unable to sleep or sleep well.

"Different people will experience tension and stress in different parts of their body or mind," Gelenberg said. The mental and emotional side effects can be a concern as well if usual like exercise, talking to a friend, or taking the time to think things through are not working. If a person isn't getting out of bed, meeting daily responsibilities, going to or performing regular duties while at work, sustaining important relationships, or is considering , it's time to seek professional help starting with a physician.

Gelenberg offered some practical advice for not allowing stress to get beyond your control:

  • Prioritize. Take some time to reflect and decide what's important. Create reasonable goals and work on one at a time so you don't overwhelm yourself.
  • Don't deny it. Some people prefer to over-schedule themselves or prefer to remain as busy as possible rather than face the problems in their marriage or mounting . The longer you avoid it, the worse it will be.
  • Ask for help, delegate. If you have a problem that is beyond you, whether it be health related or economic, research your options and find out what kind of relief might be available. Seek help from a social worker, a counselor, your family, or your church. "When people take huge burdens on themselves alone, their knees will buckle at some point," Gelenberg said. "We're fragile. We're flesh and blood, and we can't just keep sustaining body blows."
  • Say no. Some of us add stress when we pile on tasks and say 'yes' to too many others' requests. It's important to have reasonable expectations for yourself and practice saying 'no' to keep those expectations in check.
  • Exercise self-discipline. Don't create a long to-do list for yourself and then sit on Facebook for hours at a time and get nothing done.
  • Sleep. Taking care of yourself seems to drop to the bottom of the list when stressed. When the stress mounts, people will shortchange themselves on sleep. Avoid high-intensity activities before going to bed. Practice good sleep hygiene and add time before bed to calm down to insure good quality sleep time.
  • Listen. If a friend or family member expresses concern about your health or behavior, pay attention. They are trying to help.
  • Find what works for you. Everyone has some level of anxiety and some of us are more anxious than others. If you have an anxious or depressive temperament, it's especially important to find ways to deal with stress. There are behavioral techniques, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation methods you can learn to reduce stress. In addition, learn what amount of sleep, alone time, exercise, etc. you require in order to lessen your anxiety.

Explore further: 10-minute 'tension tamer' can help reduce stress and improve sleep

Related Stories

10-minute 'tension tamer' can help reduce stress and improve sleep

October 22, 2012
A simple, 10-minute stress reduction technique could help to relieve stress, improve sleep quality, and decrease fatigue.

Putting your mental health in order

September 14, 2012
(HealthDay)—Living without stress may seem nearly impossible these days. Technology beckons at all hours for you to read just one more tweet or text. Politics are polarizing. Costs are rising, but salaries not so much.

Five tips for a better night's sleep

April 17, 2012
There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to get you going in the morning. Drexel’s Dr. Joanne Getsy offers some tips to jump start your body and mind.

Less sleep may be answer to beating bedtime blues

May 8, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Restricting the amount of time a child spends in bed could lower levels of sleep-related stress and anxiety, a Flinders University researcher believes.

Dial down your holiday stress

November 22, 2012
(HealthDay)—From crowded shopping malls to unpaid bills to an onslaught of out-of-town guests, the holidays can cause overwhelming stress. One way to remain calm is to manage unrealistic expectations, experts advise.

Recommended for you

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Heart rate study tests emotional impact of Shakespeare

July 26, 2017
In a world where on-screen violence has become commonplace, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is turning to science to discover whether the playwright can still make our hearts race more than 400 years on.

Do all people experience similar near-death-experiences?

July 26, 2017
No one really knows what happens when we die, but many people have stories to tell about what they experienced while being close to death. People who have had a near-death-experience usually report very rich and detailed ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.