Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Living > stress
Find out more about:
How to Get Your Stress Under Control for Good

How to Get Your Stress Under Control for Good

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 06/11/2019
Last Updated: 06/11/2019

Share on:

Whether it's a breakup with our best friend, traffic woes or money worries, most of us are hit with stress at some point in our lives.

And although the emotional pull of stress is with us throughout life—I defy you to find one person who has escaped its grip—midlife is one of those defining times where more dramatic changes are likely to be causing more than the usual amount of stress. That's because a lot is happening around this time: Children leave (or reenter) the nest; marriages end; caregiving roles expand; we lose people we love to death; our own health and financial concerns mount; job responsibilities change or expand.

While not all stress is a negative thing—it may spur us to action and improvement—day-to-day stressors can accumulate over time and affect our health, exhibiting itself in so many ways:

  • Headaches

  • Upset stomach

  • Neck or back pain

  • Muscle spasms

  • Insomnia

  • Sweating

  • Rashes, itching or hives

  • Heartburn or stomach pain

  • Chest pain

Sighing, belching or crying much? Yeah, these too.

And these are only a few of the 50 listed by The American Institute of Stress.

Everyday stress adds up and can be a real energy zapper. It also affects our heart health, our weight (which in turn affects our health) and even our risk for heart attack, stroke and diabetes (that's because stress increases the production of cortisol, which can increase the amount of blood glucose).

That's why it's imperative to get our stress under control, not just for today, but for every day going forward. It not only helps your health, but getting stress under control helps you deal better with everyday minor situations, tipping the scales in your favor. Here's how:

  • Pick your battles. While it's true that there are probably a zillion things that pile up in the course of a day that can irritate you, it's important to choose the ones that deserve your emotional attachment or those that are important enough to spend time on addressing or changing.

  • Cultivate your social support network. A strong support network can help you cope and get through a rough patch.

  • Exercise. It increases the production of endorphins, known as the "feel-good" neurotransmitters in the brain. Moving also helps shift your body from feeling stuck. Learn more about Ways to Use Exercise to Improve Your Mental and Emotional Health.

  • Seek out pleasure in everyday life. Spend time with activities you enjoy, find time to call a friend, take a walk in nature and take notice of what's around you, or disconnect from electronics and do nothing at all.

  • Engage in daily relaxation rituals. Yoga, meditation, tai chi and deep breathing are all effective antidotes to stress.

  • Practice positive self-talk. Turning negative thoughts—"I can't do this"—into positive thoughts—"I'll try and do the best I can"—can help alleviate or ameliorate stress.

  • Compartmentalize. Rather than fret all day long, get on with your life and reserve a time for worry or anxiety. By doing this, you're allowing yourself to get things done (which can be a stress-reducer itself) while giving yourself time to focus on working on your stress as well.

Eat healthy foods. These foods have been found to contain substances that help reduce stress: Brazil nuts, fatty fish, eggs, pumpkin seeds, chamomile, dark chocolate, yogurt, green tea, turmeric. In addition, concentrate on eating plenty of veggies, fruits, healthy fats and whole grains.