Five Ways To Never Be Stressed Again

by

Everybody feels stress and knows it intimately, but very few of us think about what stress actually is.

Stress is a thought. That’s it. No more, no less. If that’s true, then we have complete control over stress, because it’s not something that happens to us but something that happens in us.

The dictionary definition of stress is, “bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.” It is your thoughts out of balance.

The medical definition of stress is, “the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or your ego.” It could be a tiger chasing you or your belief that your spouse is mad at you (even if he or she is not). Whether it is real or imagined, when you perceive something as stressful, it creates the same response in the body.

A cascade of adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones floods your system, raising your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain’s memory center, increasing belly fat storage, and generally wreaking havoc on your body.

The operative word here about stress is that it is a perception, also known as a thought or point of view. There are objective stressors, to be sure—war, death of loved ones, financial troubles, starvation, dental work. But how these affect us determines our body’s stress response. Imagine Woody Allen and James Bond, each with a gun pointed at his head—same external stressor but entirely different responses.

When I was very sick with chronic fatigue, barely able to work, a single father with two kids, thinking I had to go on disability, I worried constantly. I couldn’t sleep and everything seemed stressful. Then, a wise man told me I had to stop worrying. I argued with him strenuously, providing a comprehensive list of all the real external events that were stressful to me. He just kept repeating that worrying was toxic; he said, what really mattered was how I viewed the situation, and he kept telling me I just needed to stop worrying.

And slowly, very slowly, I trained myself to watch my thoughts, my perceptions, and when a stressful thought came into my head, I stopped, took a deep breath, and just let go. It’s like a muscle—it gets stronger the more you use it, but if you let go, it relaxes.

But of course, life takes over and things happen, all the “D’s:” divorce, death, deadlines, demands, dumb thoughts, and dumb schedules. And as anyone does, I get sucked in to negative thinking, which creates stress in my body. My sleep gets interrupted, my muscles get tight, my mood gets cranky, but then I breathe and remember that stress is all in my head.  We get so attached to our way of thinking, to our beliefs and attitudes about the way things should be or shouldn’t be, that it makes us sick.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t respond to injustice or experience intense feelings of joy, happiness, sadness, loss, or pain. I do. But I try just to be fully in them when they come, then experience the next moment, then the next and the next, and just show up with my whole self with love and attention. That’s the only thing I can do.

Most people, when they look at my life, think I’m crazy and wonder why I’m not more stressed—running a medical practice; writing books and blogs; teaching all over the world; working on health policy; volunteering in Haiti, churches, and orphanages; being a father, son, brother, partner, friend, boss, and more. But it’s actually quite simple. I don’t worry about things much. I simply wake up and do the next thing as best I can.

And when things get out of control, which they do, I simply make a gentle U-turn. It’s like a GPS for my soul. Your GPS doesn’t yell at you and call you stupid or judge you for taking a wrong turn. In the sweetest voice imaginable, the GPS reminds you to take the next possible U-turn.

Each of us has to find out how to make our own U-turn. There are some wonderful ways I have discovered that work very well for me!

Here’s how I make my U-turns (and I try to pick one or more each day):

  1. Move. The best way to burn off the stress hormones without having to change your thinking is to move and sweat. Run, dance, jump, ride, swim, stretch, or skip—do something vigorous and lively. Yoga is also fabulous, as it combines movement and breathing.
  2. Breathe. Most of us hold our breath often or breathe swallow, anxious breaths. Deep, slow, full breaths have a profound affect on resetting the stress response, because the relaxation nerve (or vagus nerve and not the Las Vegas nerve) goes through your diaphragm and is activated with every deep breath. Take five deep breaths now, and observe how differently you feel after.
  3. Bathe. For the lazy among us (including me), an UltraBath is a secret weapon against stress. Add 2 cups of Epsom salt (which contains magnesium, the relaxation mineral), a half-cup of baking soda, and 10 drops of lavender oil (which lowers cortisol) to a very hot bath. Then, add one stressed human and soak for 20 minutes. Guaranteed to induce relaxation.
  4. Sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress hormones. Get your eight hours no matter what.  Take a nap if you missed your sleep. Prioritize sleep.
  5. Think Differently. Practice the art of noticing stress, noticing how your thinking makes you stressed. Practice taking deep breaths and letting go of worry. Try Byron Katie’s four questions to break the cycle of “stinkin’ thinkin’” that keeps you stressed.

