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Healthy You

How to Keep Stress from Ruining Your Health

January 21, 2010 11:00 AM with Dr. Robert Farra

The experts in the Psychiatry Department at NorthShore discuss effective ways to lower your stress level and improve your health in the process.

Moderator (Moderator) - 10:57 AM:
Welcome! Today’s chat: How to Keep Stress from Ruining Your Health, will begin shortly. Please start submitting your questions and Dr. Robert Farra will begin answering them as soon as we get started. While you are waiting for the chat to begin, feel free to visit the Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences pages to obtain more information about stress.

Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore) - 10:57 AM:
Good morning, I'm Dr. Bob Farra, Director of the Adult Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program here at NorthShore. I'm here to answer your questions about stress and how to manage it.

  Lynda (Joliet, Il) - 10:59 AM:
Is there anyway to AVOID a stress induced anixety attack? I have 6 young children and lately because of the economy and my husband's cut hours I feel so stressed that I cannot sleep and often get anxiety attacks. I need to reduce the stress to be able to do what I need to for my family. Anyway to get better sleep and reduce these attacks due to stress? Thank you!!!
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Thank you for your question. Stress is influenced by the way we think. If we think our life is unbearable, then it is. I strongly recommend you focus on what you are grateful for. You have 6 children. Can you find things about them to focus upon that give you joy? There will be times like you are going through. We all go through similiar experiences, but let's focus on what's really important and stay on track.

  Colleen (Mundelein, IL) - 11:04 AM:
Hello, How can I stop being under lot of stress if my husband doesn't help me at all. we have two kids and it is hard that I have to do everything all by myself that he won't lift a finger to help me with anything. I know my stress is probably over the moon. I can't ask anyone to help me. Also, I have diabetes and my sugar is like a roller coaster. Somedays, it'll be good. Somedays, it will be bad. I think I am harming my body. Any advice please?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Colleen, The one statement you make is very important, "I can't ask anyone to help me." Then you talk about how overwhelmed you are. Learning to ask others for help is essential. I recommend you change your thinking about this. We need others. We need to be dependent at times. Tell your husband how much you need him and reach out.

  Cora Lee (Chicago) - 11:07 AM:
I battle depression this time of year and that's why I'm taking antidepressants and seeing a therapist. Although my mood seems good, I have no energy or desire to exercise. What is the best way to get motiviated?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Cora Lee, When we are depressed our energy is often low. If you can't stand exercise, when you go shopping, park your car farthest from the door and force yourself to walk. Instead of using the remote, get up to change the channel. The point is we can push ourselves to be more physically active. The benefits are huge!

  Mary (Delaware Ohio) - 11:10 AM:
My job is in jeopardy. How do I reduce the effect of this stressor?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Mary, I don't have enough specifics about your situation to comment, but in general, our attitude is the most important thing. If we think things will work for us, they usually do. If we think things won't work out, they usually don't. Let me tell you about Dr. Victor Frankel who was a psychiatrist in Vienna during World War II. Because Frankel was Jewish he was imprisoned in several different concentration camps for years. In his wonderful book, Man's Search for Meaning Frankel wrote, “I had been convinced that there were certain things I just could not do: I could not sleep without this or I could not live with that or the other. The first night in Auschwitz we slept in beds which were constructed in tiers. On each tier (measuring about six-and-a-half to eight feet) slept nine men, directly on the boards. Two blankets were shared by each nine men. We could, of course, lie only on our sides, crowded and huddled against each other.”

Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore) - 11:14 AM:
Can you imagine anything worse than living in those horrific conditions? Certainly, it would appear that human suffering and misery would be the only possible experiences one could have while living through such horrific circumstances. Not true, writes Frankel, “ Everything can be taken from a peron but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision.”

  Jim (Mount Prospect) - 11:16 AM:
I am caring for my elderly mother who is ill, in addition to caring for my young family and working. I get mentally incapacitated when attempting to look at the big picture and instead try to focus on one day at a time. But I still feel overwhelmed. What can I do to break that incapacitation and feel more mentally revitalized?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Jim, Discipline yourself to focus on the present moment. When we try to take life in bigger chunks, when we try to look at the big picture, we get overwhelmed. Take one step at time and savor each moment. Refer to my last comment about Dr. Victor Frankel. We have a choice about what our attitude will be given every set of circumstances.

  Carrie (Chicago, IL) - 11:26 AM:
Are there any foods/fruits/vegetables that can help ease stress and anxiety? Some say "drink green tea" and things like that.. Does this hold true in order to help?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Carrie, This boils down to personal preferences. If you like green tea, enjoy it in moderation.

  Amy (Chicago) - 11:29 AM:
Do men and women differ in how they deal with stress? If so, how so?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Rather than put forth generalizations, how do you deal with stress?

  Jamie (Chicago, IL) - 11:31 AM:
What is one thing I can do daily to manage my stress?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Check your attitude! What do you focus your attention on? Are you caught up in worry about the future or dissapointment about the past? We all need to train our minds to focus in the present moment. This is not to say that planning is bad. Of course it isn't. The challenge is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

  Robert (Arlington Heights) - 11:34 AM:
When I have a bad day at work, I will come home stressed out and my wife and kids see it. My kids are 6, 3 and 2 years old. I try to hide it but I don't do a very good job. I'm a little concerned that perhaps my kids will also feel stress. Do very young kids feel stress even if they may not know what it is because they see it in adults or - in my case - my kids see it in me?
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Robert, You are not alone. Many people bring work stress home and children are affected by it. Take a few minutes to decompress before you walk in. Then focus on what's really important. Your chldren are precious! Focus on them and enjoy them. Don't let the drama of work distract you from what is really important.

  Jamie (Chicago, IL) - 11:36 AM:
What are some ways to keep from getting burned out?

  Pamela (Northbrook, IL) - 11:41 AM:
I have a 4 yr old son and am approaching 40. Since becoming a parent, I have a new set of worries - driving me buggy. I am a newly single mom and a tad bit scared - the calculator is my friend and foe (strict budget). I don't have time/$ for therapy and don't want my son to "see me sweat". Can Yoga/meditation help? If so, any DVD recommendations? Thank you.
Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore)
Pamela, Yes, by all means, Yoga and meditation can help. Go for it. Don't wait!

Grant Gannon (Moderator) - 11:43 AM:
Hello chatters! It looks like we're having a few technical difficulties with our chat software today. Dr. Farra is going to answer one more question then we're going to end the chat. We apologize if he didn't get to your question. If you'd like to make an appointment with one of our physicians, you can call 847.570.5020. Thanks for participating today.

Dr. Robert Farra (NorthShore) - 11:45 AM:
Thank you all for joining our chat today. We have to be proactive when it comes to stress reduction. Our attitude is everything. There are several things we can do to maintain balance. Meditation can help. Exercise can help. Good nutrition can help. But we have to take action and put energy into being emotionally fit. It's not easy. But's it's worth the effot. Dr. Farra

Moderator (Moderator) - 11:46 AM:
Thank you again for participating in our chat today. For more information please visit our mental health pages .

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.