How to relieve stress, according to a neuropsychologist and psychologist

Stress is a part of our daily life, but it can start to take over our mental and physical health.

To find out how to beat stress, we interviewed two experts in mental health, peak performance and psychology: New York neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, director of Understanding the Mind and Haley Perlus, author and sports psychologist.

Are there ways to avoid or reduce stress at this time?

“It’s important to note that stress is a natural part of life and is a part of being human,” Hafeez said. “Sometimes that can motivate you to do something. Other times, it can harm your mental and physical health. In other words, stress is a normal human reaction and the key to survival, but too much stress can be detrimental.

Her strategy to help relieve stress? The 4 A’s: avoid, modify, adapt and accept. This is how it works.

To avoid

Living completely isolated from stressful events is not possible, but you do have some control over the events or social commitments you make. If you know something is going to stress you out and it’s optional, consider declining the invitation.

“Avoiding stress involves taking control of your environment, whether that’s leaving an area that causes stress or planning ahead to avoid situations that make you worse or stress you out,” Hafeez said.

To modify

If there is a way for you to make a situation less stressful, ask. It can be difficult to ask for help, especially at work, and especially if you are over performing. But if you have a good boss and you are under too much stress, you may feel comfortable talking.

“If your boss has assigned a deadline that is causing distress, try communicating openly and honestly with them to explain how you feel to try to find a solution,” Hafeez said.


Psychologically speaking, this is where you can put your wits to good use. Adaptation has to do with your state of mind, not your physical environment. You have the power to adapt your expectations, views, or standards to reduce stress levels.

“Reframing a problem and looking at the positives rather than focusing on the negatives can be helpful and make you happier,” Hafeez said. “Noticing negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones can also reduce stress. “

I accept

Acceptance is not easy, but it is a powerful practice.

“Accepting negative feelings and talking about them can strengthen you mentally and physically,” Hafeez said.

Beyond situations, you can also practice acceptance in your relationships.

“You can also feel stress because you are mad at someone,” Hafeez said. “Practicing forgiveness and learning to release negative emotions can release the pressure and move you forward.”

Other ways to reduce or avoid stress

Besides the psychological tips above, there are also things you can do in your daily life to reduce stress. Hafeez and Perlus both recommend:

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs, which can add to your stress load
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a well-balanced diet
  • Seek support from friends, family or therapists
  • Giving back to others

“Giving back makes us feel good and like we’re making a difference,” Hafeez said. “These feelings can impact our physiological state, which can lower blood pressure and channel our energy in a positive way.”

Exercise and diet play a vital role not only in reducing stress, but also in preparing our bodies so that, when we are in the thick of it, we can better handle stress.

“Exercise increases the levels of endorphins as well as other wellness hormones and is a natural stress reliever,” said Perlus. “Sleep is also a stress reducer because it restores and calms the body, regulates mood and improves decision-making. Healthy eating can also counter stress by lowering blood pressure and supporting the immune system.

You can learn from top athletes like the Olympians.

“Athletes develop a pre-performance routine to help them be successful,” said Perlus.

You can create a similar routine to prepare for any stressors in your life.

“Inner discourse, music, affirmations, physical actions (p. According to Perlus.

What are the long-term effects of uncontrolled stress?

Leaving your stress levels unresolved for too long can leave a permanent mark on you.

“Long-term stress increases the risk of mental health problems such as depression, burnout, anxiety, sleep problems and substance use disorders,” Hafeez said.

In addition to mental health, stress can wreak havoc on your physical and brain health.

“[There are potential physical effects] including killing brain cells, shrinking brain size, and shrinking the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that is in charge of learning and memory), ”Hafeez said. “It can lead to long-term brain damage as well as memory loss. … A sore jaw, toothache, weight gain or loss, headaches, high blood pressure, severe cramps, changes in the menstrual cycle and digestive problems are all ways in which stress can manifest in the body.

How Can Busy Type A Professionals Conquer Stress?

For go-getters, top performers, and Type A personalities, stress can manifest as a fear of failure. The tendency to strive for perfection can actually skyrocket your stress into unmanageable territory. And while it may have helped you in your current role, there are some boundaries you need to set in order to avoid burnout.

First of all you need to write down what is and what is not under your control.

Hafeez suggested writing down “what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for, so as not to exhaust yourself or overwork yourself.”

Outperformers also need to constantly remember that mistakes don’t have to be fatal. Instead, these are opportunities to learn.

Finally, Hafeez recommended setting clever goals in your career. The next time you sit down to plan the quarter or write down your goals, make it reasonable and achievable.

“It will make you feel a lot less stressed and give you confidence in your ability to reach your goals when they are difficult in a healthy way,” Hafeez said.

What Can Working Parents Do to Reduce Stress?

For professionals who have balanced home work, home schooling, childcare, and work stressors, it can seem impossible to find time to take care of themselves. Perlus offers practical, bite-sized advice for overworked parents.

“If you have very little time on your own, even taking five minutes to decompress can help relax your mind and body,” she said. “Try to walk into a room for five minutes on your own, don’t look at your phone, take a deep breath and stretch.”

The barrier that many people face is the guilt associated with taking time for yourself when children are at home. But parents need to take the time to recharge their batteries and relax, whether it’s five minutes alone or a coveted Saturday without a child.

“To say no temporarily to others is to say yes to yourself,” she said. “Then, once you take the time to renew your energy and feel more positive, you can be the best person for everyone in your life. They will reap as much as you!

In peak stress scenarios, how can you overcome stress?

When you have too much on your plate or a professional crisis strikes, Perlus recommends setting clearly defined goals. But in case of acute stress, it is essential that you be very honest about this. must be done today. Very often people put too many things on today’s to-do list, only to stress themselves more and not let the unexpected happen and take time.

“Clearly defined goals help you identify what needs to be done and what can wait until tomorrow,” Perlus said. “If you’re having a stressful day, learn to say no and delegate some tasks to someone else. It’s good to say no; it means you know your worth and it helps you prioritize the things that matter.

Of course, sometimes the unthinkable happens, and you will be faced with ultimate stress in the form of family tragedy.

“If you are facing a tragedy, seek advice on learning stress management, relaxation techniques and coping strategies,” said Perlus. “Also, remember that there is no right way to feel, and don’t blame yourself for feeling a certain way. ”

Turning to the experts and your social support network is important when the stress in your life is extreme. But also find his rhythm.

“Reestablishing a routine can help reduce stress after trauma because a regular routine helps minimize anxiety,” Perlus said. “The structure provides comfort and gives you a feeling of control, and also helps improve your focus and productivity. “

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