You can also try my UltraCalm CD, featuring guided mediations and relaxation techniques.

Also, I highly recommend tapping, a technique that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology. Pick up a copy of Nick Ortner’s new book The Tapping Solution to learn more. Another great stress-relief technique to try is Holosync, an audio technology designed by the Centerpointe Research Institute, which instantly (and effortlessly) puts you into states of deep meditation—literally, at the push of a button. Visit Centerpointe’s website to find out more. Also, check out meQuilibrium, a digital coaching system created by experts to change the way you respond to stress. It teaches specific skills to help you get a handle on all of the emotional, physical, and lifestyle imbalances that keep you from feeling your best.

Enjoy, and happy U-turns!

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, we can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

To your good health,

Mark Hyman, MD

50 Responses to Five Ways To Never Be Stressed Again

  1. Kelly April 27, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Just what I needed to hear. Stress is such a huge factor in our overall well being and we absolutely must learn to take control of this toxic element that is present, to some extent, in each of our daily lives. It is the one commonality that will keep us from living a life of perfect health. If we do not learn how to cope with stress we will never be able to reach optimal health. Food alone cannot do it. Exercise alone cannot do it. Our wellness is about mind, body and spirit. It truly does come down to our thought patterns, which ultimately govern our life experience. Thank you Dr Hyman for putting it into terms that we can all relate to.

  2. DeAnna April 28, 2013 at 7:59 am #

    Dr. Hyman, thank you so much for this much needed article. We are living in Saudi Arabia for what we thought was a year and we found out it would be two years the other day. We love the adventure of being here but it is extremely stressful for women (me being one). I can’t work, drive, or walk outside and I miss my kids and grand kids very much. Needless to say, the stress and panic was almost more than I could handle. After reading your article, I took some deep breaths, did some positive thinking, practiced tapping and I believe I am on a new path toward a more peaceful life. One of my favorite books is “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I just forgot what I knew would help. Thank you again for the beautiful reminder. You are an inspiration!

  3. Nieves April 28, 2013 at 8:40 am #

    Great info! You give us web sites to go to, not just a lot of empty talk. Most of us know that we should “do” something to get strees out of out lifes. The real issue is how to do

  4. Karen Armstrong April 28, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    This is just a fabulous post and so in line with everything I believe in!! Thank you for the extra tips at the bottom for the Tapping and Holosync, I look forward to checking them out too! I’ll keep spreading these empowerment messages in my circle and happy to know that you are looking after it at a global level! Namaste.

  5. Catherine April 28, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    Consciously choosing u turns is powerful! I began 1. Moving: when I was told 10 years ago I was on my way to osteoporosis. A wise person told me “move a muscle, change a thought” when stinking thinking occurs. Whether I intentionally stretch, take a short walk, a long run or do pilates, exercise is now a regular activity in my week. Thank you Dr Hyman for your work…my husband and I are following your blog and it gives us “food” for thought. We participated in the Eat In a few weeks ago. Thank you!

  6. LL April 28, 2013 at 9:16 am #

    It is frustrating not to be able to close the “Sign up” box in order to be able toread the article.

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff July 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

      Hi LL,

      Thank you for your observations. We will let the team know!

      In good health,
      The Nutrition Team

  7. Diane Van Cort April 28, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    This reminds me of cognitive therapy that I did with Albert Ellis in NYC when he was alive. It helped. Some things in ones life though, need working on to make any progress and if you reach a certain age and they are still hanging you up—what then?

