9 Ways to De-Stress

Stress, good and bad, is part of life. Here's how to control the worst of it so that good stress can work for us when we need it.
9 Ways to De-Stress
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Trading bad stress FOR GOOD
What we need, of course, is to get a handle on stress, to ease it back like we do a fussy child. Our health will suffer if we don’t, and so will our ability to respond to stress when necessary. After all, good stress is our “on” light, the power behind meeting deadlines, getting the dinner cooked before the guests arrive, or exercising instead of reaching for the ice cream. It powers motivation.

Certainly, that’s true for Erin Munroe, 35, a child and adolescent therapist and mother of an 11-month-old in Boston: “I used to have a job with summers off, and I didn’t know how to function without some stress. I needed to find a way to be productive.” But Munroe hit her limits when her son cried nonstop for his first 14 weeks of life. “I was still working full time, taking care of my child, keeping the house clean and trying to be perfect. I was breastfeeding and felt really ill, and I ended up with a breast infection.” Munroe had reached the point, as Maté describes it, when the body says no. If we’re “on” all the time, our motor no longer revs. Thom E. Lobe, M.D., founder and director of the Beneveda Medical Group in Beverly Hills, Calif., describes it this way: “When we’re stressed, our adrenals glands are spent. And then we press the gas when we really need to go and nothing happens.” In a sense, we become less attuned to our own body’s alarms, says Kim Turk, LMBT, director of massage services at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, N.C. “It’s called somatic numbing—when the mind and body are completely disconnected,” she says. “Like a mom in a grocery store whose kid is yelling at her but she doesn’t hear him anymore, we stop listening to our bodies. Or when you’re tight in your neck and shoulders, but you have no idea that you are.”