Mindful Stress Management
Forget the old saying, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Families and communities suffer when their loved ones take that truism too literally and succumb to stress, anxiety, and depression — even suicide. In fact, say experts, even during these difficult times, small steps can make the big picture a lot less overwhelming.
“One problem I see, even with the most healthy people, is that we are not starting the day with a clean slate,” observes RevivaMed’s Roya Kohani, MD, a specialist in integrative medicine. “We begin with all the stress that we’ve accumulated, and we add on to it as we go. What ends up happening is that we are tired, we’re not getting enough sleep, we’re not eating healthy, and so our health — both physical and mental — starts deteriorating.”
Before whipping out her prescription pad, Kohani works one-on-one with patients to make sure they don’t have any nutritional deficiencies. “Depression and anxiety, even in situational circumstances, sometimes can be cured with just basic vitamins and nutritional support that we give our body.”
And don’t forgo exercise, she insists. “I haven’t seen anyone who right after exercise is depressed. If anything, peoples’ moods elevate.”
Kohani also recommends meditation, which can lower blood pressure and reduce levels of anxiety-causing chemicals in the body. “Close your eyes and make an effort for five minutes to practice deep breathing exercises. It’s amazing how much that actually affects our mood and the level of anxiety we feel.”
In some cases, just talking it out may make all the difference, points out San Diego-based life coach and author Kay Richardson. If you don’t feel comfortable discussing what you’re feeling with your spouse or a friend, consult an unbiased listener.
“People who feel connected are going to feel better,” Richardson says. “Be real about everything you’re feeling.”
A healthy internal conversation, she adds, is also important. Instead of dwelling on thoughts that elicit stressful reactions, consciously choose thoughts that bring relief. “It shifts our focus to what we want, to solutions, instead of staying chronically focused on what we don’t want.”
Richardson suggests spending time in nature, which recent studies have demonstrated can impart a significant restorative effect on emotional well-being. Also, if you’re between jobs, dedicate some time to volunteer service. “Doing something to help others, no matter how small, reminds you that it’s not all on you, that others are going through this too.”
And finally, realize that trying times are an excellent opportunity for reevaluation. “Assess what is important to you,” advises Richardson. “What’s the essence of who you are? It’s a good time to ask, ‘Where can I simplify?’ So many people are juggling so much, have so much to maintain, that it becomes a burden. To simplify brings a sense of freedom. And that can get you closer to things that actually make you happy.” ANNAMARIA STEPHENS