Healthy Tips

December 21, 2016

Stress: Do You Control It or Does It Control You?

Stress: Do You Control It or Does It Control You?

If you feel like stress has you under its control, there are actions you can take to change that.

Control your stress level by selecting one of the following habits to begin practicing this week.

Use positive self-talk at least once a day. Practicing positive self-talk at least one a day can help you control your level of stress. Negative self-talk increases stress; however, positive self-talk helps you calm down and control stress. Instead of saying “I can’t do this” try saying “I’ll do the best I can.” Instead of overwhelming yourself even more by saying “Everything is going wrong” try calming yourself by saying “I can handle things if I take one step at a time.”

Use emergency stress stoppers when facing stressful situations. Stress can happen anywhere – at work, at home, on the road, and in public places. Stress can be the result of poor communication, too much work, and everyday hassles like standing in line. Emergency stress stoppers that can help you deal with stress on the spot include counting to 10 before you speak, driving in the slow lane or avoid busy roads, and breaking down big problems into smaller parts instead of dealing with everything at once.

Spend at least 15 minutes every day finding pleasure in something you enjoy. Doing things you enjoy is a natural way to fight off stress. You don’t have to take a long vacation to feel pleasure. Every day do at least one thing you enjoy – even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Some things you might try include listening to music, reading, and going for a nature walk. If you have a hard time thinking of things, make a list of everything you still want to do in life and choose something from that list to begin doing.

Practice daily relaxation, such as deep breathing or another relaxation technique. There is more to relaxation than sitting on the sofa and watching television. Relaxation should calm the tension in your mind and body. Yoga, tai chi, and meditation are some good forms of relaxation. Deep breathing is also a good way to relax. It’s a good way to start the day, end the day, or to practice throughout the day. Follow these steps to get started:

1) Sit in a comfortable position with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap. You might prefer to lie down. Close your eyes.

2) Picture yourself in a peaceful place – lying on the beach, walking in the mountains, or floating in the clouds. Hold this scene in your mind.

3) Inhale and exhale. Focus on breathing slowly and deeply.

4) Continue to breathe slowly for 10 minutes or more.

5) Open your eyes slowly. Pay attention to how relaxed you feel before you return to activities of the day.

Stress and health are connected. By controlling your stress you can also take better care of your health. When you have chronic stress, your body stays alert even though there is no danger. Over time, this puts you at risk for health problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If you already have a health condition, chronic stress can make it worse.

Signs of too much stress include forgetfulness, tiredness, upset stomach, and lack of focus.

If you feel overwhelmed by stress or like it is affecting your health, call your health care provider. Reasons you might want to seek help include having feelings of panic such as dizziness, rapid breathing, or a racing heartbeat; being unable to work or function at home or in your job; having fears that you cannot control; and having memories of a traumatic event.

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call a suicide hotline – 1-800-273-8255.

If you don't have a doctor and would like help finding one, call Healthcare Coordination to make an appointment.

For reliable information on how to take better care of your health or a loved one’s health — or on any health related topic — contact the Health Information Center.

Staffed by medical librarians and certified health information specialists, the Health Information Center offers an extensive health library, digital and print resources, walk-in assistance, and help with research on specific health conditions — all free of charge and available to the public.

This healthy tip is provided by the Health Information Center at The University of Tennessee Medical Center.