Thinking differently about stress

Be Well

“The world we have created today is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” – Commonly attributed to Albert Einstein

I recently changed my thinking about the topic I had originally selected for this article; the headlines in recent weeks and the ongoing political rhetoric have forced my hand, so to speak. As I write this I am also learning of the massacre in Las Vegas and contemplating how different is the world now compared to that in which I grew up. How do these headlines relate to our health and well-being (my usual topics) can be summed up in one word: STRESS! It is a word familiar to many of us – job stress, health issues stress, family stress, traffic stress (!) and on and on. These are what we would consider our “ordinary” stressors. However, the world-wide atrocious acts invade our private worlds as well. With 24-hour news cycles on cable news, radio, and the internet these horrible acts are with us constantly. I certainly do not have the skill or ability to even guess why these atrocities are taking place; nor why our leaders and those who wish to be our leaders cannot display some level of civil discourse along the way.

Merriam Webster dictionary gives us one definition of mental stress as “something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety.” That worry and anxiety can be linked to causing both physical and emotional issues for many people; including those who do not routinely watch/listen/read about these world and national tragedies and occurrences. This stress can lead to sleeplessness, poor digestion, exhaustion, chest pain, fatigue, overeating (or not eating) and even illness.1 Effects of this stress can be insidious, we may not necessarily “feel” stressed but be affected by it just the same. The news of violence and the constant ill-advised rhetoric that our children are exposed to will, in my opinion, have long-lasting effects on their lives. It is impossible to completely protect young people however it is important for parents to have discussions with their children, answer their questions, and make them feel as safe as possible.

Can we choose to turn off/turn away from the news and alleviate the resulting stress – to a point, yes. But unless you are planning to live in a cave underground you will be exposed to the news cycle and its effects. However, you can limit as much as possible by not tuning in to the media reports and the chatter associated with all those reports. You can increase your exercise, get outside (pulling weeds is great for stress!) and surround yourself with as much peace as possible. Read . . . a book! Drink . . . a cup of tea! Watch . . . a funny movie! Deep breathing can also help you deal with anxiety. One of my favorite pastimes I find works wonders . . . pet a dog! (Possibly a cat as well, on their terms of course!) My dogs always love to be brushed and petted and they really could not care less about bad news! If you are a “news junkie” perhaps you can trying limiting your time and incorporate some of the lifestyle change suggestions noted above.

A nutritious diet, increased exercise and focus on relaxation can help us deal with the stress, but unfortunately we seem to be living in a world today that few of us understand or have experienced in our lifetimes. I hope we can change our thinking, focus on how much we have in common as human beings and look out for each other.

1 Mayo Foundation for Education and Medical Research

Sharon McMahon, CNWC

The opinions expressed in this article are not intended to replace advice of your personal physician or licensed health professional. Please consult your physician for any issues you may have related to nutrition or fitness activity.