How to Better Cope with Stress2022-11-05

Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.

—Hans Selye

Stress is a fact of life, and younger generations are particularly affected by it. After over two decades of treating patients who had severe PTSD (Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder), or more mundane adjustment disorders due to life stressors, and conducting research in this area, what advice would I have for my patients, that would apply more broadly to everybody, and particularly to young people?

First, measure and track your stress, through journaling or apps. Find what in your environment is consistently stressful and try to eliminate it.

Second, increase your perception that life is good, through a daily gratitude practice and a better attitude to environmental events. Again, journaling helps. Meditation helps, and transcendental meditation is the simplest. Just meditate on the word “calm”, without any hocus-pocus about a teacher giving you a mantra.

Third, increase your ability to deal with stress by gradual exposure and increasing the challenges that you can handle. Grow from favorable outcomes (wins), and even from unfavorable ones (learn and grow from losses), so you become bigger than problems you might encounter in the future. It never gets any easier, you just get stronger. Sleep deep, exercise hard, eat clean. Start a positive feedback loop of success, always ratcheting up. Confidence greater than doubts, abilities greater than inhibitions. Recruit other people to help you, rally them to your causes.

Lastly, for severe cases, temporary or long-term treatment with counselling and medications work very well, no shame or stigma to ask for help for what is a biological condition, and do not mask it with alcohol or other addictions. Progress is being made in precision mental health, personalizing treatments to match the person, using minimal effective doses of the right medications in the right combinations.

While a stress-free life is not possible or even desirable, excessive or chronic stress should be proactively treated and prevented.

Live. Happier. Longer.