Soothe stress now to stop disorders later

By Shayna Brouker • Published: July 16th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A fight with your spouse. An overwhelming workload. A sick child. Road rage.

Stress sneaks into every aspect of your life — but you don’t have to let it get you down. If you can learn to keep a cool head and find your zen when stress hits, you’ll be better equipped to ward off mental disorders like anxiety and depression not only now but down the road, according to a study published in the journal Psychological Science.

The study looked at the long-term effects of daily stressors by investigating how strongly people reacted to issues like arguments and work problems. Those who responded most powerfully to everyday stress were 30 to 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder 10 years later.

Other studies have found that those who deal with stress well have learned to bend but not break. So how you can find your zen when life’s little challenges get the better of you?

First, take a deep breath from your belly, which will activate your parasympathetic nervous system and break the fight-or-flight instinct. Delay your reaction to the stressor, whether it be an insulting word, a disrespectful email or an inflammatory text. Take time to craft your response with a cool head.

Don’t make a mountain, like crushing debt, out of a molehill, like an overdue credit card. Making a problem seem insurmountable will only delay action to resolve it. Face the facts and own up to your responsibility in creating the issue, then attack it head-on.

Taking time to not only relieve but to prevent stress is key, too. Regular exercise, yoga, tai chi and meditation have all been proven to take a load off. Listen to music, take a walk and write about your feelings to help articulate what’s bothering you. And if nothing else, try a little perspective on for size. Will this matter a year from now? Most likely not.