A Four-Step Guide to Stress Management

No one can ever be immune to stress, but what differentiates us in these moments is the way we deal with the stress. The basic idea behind dealing with stress stems is your ability to know when you are stressed and what is stressing you (often called the stressor). Being under stress frequently can hamper your health and wellness.

What is Stress?

Simply put, stress is the reaction from our body when demands are made on it. Stress is not only caused by bad experiences in life, but good experiences as well. From a biological point of view, when stressed, the body releases certain chemicals into the blood stream and they provide more energy and strength to the body. This energy can be put to good use if the stress is originating from a physical danger, however they can be harmful if the stressor is of an emotional nature and can cause health problems such as heart disease when the stress is prolonged or occurs often.

Identifying Stress

The initial step in stress management is identifying the cause. More often than not, it is not as easy as it sounds because stressors are not always obvious. There are three types of people in terms of how they relate to their stress.

  1.  Temporary – This individual often assumes that the stress is temporary and is a result of the particular distinct circumstance they are currently in, e.g. having many things to do at the same time.
  2. Stress as a part of life – This individual associates stress with a certain aspect of their life. For example, they may assume they are only stressed when they are at work.
  3.  Blaming stress on others – This particular individual always finds a way to blame others for the stress they maybe going through at that particular point in time.

Here, you should be able to identify into which category you fall. Until you are able to identify your stress and accept what you are doing, you will never be able to control it.

Step 1 – Avoiding Unnecessary Stress  

Although avoiding stress is not something you can do all the time, we can avoid many stressors in our everyday lives. First and foremost, you need to master your ability to say no. This means you should know your limits in terms of how much responsibility you can take on. Avoid people and conversations that you know will stress you.

Step 2 – Turning the Tables

Although stress can’t always be avoided. If you can’t avoid the situation, try and alter it for the greater good. Analyze the problem and see what you can do so that you are not faced with the same problem yet again. Sometimes you may want someone to change their behavior, but you have to be prepared to make changes to your own behavior in order to make it work. Have confidence when faced with problems, take them by the horn and you will feel more in control – and less stressed. In addition, learn to manage your time better; not being late all the time is an easy way to reduce stress.

Step 3 – Becoming Adaptive

Steps 1 and 2 may not be applicable to all situations so sometimes you need to adapt. If you are not able to change the situation, then be ready to change yourself to fit it. Take a positive mindset about the situation. Accept that you can do nothing to change it and work with it. Also, trying to be perfect is a huge stressor for many people. No one can be perfect all the time. In some situations, it is okay to adjust your standards and make them more realistic in order to reduce stress and complete the task at hand.

Step 4 – Getting Help

If your attempts at controlling your stress have not been as successful as you would like, there are other ways and alternative treatments available. Alternative medicine can provide ways to calm your stress and offer better wellness. Alternative therapy and holistic medicine such as the use of acupuncture, diet, and herbal remedies can be part of an integrative medicine plan created in conjunction with your general internal medicine doctor or general practitioner.

With these steps, stress can be limited to a less frequent event. When dealing with any complementary medicine plan it is important to provide all of your medical information to those who will be treating you. Always check with your regular physician before starting any new medical regimen, natural or otherwise.

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A stress reduction program using Transcendental Meditation significantly reduced mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in African-American patients with coronary heart disease, researchers reported.

A stress reduction program using Transcendental Meditation significantly reduced mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in African-American patients with coronary heart disease, researchers reported.

Those practicing TM had a 48% reduction in these outcomes according to Robert H. Schneider, MD, of Maharishi University of Management in Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa, and colleagues.

The TM group also had a change of −4.9 mm Hg in systolic blood pressure as reported online in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

“Reduction in systolic BP may be a physiological mechanism for reduced clinical events in this trial since this magnitude of reduction has been associated with 15% reduction in cardiovascular clinical events,” Schneider and colleagues wrote.

African Americans are disproportionately afflicted with cardiovascular disease, at least in part possibly because of environmental and psychosocial stresses.

The TM program involves daily periods during which individuals sit quietly allowing the mind to drift into a “wakeful hypometabolic state,” which is characterized by physiologic changes typical of decreased stress.

Previous studies of stress reduction using TM have shown benefits for risk factors and various clinical endpoints in the general population.

Schneider and colleagues enrolled 201 black patients who had at least one coronary artery with 50% blockage.

In the study, they assigned participants to learn the meditation technique and practice it twice a day for 20 minutes, or to health education on cardiovascular health with instructions to engage in heart-healthy behaviors each day at home.

The study took place between 1998 and 2007, in two phases separated by a period of loss of funding in 2003 and 2004.

The primary endpoint was a composite of nonfatal stroke or myocardial infarction and all-cause mortality, while secondary endpoints included cardiovascular mortality, revascularization, and hospitalization for coronary heart disease or heart failure

More than half of the patients were men, and mean age was 59. About 60% were taking lipid-lowering medications, 44% were taking ACE inhibitors, and 35% were on calcium channel blockers

“In conclusion, this randomized controlled trial found that a selected mind-body intervention, the Transcendental Meditation program, significantly reduced risk for mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke in African-American men and women with coronary heart disease. These changes were associated with reductions in BP and psychosocial distress,” Schneider and colleagues wrote

Limitations of the study included sample sizes that were not large enough to explore single endpoints, and varying duration for time spent in the study for some participants

The study also did not attempt to assess the potential benefits of other types of mind-body programs, so additional research will be needed.

Dr. Jorge Bordenave practices Integrative, Preventive & Clinical Cardiology.
He is NOAA / UHMS Certified Dive Medical Examiner, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, FIU Medical College and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Nova Southeastern University.

Dr. Bordenave’s practice is located at:

 4908 SW 8 street, Coral Gables, Fl. 33134.

They are open Monday thru Friday 9am to 5pm.

Phone: 305.446.2444

Website: www.miamiintegrativemedicine.com

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Primary source: Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes
Source reference:
Schneider R, et al “Stress reduction in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a randomized controlled trial of Transcendental Meditation and health education in African Americans” Circ Cardiovasc Quality Outcomes 2012; DOI: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.112.967406.