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003 - Stress Management

posted Nov 9, 2015, 1:16 PM by Doug Muha   [ updated Nov 9, 2015, 1:17 PM ]

Counselor Notes 3

December 20, 2011

Stress Management



As the holidays are often one of the more stressful periods of the year, I though I would devote this issue of Counselor Notes to dealing with stress.  Here are some ideas:
   
1.  Get Your Priorities Straight
  
Not having enough time is one of the things people find most stressful.  What is most important to you?  One can only do so much.   A lot of stress comes from trying to do too much.  Decline and delegate some things.  Make a plan.   Be realistic.  Some bring a great deal of stress on themselves by setting expectations too high.
  
2.  Make A Budget
  
The other great stressor with lack of time is lack of money.  Make a realistic budget and stick to it.  Don’t run up the credit card.  Talk to a financial planner if you need help. 
  
3.  Get Enough Sleep
  
A tired body is much more easily stressed.  More on sleep coming up in a future issue of Counselor Notes.
  
4.  Exercise
 
Exercise has a positive effect on stress (and anxiety):  http://www.holisticonline.com/remedies/Anxiety/anx_exercise.htm
  
Aerobic exercise is particularly good for a person dealing with stress.  It is going to help more than something like playing softball.  Here are some of the benefits of aerobic exercise listed by  http://www.aerobictest.com/AerobicFitnessImportance.htm
  
1.   Lowering of high blood pressure.
2.   Increasing the high density lipoprotein (HDL) in the blood which helps collect the cholesterol in the blood and dispose of it in the liver.
3.   Lowering the plasma triglyceride levels (fatty substances).
4.   Assisting in weight control, mainly by reducing body fat.
5.   Improving the function of the heart, by promoting beneficial changes in the structure and function of the coronary arteries (which provide oxygen to the heart muscle.
6.   Alleviating muscle pain and improving walking capability in people who suffer from peripheral arterial disease.
7.   Reduction in the rate of occurrence of various types of cancer involving the colon, breast, prostate, and lungs.
8.   Assistance in the prevention of osteoporosis (loss in bone mineral density).
9.   Prevention of lower back pain. Reduction in the incidence of stroke.
10.  Improvement in the functioning of the immune system.
11.  Decreasing the insulin requirement and improving glucose control in Type 1 (insulin dependent) diabetes; preventing the development of Type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes, and improving glucose tolerance if this condition exists.
12.  Strengthening of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints.
13.  Assistance in the control of joint pain and swelling in people who suffer from arthritis.
14.  Improving temperature regulation at rest and during exercise in different environments.
15.  Improving blood pressure control, and minimizing fainting in people who are prone to this condition.
  
  
5.  Get Out of the House
  
The University of California at Irvine once published a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology about a study with 112 stressed our young adults.  They split them into two groups: one spent time in a room with a view of trees and then took a walk in a nature preserve.  The second group was in a room without a window and then went for a walk in an urban area.  Those that were in the first group had lower blood pressure and a better mood.  
   
6.  Gardening
  
Okay, this is the wrong season for gardening, but do keep it in mind when spring rolls around.  This is actually a good stress busting activity on several levels (outdoors, moving, creating, sunlight, fresh air, good smells of the garden, etc.)  .
  
Though not traditionally considered a stress buster, gardening may actually have something to offer.  From Time Magazine http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,994173,00.html
  
·         Studies show that regular yard work can lower stress levels and provide a workout that compares with other exercise regimes. It's also an effective weapon in battling osteoporosis. Researchers at the University of Arkansas found that women over 50 who engaged in regular home gardening had higher bone-density readings than those who performed activities more typically thought of as exercise, including jogging, cycling, swimming, walking and aerobics.
·         The group exposed to greenery had decreased blood pressure and elevated mood, some in just a few minutes. Studies by Texas A&M University's Roger Ulrich have found that surgical patients in hospital rooms with landscape views recover faster than those without.
HT is also a valuable tool for treating depression and substance abuse. "It's about using plants as the tool to reach therapeutic goals," says Easterling, who began her career as a clinical social worker but became frustrated when "words were not enough to reach some patients." By using plants, she says, you "create a connection with the natural world. Learning that you can take care of a living thing and it responds can be very powerful."
   
