Got Stress? How You Can Start Dealing With It Now

When life gets overwhelming, learn to cope

Stressed woman in office

Stress. We all have it. Daily life — getting to work on time, shuttling kids to and from after-school activities, dealing with a lack of sleep — can trigger it. So can traumatic events.

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The question: How do you deal with it? Start by tackling the basics, and seek medical advice when you need it.

Know the difference between good stress and bad stress

“Does email from a certain coworker make your pulse pound every single time? Consider turning off email alerts or checking email less frequently.”

Kathryn Teng

Kathryn Teng, MD

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Center for Personalized Healthcare

Did you know that not all stress is bad? It’s true. A certain type of stress, called eustress, is actually considered positive. Eustress is manageable, and it often stems from everyday life. Eustress can motivate you to work out at the gym or finish a major project at work. In fact, recognizing there is such a thing as good stress is enough to change perception and improve mindset for some people.

Although eustress can be positive, distress is harmful to your health. You may experience distress when you feel overwhelmed after losing a job, for example, or after the death of a loved one. And even eustress — such as daily pressure at work — can turn into distress when it becomes too much to handle. Distress comes with emotions such as fear and anxiety, and it strikes your body in many ways, from weight gain to chronic pain. Over the long term, it can even contribute to heart disease and other dangerous conditions. That’s why it’s important to seek help if your stress becomes overwhelming.

Identify your symptoms — and stress triggers

Pay close attention to how your body responds in certain situations. Does your heart race? Do your palms get sweaty? Does your breathing get faster? If so, those symptoms may help you identify a stress trigger.

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Triggers vary from person to person. Identifying those triggers can help you develop strategies to reduce the resulting stress. Does email from a certain co-worker make your pulse pound every single time? Consider turning off email alerts or checking email less frequently. Are you still grieving for a lost loved one many months after their death? Counseling may help you gain perspective and reduce the stress that comes from grief.

Craft a stress management plan with your doctor

Long-term stress can cause serious complications, and sometimes simple coping strategies are not enough to overcome it. When you need help, talk to your doctor. Be honest about the source of your stress and the symptoms you are experiencing.

There are many stress-management techniques available. Your doctor may recommend deep breathing or meditation programs, and exercises such as yoga help many patients. Even your nutrition can play a part, so be as specific as possible about your habits, your triggers and your symptoms. With the right information, your doctor can help you develop a stress management program that works for you.

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Kathryn Teng, MD

Kathryn Teng, MD

Kathryn Teng, MD, is Director of the Center for Personalized Healthcare and leads Cleveland Clinic’s efforts to integrate personalized healthcare into standard practice.
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