Shot of a stressed businesswoman sitting on the floor outside the boardroom

Tips for Getting Stress and Anxiety Under Control

Fifty percent of us, at some point in our lives, will have a diagnosable mental health condition. Depressive illnesses, generalized anxiety, various phobias, and panic disorders are more common than we think. Luckily, there are ways to identify if what you’re dealing with is stress-related or something more.

“The two most common disorders are depression and … well actually, depression,” said Dr. Duane DiFranco, senior medical director, Health Care Value at Blue Care Network. “But usually the one that relates most closely with stress is generalized anxiety disorder.”

These days, there are online tools that can pinpoint symptoms and help you on your mental health journey. DiFranco suggests two websites that focus on depression and anxiety, respectively. For depression, there is a patient health questionnaire called the PHQ-9. And for individuals struggling with anxiety, he recommends the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety Scale.

It’s impossible to discuss stress, depression, or anxiety without mentioning alcohol and how it plays into all three. On the latest episode of the A Healthier Michigan Podcast, hosted by Chuck Gaidica, DiFranco explains the dangers of drinking, the importance of sleep, and Positive Psychology.

There’s a simple rule of thumb you can follow to determine if you or a loved one have alcohol use disorder.

“It’s the rule of 3-4-12. It goes like this: For women, any drinks more than three in a sitting. For men, any drinks more than four in a sitting … or for anyone, male or female, more than 12 drinks in a week,” explained DiFranco. ”One drink is equal to an ounce of 80-proof distilled liquor, five ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.

Once you realize there’s a problem, there are multiple ways to attack it. First, limit your alcohol intake.  Second, eat healthy and work out at least three times a week. A 30-minute session can make a world of difference. It’s also important to get a quality night’s rest.

“We don’t sleep enough as Americans anymore,” said DiFranco. “Sleep impacts blood pressure, our performance at work, our susceptibility to depression, and of course, makes it much more difficult to handle stressful events.”

Any form of self-help should always include a cognitive component. For example, DiFranco encourages the use of Positive Psychology. It’s a technique that asks you to focus on the positive influences in your life, no matter how big or small. The goal is to emphasize both mental and emotional happiness.

Techniques for Positive Psychology:

  • Write down three new things (last 24 hours) you are grateful for.
  • Describe in writing a meaningful experience from over the past 24 hours.
  • Write an email or note thanking one person in your social support network for something they’ve done recently.

Remember: Every method here is meant to help, not to cure. Self-screening is a tool, but diagnosing is for professionals. If you feel things are getting out of hand, reach out to your primary care physician. They are always the best option.

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Photo credit: Tinpixels

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