Healthy You - Every Day

Have Stress? Here's How to Deal

Experts explain stress and how to find the destressing techniques that work best for you

Dealing with stress

We’ve all been there.  You woke up tired, ran to the nearby coffee shop to get your favorite cup of Joe to help snap you out of that fatigue, only to spill it on your brand-new pants. Thank goodness it didn’t hurt too badly.  But you picked those pants because you have an important meeting at work – and now you’ll probably miss it.  What will your boss think?  Will you be in trouble?  How will you find the time for that other big project due tomorrow. The work keeps piling up, and you’re not sure where you’ll find the time to do it all.  Bad day or stress?  Probably a little bit of both.

Then there’s the big stressors: financial hardship, relationship struggles, sickness in the family – and to top it all off, a pandemic that doesn’t seem to have an expiration date.

The harsh truth is we all have stress, and we probably always will to some degree, says Susan Wiley, MD, co-founder of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Center for Mindfulness.

Defining stress

“We are regularly dealing with stress.  That is what human beings do. How we define ‘stress’ is an important question,” Wiley says.  “My favorite definition of stress is, ‘The perception that the anticipated challenge exceeds our perceived resources to respond to it.’  We often misperceive the imagined challenge and our own resources. Thus, a great deal of stress exists in the imagined future, rather than the present.”

“How we cope with stress will determine much of the fabric of our lives,” Wiley says.

Stress and your health

Letting stress take over can place a serious toll on your health, says Orlando Rivera, director of quality for Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute.

“Stress stimulates the fight or flight response, and releases the hormone adrenaline,” Rivera says.  “That speeds everything up, raises your blood pressure and your heart rate. It can lead to hypertension and other issues.”

According to Rivera, there has been an increase in stress-related diseases since the start of the pandemic.  

The key is to find healthy ways to handle stress.

Stress strategies

“How we cope with stress will determine much of the fabric of our lives,” Wiley says.  “We might define ‘healthy strategies’ as those that promote health and well-being in yourself and those around you.”

Different things work for different people, explains Rivera.  While some people may prefer deep breathing exercises, for example, others may find more success taking a walk or hitting the gym.

“There are a million things you can do. Whatever works for you to slow down and just come back to that rhythm where you’re trying to actively reduce that stress,” Rivera says.

Mindfulness is another great way to tackle stress.

Try mindfulness

“Mindfulness is a practice of paying attention to what is happening right now, in the present moment, with an attitude of curiosity,” Wiley says.

Mindfulness may sound easy – but for many it is something that truly needs to be “practiced,” meaning it might take a few tries to get comfortable with it.

Even after just a few minutes, you may feel restless, sleepy, and like your mind is racing from one thing to the next.  That’s OK.

When you take a step back and relax your mind and body, you might ask yourself, ‘What is here to be noticed?’,” Wiley says.  “Take note of where your mind goes, how you physically feel and what comes to your attention, both internally and externally.  Patiently observe these changes without judging them over and over again.

Mindfulness can evoke relaxation. It also can direct us to be more aware of ourselves, including how we feel, and the environment around us.

“By bringing the mind into the present moment, much of the stress of anticipating the future or reviewing the past is released,” Wiley says.  “From this, one can develop a new perspective on a present challenge. The perception of both the challenge and your resources to meet it may shift.”

LVHN Center for Mindfulness offers a variety of ways to learn to meditate and has programs for both colleagues and community members.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

Recognize how stress affects your life and learn to manage it.

at The Center for Mindfulness

Orlando Rivera on WFMZ

Rivera appears on Life Lessons "How to handle workplace stress in a healthy way"

Watch here




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