• Dr. Todd Hurst, MD

5 Tips to Stress Management

Welcome to Dr. Hurst's Health Questions Answered

“If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”

– George Burns (lived to 100 years)

If sleep is the most under-recognized factor in good health, stress is the most common. It is striking how often a new patient with symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath will say “I’ve been under a lot of stress lately”. Every doctor recognizes the critical impact stress has on health and how we feel, but it is hard to put a finger on it, primarily because stress is difficult to measure.

A stressful event can have dramatically different effect on different people; what is stressful to me may have no effect on you. Stress is also universal and, for most of us, unavoidable.

Who isn’t feeling stressed these days?

One of my more gratifying patient encounters was with a patient who didn’t even have heart disease. Our visit didn’t start out well.

George is 72 and has been suffering with chest pain and palpitations for several years. He has seen multiple physicians, with extensive heart testing, but no cause of his symptoms was found. One doctor told him it was all in his head which didn’t sit well with George.

I reviewed the results, heard his story and knew the problem wasn’t his heart. But how was I going to tell him? I mentioned the idea of visiting with a psychiatrist which George did not appreciate (“You think I’m crazy too!”), so I tried a different strategy.

I talked to him about stress.

George wasn’t impressed with the idea at first, but he was willing to visit with a colleague trained in stress management techniques.

A month later, I got a message from George, thanking me for “saving” his life. He had been practicing his new stress management skills and his chest tightness and palpitations were almost gone. Even better, he had found renewed optimism for life!

Here are a few tips about effective ways to manage stress.

5 Tips to Better Manage Stress

1. Physical activity

There are many studies proving the effectiveness of physical activity as a treatment for anxiety and depression. If you’re not active and struggling with stress, do yourself a favor and discover the magic of regular daily activity.

2. Sleep

Have you ever had an overwhelming problem that became manageable after a good night’s sleep? I think we all have. Being well rested is critical to good health, feeling your best and managing stress. I can’t emphasize this enough, if you’re not sleeping well, you won’t feel well.

3. Be grateful

Many of us spend most of our time thinking about our problems and how to solve them. Spend 60 seconds first thing in the morning thinking about what you are grateful for can been life altering.

4. Breath

I had my doubts at first, but I’m a believer. Breathing is a simple and effective stress management strategy. I often refer patients for biofeedback training to learn how to do it well. Additionally, some of my patients have found breathing technique smart phone apps to be beneficial.

5. Be Social

In our over-packed, never-have-enough-time world; it is a challenge to find the time necessary to foster and grow connections with others. Don’t get cheated out of this; social connectedness is an effective way to manage stress and improves the quality and length of life.

If you’re looking for more information on stress management, I highly recommend the teachings of Dr. Amit Sood at Stressfree.org Stress may be unavoidable, but the negative effect on your health is not.

And the Beat Goes On,

R. Todd Hurst, MD, FASE, FCCC

R. Todd Hurst, MD,FACC, FASE

Center Director for Cardiovascular Health

Banner University Medical Center-Phoenix

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