7.  Laugh! 
 
  
Scientific proof of this has come from the medical school at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Dr. Sven Svenbak tracked 54,000 Norwegians for seven years and discovered that those individuals who found life the funniest lived longer than their less mirthful countrymen. People who found the world to be the most humorous were 35 percent more likely to still be alive at the end of the seven years of the study and cancer patients were many times more likely to survive if they managed to maintain their sense of humor despite their cancer diagnosis.
  
Norman Cousins calls laughter “a form of internal jogging” and recent studies from Greece have shown that the act of hearty laughter, just like physical exercise, decreases arterial stiffness. Japanese researchers have demonstrated better blood sugar control in diabetics who laugh regularly, while research from Western Kentucky University has shown that laughter can improve the cancer killing ability of NK (natural killer) cells. Other studies have shown that laughter can decrease stress, increase pain tolerance, reduce depression and improve quality of life.
  
  
8.  Diet 
 
Here are some notes on stress from a favorite book of mine titled “Food & Mood” by Elizabeth Somer (ISBN #0-8050-3125-1)  Chapter 7 is specifically devoted to stress and diet.   Here are some of the things I found in the chapter:
  •  A “nutritional deficiency” is stressful to the body. 
  • “The link between magnesium and stress is so strong that researchers at the American College of Nutrition recommend supplementing with magnesium during times of stress because of magnesium loss and elevated requirements.”  (p. 161)
  • In studies done on animals, “magnesium deficiency increased sensitivity to noise and overcrowding…”  (p. 160)
  • “The immune system” depends on a constant supply of vitamin C.”  (p. 161)
  • “People with poorly functioning immune systems also have low blood levels of zinc.”  (p. 161)
  • “In short, sugar and caffeine only make stressed matters worse.”  (p. 166)
  • “Coffee consumed with food can reduce mineral absorption, especially iron, by as much as 90% and can rob the body of other minerals such as calcium and magnesium….”  (p. 166) 
  • “…coffee drinkers take longer to fall asleep, sleep less soundly, and wake up more often….  It is not clear whether these effects are caused by caffeine or by one or more of the other 300 compounds in coffee.”  (p. 167)
  • “A high sugar diet also increases urinary loss of minerals, including magnesium and chromium.”  (p. 167)
Remember that calcium and magnesium, and zinc were noted in the earlier email on depression.  
  
9.  High Fructose Corn Syrup
 
It may be a popular sweetener, but it may also increase anxiety.  Check out:  http://www.foodaq.com/html/General/200771.html   (And sodas like Coke and Dr Pepper are loaded with it.  It is actually in lots of things including some breads, ketchups, and breakfast cereals.  Best to read the labels. )   
  
10.  Quit Smoking
  
Some will say that smoking cigarettes relaxes them.  This is only true in that it relieves the withdrawal symptoms your body is going into as it starts to crave more nicotine.   If you truly want to relax, then you aren’t going to be giving your body addictive stimulants.  (Nicotine is considered to be in the class of drugs known as stimulants.) 
  
11.  Aromatherapy
 
Smells (aromas) may actually help with stress.  Check out this article from Discovery Health: http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/aromatherapy/aromatherapy-stress-relief.htm  
  
U.S. News & World Report once had this printed (P. 48 of the December 31, 2007 – January 7, 2008 issue http://www.usnews.com/news/50-ways-to-improve-your-life/articles/2007/12/20/smell-the-roses-really ):
  
The sense of smell influences people in subtle, unexpected—even emotional—ways. Rachel Herz, a research psychologist at Brown University and author of The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell, says that "unlike any of our other sensory systems, smells become...immediately attached to emotion because [smell and emotion are] basically processed in the same part of the brain." According to Herz, odor-evoked memory is "uniquely emotionally potent and evocative."
  
Smell not only unlocks memories; it also triggers changes in mood, heartbeat, breathing, and behavior, says Herz. For many women, body odor trumps looks when evaluating male attractiveness, and—according to the research—a woman can be especially drawn to a man whose sweat, to her, smells good. An impaired sense of smell can signal early-onset Alzheimer's; a lost sense of smell—anosmia—may lead to depression. Subliminal "good" or "bad" scents may affect people's assessments of "likability" in human faces. For some people, the smell of peppermint may enhance alertness while that of lavender may soothe anxiety. In one study, vanilla was used as a tool for controlling food cravings.
 
