Health Tips & Articles

Controlling Stress without the Use of Medications

by Jessica M. Anchor-Samuels, MD

Life can be stressful and often times this can be difficult to cope with. For many people, anxiety develops, and this can be difficult to manage. While medications are available to help with severe symptoms, sometimes lifestyle strategies can help manage stress and anxiety without the need for medication. 

Exercise- Routine exercise can help relieve stress, improve energy and help with sleep. Exercise can take many forms. Vigorous housework, dancing, and walking up and down stairs are all examples. Going for a walk outside, riding a bicycle, and playing ball are also enjoyable ways to get exercise.

Meditation- The practice of meditation has been around for centuries and is gaining popularity again. Meditation is done by sitting quietly in a comfortable position and focusing on your breathing. This can be done alone or with a group. There are many apps on smartphones that can guide you through a session of meditation. Meditation can be done for any length of time. Five minutes a day of sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing can be of great benefit. Often when people first begin, it is hard to quiet the mind, but with practice you will get better at focusing only on the breath.

Journal writing- Writing can serve as a great form of releasing tension. This can be done in a journal or on the back of a piece of scrap paper. If you wish, no one needs to read what you write. The idea is to write whatever comes into your mind. This can be done for any length of time. Some people find great satisfaction in crumpling or tearing up the paper at the end. After a writing session, you may find that your mind is calmer and clearer. Often, people like to do this right before going to bed.

Counseling- Talking through issues with a trained professional can be very helpful. Often counselors (such as a psychologist or a social worker) can teach you ways to handle stressors, think about your problems in a new way, and develop strategies to use in difficult situations. Usually, you do not need a referral from your doctor to see a counselor. Simply call your insurance company or visit their website and they will provide you with a list of counselors in your plan.

The above strategies help some individuals more than others. If your symptoms persist, please talk to your healthcare provider. Medications are sometimes appropriate for anxiety and can be used in addition to the counseling, journal writing, meditation and/or exercise.


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