    • John April 28, 2013 at 10:29 am #

      Believe in things you can’t see. By working on this, things happen as they should, or shouldn’t, and there is no worry involved. Faith, and I don’t mean in the old religious sense, in oneself is the cheapest, most powerful tool that I use. GOOD LUCK!

  8. Jayme April 28, 2013 at 9:42 am #

    Dear Dr. Hyman! Big fan of yours here! : -) In fact, you put one of my recipes in your new Blood Solution Cookbook – I”m so excited…

    Anyhow – it was Dec. 2, 2010 that I put a stake in the ground and decided to quit worrying. I realized how I worried about things that I couldn’t control – and didn’t take the time to address the things I could control – how I spend my time, and my own health. Like you said in your article – it was difficult at first – I had to take EVERY thought that came into my mind, and assess it and decide if it could stay. It was like having a bouncer at the door of my mind…..I wouldn’t give thoughts of worry and fear access to my mind.

    It totally revolutionized my life. It’s easier now – I still have bouts of worry – but I can quickly eradicate them.

    Loved this article, and I’ll be sharing it with all my friends.

    Thanks for all you do!

  9. Rob April 28, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    These words are a revelation : thankyou! For years I have been trying to reduce the effects of stress in my life by avoiding stress itself, which in my circumstances is impossible. Reading this it is as if the light has been switched on, it makes perfect sense. Bless you :)

  10. Heather April 28, 2013 at 11:50 am #

    Thank you so much for your candor and sharing the way stress has affected you in the past. It’s nice to know that it happens to everyone.

  11. Stephanie April 28, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    May God continue to bless you and your efforts! Thank you Dr. Hyman.

  12. Ron Seamons April 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I know that stress gets each of us. I really appreciate the article! I find that when I stress a lot I have to make myself relax. One good way to do that is to relax with my pets. I like the p-vitamin. I have dogs, fish, and a horse. Spending time watching my fish, working with and playing with my dogs and horse really destress me. I also love to work in my garden and flower beds. Being close to the earth makes me really happy. I find that I need hobbies and that they need to be different from my work. Then I am happy. Thank you Dr. Hyman for the great recommendations and reminders!

  13. Stephen B. April 28, 2013 at 12:47 pm #

    I began changing my diet to whole foods almost 3 months ago. I walk .5 to 1.5 hours 4 times a week and recently began strength training. I’ve gone from 230 pounds to around 202 pounds. My next step is to each and every day pray in the morning and at night and meditate concentrating on my breathing and doing daily stretching exercises. Everyone I know sees a big change in me already and I’m seeing and feeling changes in myself. My sleep is better, My appetite is better, I’ve greatly reduce all my medications, discontinuing some of them. I’ve got a long way to go but I am so grateful for all the tool that God has brought into my life. I am grateful for all the many many hardships I’ve endured because they have all brought me new understandings. I see parts of myself in everyone and most of the time live in compassion and understanding that no one does anything for the wrong reasons. I believe it is impossible for a human to do wrong in the expectation of bringing more wrong into their lives. We are all doing the best we can with the understandings we have to work with. I am so grateful for all the pain and misery I’ve experience because they’ve all served to prepare me for the understanding I now have. To quote Jesus Christ, “Father forgive them (Including myself) for they know not what they do!”

  14. Igor April 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Thank you dr Hyman, I always look forward to reading your articles. It’s just amazing how all good solutions are simple and readily available to us at almost no cost. Also, please allow me to mention one more U-turn, non processed, high quality food. In particular, pickled garlic which can be consumed in larger quantities without worrying about bad smelling breath. Yet another simple way to reduce stress and high blood pressure.

  15. Kevin April 28, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

    Please explain why your cholesterol article completely contradicts the Esselstyn and Ornish research as well as the China Study in regards to oils and the Western Diet . This is confusing ………especially since I have heart disease and have been following their advice and my numbers are close to normal including blood sugar from doing so. The research they did clearly shows progression in heart disease for those people who already have it and continue to use ANY type of oil or continue with eating meat and dairy.

    Thank You
    Kevin M.

