Thursday, March 26, 2009

Expert Advice on How to Deal With Current Mind-Blowing Stress

Some days I think there should be another word for stress besides "stress." I mean, does one simple word really describe what millions of people are experiencing these days?

We've been complaining for years that we have too much stress at work. Studies have shown that we get headaches, stomach pains, back problems and may even make ourselves more susceptible to things like cancer because of the pressure we feel in our lives.

But nothing could have prepared us for what we feel now.

That's why when I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Judith Orloff, I jumped at the chance. As a psychiatrist, I figured she would have all the answers when it came to dealing with how to handle the stress we're feeling today.

And here's what I found out: She's got a lot of suggestions but ultimately, if we want some calm in our lives, we're going to have to put some effort into it. Sure, a doctor can prescribe therapy or even pills to help the anxiety, depression, fear and stress, but it's really up to an individual to find that stress-free zone we all wish a snap of the fingers could give us.

I caught Orloff while she was on a tour for her new book, "Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life."

“For a lot of people who have things in their past like an insecure childhood, all the old patterns are being triggered by this crisis,” Orloff says. “People are really worried about what might happen.”

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) annual Stress in America survey, almost half of American workers say they’re stressed about their ability to provide for their families' basic needs, and eight out of 10 say the economy is a major stressor.

Orloff says that even though she is being deluged by new patients seeking help because of the current economic conditions, she says there are a number of ways for people to help themselves, and someone should look at this crisis as a chance to be grateful for “what is working in your life.”

Orloff says that those who want strategies to handle the stress being felt today should:

· Focus on the moment. “What’s killing people is focusing on what may or may not happen. Do what you can in the moment. If you lose a job, pick up the classified ads and start looking. Give yourself lots of affirmation. But stop thinking of the ‘what if’ and focus on the ‘now.’”
· Battle back the fear. It’s OK to admit you have insecurities or are afraid. Be specific about what scares you. By identifying your fears, then you can be better prepared to handle a situation that upsets you. Then, think about times you showed courage, even if it was simply getting out of bed when you felt bad. Let the courage infuse you, and not the fear. “It’s time for people to be heroes in their own lives,” Orloff says. “Believe in yourself and move forward.”
· Hang around positive people. Orloff says “emotional vampires” can suck the spirit out you with their negative and demoralizing talk. It’s better to engage people who are upbeat and who have positive things to say. Focus on how good you feel when you’re with good friends and a loving family and do things that relax you and make you feel better such as yoga, meditation, taking a walk or relaxing in a warm bath. Avoid things that add to your tension such as violent news stories, arguments or too much caffeine.
· Keep rejection in perspective. Job hunting can be stressful, especially if you’re rejected for a position. “Remember that you’re not being personally rejected. In these cases, it’s more important than ever that you have people around you who are your cheerleaders, who support you.”
· Attract hope. Even if you haven’t lost your job, chances are you know someone who has. When you start feeling depressed, connect with words, songs or art that have hopeful messages. Call a friend who has a hopeful outlook on life. Orloff says that hope is contagious – exposing yourself to hopeful situations will help lift your mood.

Finally, as dismal as the situation is for many people, Orloff says that she believes that our current crisis is really an “opportunity.”

“People are going to learn that no matter what is happening, they’re going to be OK,” she says. “I think many people will come out of this situation more empowered because of how they dealt with their problems.”

What are some ways you handle the added stress of the current economic crisis?


Anonymous said...

I make certain to eat right (basically Mediterranean diet)and make very sure I get 45 minutes to an hour of brisking walking every day.

Anita said...

Experts say a healthy diet and exercise are critical in handling stress -- and with the nice weather arriving, there's no excuse not to take a brisk walk, as you do.
Thanks for the suggestions.

Cathy said...

Great advice even if you're not worried about unemployment or the economy - especially the part about hanging around with upbeat people.

Anita said...


Yeah...everyone has those "Debbie Downers" in their lives. Best to find something else to do when they come around. :)

Ethan Bull said...

I suggest scheduling a vacation on top of all the other great suggestions in the post. Also, being happy is a choice and cutting out the downers in your life is a big part of being less stressful. Thanks for the ideas.

Anita said...

While I think many may feel they can't possibly take time away right now, it is important to your health and to keeping sharp on the job that you do find some vacation days. If you're nervous about it, make sure you talk with your boss, and that you're covered while away -- and be sure to offer the same for the person who will take over your duties while you are gone. Even a long weekend can be a real chance to recharge your energies and help you remain focused and creative.
Thanks for posting.

Elizabeth Pagano said...

I believe it's critical to take blocks of time and truly disconnect. Some do it on a daily or weekly basis - important. Others do it with sabbaticals. It's like an athlete training to be stronger and faster - "off days" are a critical part of improvement. Companies that are taking a holistic approach to attracting, retaining and developing employees by offering sabbaticals are awfully smart, and thankfully, the list of these companies is growing. See Thanks for the post.

bCOM said...

Nice article..... thanks for sharing

Office Services Assistant said...

I was inspired by your article to learn to love my life. Life is too short for me to spend thinking of problems. It might just give me stress and in the long run illness which may cause to death. I love my life now.

Anita said...

Office Assistant,
I'm so glad you found the article helpful!