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Thoughts on managing stress
Think stress is an inevitable part of life at Stanford? Think again.
While most of us have more stress in a normal day than our bodies are designed to handle, understanding and managing that stress is in our control.
BeWell talked with Fred Luskin, Ph.D., head of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, about the physical and emotional toll that stress puts on the body and mind. Dr. Luskin offers some simple tips that can make a difference in reducing daily stress.
How does stress manifest itself?
Stress manifests as a sense of threat that is felt in the body through increased heart rate and muscle tension, in the mind as extra alertness, and in the emotions as anxiety, anger or fear.
Why is stress harmful?
Stress is harmful when it lasts too long or when the situation is not really dangerous, but we respond as if it is. Stress is a full-body response that over time can weaken a person’s most vulnerable organ system. We also get used to our normal level of arousal and if that normal level remains too high we lose physical and mental bandwidth.
What practical advice can you offer?
If you have a persistent problem, take 30 seconds and try to solve it. It sounds simple, but instead of stressing, complaining and feeling sorry for yourself, ask yourself, “Is there a simpler way through this?” Make sure you are not overlooking an obvious solution. Many Issues can be solved with simple, direct and kind communication.
In other words, yell less and think and act more constructively.
Is there a simple change that can help?
Two of the simplest and most important practices are:
1. regularly appreciating what you have and holding on to the feeling for 10 seconds;
2. breathing slowly and deeply for 20 seconds throughout the day. Really focus on expanding your belly, which helps you let go of the stress you hold in your core. We hold our residual “fight or flight” impulses here. When you create a sense of safety inside of you, you reduce your mind’s desire to “catastrophize.”
… any final words?
Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten (laughter). I should know because my wife is a kindergarten teacher and we have the same curriculum. Be nice. Use your words. Hold hands when you cross the street. Seriously, try and re-frame your problems as challenges, and communicate your feelings often and with care.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna.