Stress Less

Save your mental health with these calming cues

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Lisa Browdy

Health Blogger

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday – everyone celebrates it, and it centers on cooking and food. But like most holidays, it involves family, logistics and (depending on your circumstances) a large or small dollop of stress.

Stress serves a biological purpose. The fight-or-flight response of adrenaline and cortisol keeps us out of danger and motivates us to change situations that are painful or uncomfortable. But modern workplace, money or family stress doesn't easily lend itself to solutions like fighting or fleeing, and if your life has too much stress (or you handle it poorly), your mental and physical health takes a hit.

So, since there's no time for going on vacation or booking an hour-long massage, what is the healthiest, easiest way to deal with stress?

Let's say you've burned the mashed potatoes, or an annoying uncle keeps asking you why you aren't married yet. You'll likely feel your muscles tense up and your breathing become quick and shallow. A whole bunch of four-letter words might come to mind, but there are two that you should actually say: STOP and WAIT. With a little (OK, maybe a lot of) practice, you can train yourself to relax and disengage. Then you will be able to do any or all of the following things:

  1. Breathe: You can't control other people or circumstances, but you can control your breath. Step out of the room (if you can) and take some slow, deep breaths. It sounds too good to be true, but changing your breathing can lower your blood pressure and give you the oxygen you need to think clearly and find solutions.
  2. Get Moving: Exercise is a great stress buster. It doesn't have to be a full workout (though that of course has its own benefits). Exercise releases endorphins and lifts your mood. Just a quick walk around the block will clear your head, and the fresh air and sunshine will help your outlook on life. If you can't leave the house, just put some music on and dance around for a while.
  3. Have an Attitude of Gratitude: Thanksgiving is a perfect time to reflect on the things that are going right in our world, but it really is something we should do every day. Studies show that people who fill out gratitude journals or otherwise focus on the positive have better physical health than those who don't.

Stress is one of those things where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Ask for support with cooking and chores, and remember that boundaries are your friend. Say "no" when you have to, and draw up ground rules when appropriate. I love this one by style expert Clinton Kelly: he makes a rule for his guests not to be a D.R.I.P. – that means no discussion of Diets, Religion, Illness or Politics in his home.

What do you do to keep your stress at bay?

Email: Twitter: LisaBrowdy

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

No Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad