Managing Stress Can Lower Blood Pressure
"We assume everything is do-it-yourself," Mogadam says.
"HAD is a chronic, continuing, ongoing process. No one gets HAD just from
their wife or boss or job, but from a combination of many things over many
For that reason, the first step for the highly stressed person
is to recognize that he or she has a problem requiring help. And Mogadam says
doctors frequently fail to ask about the symptoms of HAD, even though many of
their patients have a host of physical problems related to stress.
"Patients need to face the reality that they have a
disease, and it needs intervention by an expert," Mogadam says. "The
longer you dismiss it, the more entrenched it becomes."
Harvard psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, agrees. "This is
a growing and hugely underappreciated area of medicine," he tells WebMD.
"Any primary care doctor and many specialists will tell you that their
waiting rooms are full of people who are worried and stressed-out. There is an
epidemic of toxic worry."
Echoing Mogadam, Hallowell says toxic worry is as serious, but
as treatable, as high blood pressure. And just as with the treatment of high
blood pressure, the goal of treating toxic worry is not to do away with it
altogether, but to bring it within a normal range.
"Some worry is normal," Hallowell says. "If you
don't worry at all, that's called denial."
Since many people spend 35-40 hours a week or more at their
job, the workplace is naturally a prominent source of stress. In collaboration
with Harvard Business School Publishing, Hallowell has crafted strategies for
managing the more routine kinds of workplace worry, which left unaddressed
could help make you sick.
He offers eight tips for managing workplace worry that can be
found at Harvard ManageMentor, an online product of Harvard Business School
Learn to distinguish between positive stress and toxic worry.
Positive stress can give you the energy you need to get the job done. Toxic
worry only drags you down, making it hard to achieve even small tasks.
Do a reality check. Find out if your worry has any basis in fact.
Toxic worry can distort the real situation. Check to make sure things are
really as bad as they seem. Even when there is an actual problem, it may be
easier to solve than you think.
Talk with friends or colleagues you trust. They can help you see
things differently. Connect with those you know will reassure you, not those
who might exaggerate your concerns.
Take positive action to correct the problem. Don't be a victim of
worry and stress. Brooding about the problem gets you nowhere. Fix the problem
if you can! If not, then make the problem more manageable by making small
Get help from the right sources -- people who have the information you
need. Often you don't have the information or tools necessary to attack a
problem. Instead of worrying, take control by getting the help you need. Find
out who the authority is and where you should look for answers.
Take care of your body. Exercise daily, eat healthy foods, and get
enough sleep. Worry and stress put a heavy strain on your body. Taking good
care of yourself physically not only reduces the level of tension your body is
coping with, but it gives you more energy to deal with the problem itself!
Relax whenever and wherever you can. Practice relaxation techniques
whenever you start to feel the first signs of tension, worry, or stress. While
quick exercises that you can do almost anywhere are helpful, find the time and
space for longer, more meditative relaxation -- these exercises are more
beneficial in the long run.
Let worries go. If there's nothing you can do about a problem (or
nothing more, if you already worked on it) -- if it's simply out of your
control --then you have to let the worry go. Blow it away, and start a new
project, read a different book, walk another path.
Hallowell says that once you have identified toxic stress, the
most important course of action is to find someone for support. "Don't
worry alone," he cautions. "You don't have to solve the problem, but
you do have to share it with someone."
The importance of making connections with other people in
relieving stress underscores what Hallowell calls "the human moment" in
any workplace situation. "When someone smiles at you at the water cooler,
you would be amazed at how much Prozac that is worth," he says.