Take Hold of Stress for A More Healthful Life

by Dr. Marla E. Jirak, Owner, CoachSmart Consulting LLC

Stress is a normal response to “stressors”— either internal or external circumstances that are difficult, upsetting or scary.

Internal stressors: Distressing thoughts or memories, physical sensations (pain or discomfort) and emotions (sadness or anger).

External stressors: Concerning event, situation or circumstance that has the potential to negatively impact a person or something or someone they care about.

Types of stress

  • Eustress. Positive stress that is helpful and motivating. This type of stress helps motivate people to work hard, which can improve their performance and help them reach their goals even in the face of challenges.
  • Distress: This type of stress is negative and associated with feeling “stressed out.” Distress causes people to feel overwhelmed — anxious. Physical and psychological symptoms can appear (headaches, tension, insomnia, inattentiveness, or irritability.)

Effects of stress

Long term “on” from stress produces a heightened adrenaline response in which we engage in a fight or flight response. Continued stress produces continued cortisol production. This leads to low energy and lack of motivation; illness, with the body wearing down; fatigue, which can lead to sickness and disease.

A partial list of stress related symptoms include:

  • Addictions, breathing problems, depression, digestive disorders, eczema, fatigue, gallstones, headaches/migraines, gallstones, indigestion, inflammation, nausea, overweight, psoriasis, ulcers and viral infections.
  • Forgetfulness, difficulty with concentration, confusion, trouble making decisions and PTSD.
  • Feelings of hopelessness, isolation, guilt, worthlessness, constant sadness, feeling blue, fearful, worry, anxiety, crying spells and loss of interest in activities or hobbies.


Our tolerance for the stress event, our own triggers (personal, social, psychological or environmental), our personality traits and how we respond have a role in the management of our stress.

Some effective coping strategies include:

  • Breathing. Take deep breaths in through the nose, holding for 5 seconds and exhaling through the mouth; repeat 3 times.
  • Sleep. Get 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night, stop electronic viewing, no caffeine or alcohol 1 hour prior to bedtime. Use blackout curtains.
  • Meditation. Do yoga focusing on imagery, mantras or visualization.
  • Exercise. Go for a walk, to the gym, take Zumba classes, lift weights or use workout videos.
  • Sound nutrition. Implement a diet with low fat, low sugar, low carb and less red meat.
  • Time management. Make to-do lists, putting appointments in Google calendar for daily tasks.
  • Personal life coach. Engage in conversations with a life coach to put together a strategy for dealing with your stress.