How a Serious Stress-Reduction Strategy Can Improve Your Life
Research reveals effective methods that get beyond one-off tips
Dane McCarrick knows that if left to fester, stress causes not just mental anguish but physiological changes that lead to sundry health problems. So when stressed, McCarrick employs part of a pre-planned strategy by disengaging himself from the worrisome thoughts and putting them off for consideration at a less chaotic time when, presumably, he’ll have a clearer head.
“Usually, by that point in time the thing I was getting myself worked up over didn’t even happen anyway,” he says.
McCarrick may have a slight advantage over the rest of us when it comes to stress-busting. As a postgraduate researcher in psychology at the University of Leeds in the UK, he recently led a review of 36 studies on stress-reduction strategies and their long-term health outcomes, revealing which ones accomplish two goals: They work in the short term and offer lasting health benefits.
The study confirms other research and my own experience finding that stress reduction requires a comprehensive strategy, not just cheap tips.
Stress doesn’t just happen
To employ effective stress busters, we first have to accept that stress is common and normal for all of us at any age, and that most of us have an overdeveloped ability to make emotional mountains out of cognitive molehills.
“Stress affects all of us and pervades most aspects of life,” McCarrick tells me. “But the problems we encounter in reality are often a mere fraction of how we appraise them in our minds.”
The thing is, stress isn’t something that happens to us. Events and experiences happen (or we create them). Stress is generated, or not, by our resulting thoughts and feelings, and how we deal with them. Often, we do a lousy job of it.
Worrying about a current problem, or some possible future dilemma, or ruminating over stressful stuff that’s in the past — all these…