If this all sounds like a bunch of nonsense, next time you are stressed out, go spend 20 minutes in a flower shop and see if you aren't more relaxed when you leave.
  
12.  Forgive 
 
Forgiveness is apparently a means of reducing stress.  (The famous Mayo Clinic’s web site http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/forgiveness/MH00131   had this posted:
  
What are the benefits of forgiving someone? Researchers have recently become interested in studying the effects of being unforgiving and being forgiving. Evidence is mounting that holding on to grudges and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits, including: 
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Stress reduction
  • Less hostility
  • Better anger management skills
  • Lower heart rate
  • Lower risk of alcohol or substance abuse
  • Fewer depression symptoms
  • Fewer anxiety symptoms
  • Reduction in chronic pain
  • More friendships
  • Healthier relationships
  • Greater religious or spiritual well-being
  • Improved psychological well-being
Also, as stress and anxiety are tied together, check this out about war veterans:
“What we found is that the veterans who had difficulty forgiving others, difficulty forgiving themselves, and who used more negative religious coping approaches had greater levels of depression and more intense post-traumatic stress symptoms. Difficulty forgiving themselves was also related to more anxiety in general."   -  http://todaysseniorsnetwork.com/forgiveness_helps.htm
 
13.  Yoga & Meditation
 
“…  researchers found that the more a person practices [meditation], the more stress-reduction benefits he or she receives. It appears that just going to the six or eight weeks of classes is not enough, however; those who showed the best outcomes had meditated on their own time as well, Raison said. The available data suggest that you can get stress-related benefits from meditating three to four times a week, he said.”  http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/18/meditation-reduces-stress-instills-compassion/?hpt=Sbin/  
 
As for yoga, we can readily notice that when we feel stress in our minds, we can find it also manifesting in the body.  (Ex: tight muscles.)  As the mind and body are one interconnected system, relaxing the body through yoga can in turn help the mind relax.
   
14.  Touch
 
This isn’t typically mentioned as a tip for dealing with stress, but I thought I would pass it along anyway:
 
In 2003, The Tennessean carried an article about the impact hugs had on stress.  In the study (which was reported at a meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society), 100 adults with spouses or long-term partners held hands while viewing a pleasant 10 minute video and then asked to hug for 20 seconds.  Another group of 85 rested quietly without their partners.  All the 185 participants then spoke about an angry or stressful event.  (This was to drive up their heartbeat and blood pressure.) 
 
 After the talk of the stressful/angry event, the researchers measured the heartbeat and blood pressure of all the participants.  The blood pressure results showed the systolic (upper) reading of the no contact group jumping 24 points as opposed to 12 for the contact group.  The diastolic (lower) reading also “increased significantly.”   The no contact group also had a heart rate increase of double the contact group (10 beats per minute as opposed to 5 for the contact group). 
 
The article further went on to say that “research shows touch lowers output of cortisol, a stress hormone.  When cortisol dips, there’s a surge of two ‘feel good’ brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.”  (Tennessean, March 30, 2003, page 7D)
 
This CNN article would agree:
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/01/05/touching.makes.you.healthier.health/index.html?hpt=Sbin
 
Massage can be a great stress buster too.  http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/features/massage-therapy-stress-relief-much-more
 
15.  Monitor Your Media Diet
 
The news spends a whole lot more time broadcasting the scary and depressing stories than the uplifting ones.  Be aware of what you immerse yourself in.  Regarding movies and t.v., watch more comedy and less drama and horror.
 
16.  Music
 
Relaxing music relaxes.  Why listen to raucous music if you want to find peace of mind? 
 
17.  Therapy

Talk to a professional therapist about your stress level.  A therapist who practices cognitive-behavioral therapy is using a form of therapy that has demonstrated its effectiveness in dealing with stress.  (Note: not all therapists practice cognitive-behavioral therapy though.)     
 
18.  Faith
 
Remember the big picture!  Find a faith that appeals to your "highest self" and practice it.

Here is a good article on stress from the Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/stress-tips-calm-your-min_b_540885.html

I hope everyone has a very happy holiday!
 
Doug Muha  Ed.S
muhad@hcss.org  
School Counselor

Waverly Elementary School






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