    • Profile photo of Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff
      Dr. Hyman Nutrition Staff July 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

      Dear Kevin,

      Thank you for your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. Ultimately the most important thing for you to know is that each person will have a diet which suits their individual needs best. When you find a therapeutic meal plan that works for you, keep at it. The concept Dr. Hyman wants you to glean from this is that the quality of fat you include in your meals has a lot to do with whether or not fat is good or bad for you. Anti-inflammatory fats from nuts and seeds and lean, quality meat, poultry and fish is best. Check out this article for more on fat:http://drhyman.com/blog/2013/01/05/are-you-fat-enough/

      In good health,
      The Nutrition Team

  16. Lourdes T April 28, 2013 at 11:07 pm #

    I’m taking the meQuilibrium system and today that is day 2 I feel a little better about myself and the fact that yes, stress is a thought. I have Hashimoto’s and when I first began with this condition it was terrible, I was anxious all the time and I seriously thought I needed to be put in a mental hospital, or at least a very very quiet place and do nothing. And yoga saved me. It was the best thing I could do to go back to my calm self. Also, try to identify why you feel so stressed and anxious and then work on that, it really takes it off of your mind.
    Dr. Hyman, thank you for these wonderful blogs and tips that have changed my life significantly. Greetings from Mexico.

  17. Lourdes T April 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

    One more thing: Could you tell us a little bit about cortisol? Because isn’t it that low levels of cortisol won’t let a person relax and his response to stress will be different? I tell you this because I recently had a test and I have low cortisol, and I guess I can do anything to relax but it will take more time for me to achieve it.

  18. Lakshmi K April 29, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    Dr. Hyman, your blog came at a perfect time. I had worked my mind into a stress hell. By the understanding you provided about what stress is, your own story and resources to help, I was able to bring some sanity to my mental state. Huge thank you to you for your guidance. Now I have to practice it and build stamina for future occurances and not fall apart to pressure, like I did this time before you lent your helping hand.

  19. Connie post April 29, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Words of wisdom and well said!

  20. Karen April 30, 2013 at 10:32 pm #

    I love how you say stress is not “not something that happens to us but something that happens in us” – it’s so true!

    • John June 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

      Definitely, breathing is important and can help you manage your time and stress symptoms together with meditation and awareness. Stress is very debilitating and destabilizes the mind-body connection (our mental health, emotional well-being, and physical equilibrium). When stress hits us hard – we need to pay attention and deal with it as soon as possible to prevent future problems. Long term stress may lead to depressions.

  21. Madeleine May 1, 2013 at 8:22 am #

    I had all my negative arguments ready at the beginning of the article, and you knocked them down very effectively. Right now I am facing the big stressor of a possible diagnosis of multiple myeloma, although armed with information about an alternative therapy that is more effective than chemo. This is still worrisome, but stress would only make the situation worse. After reading your article I asked my husband to sit down with me and take five deep breaths. Thank you so much!

  22. Linda May 3, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Thanks Dr. Hyman – and I’m pretty sure you’re NOT lazy!

  23. Sandy May 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    I usually like gleaning your articles because they seem to go right with my training and beliefs, and sometimes I like to pass along to my fans and clients. However, this one spoke to ME! Lupus/ Sjorgren’s flaring like crazy dealing with a nasty divorce, long time single mom, homeschooling, court papers to fight and respond by ex, facing a foreclosure (sneaky move by ex), my stress is through the roof! Thank you… will be trying even harder now.

    • Caroline July 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      I have been through many of the same trials – saying a prayer for you.

  24. Jennie May 5, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    What a great article! Thanks for sharing such useful tips!

  25. Chuck May 9, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    I completely agree. I recently posted about taking a breath before responding in a difficult situation. My wife has been stressed for some time, which led me to create a site dedicated to reducing stress. http://www.serenethings.com.

    I am always looking for more info on combating stress.

    Chuck

  26. Zack May 10, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    Most people feel limited by their external surroundings and get trapped into thinking it’s hopeless to ever break the cycle. I believe the most important thing we can do is to step back and go to that quiet place in our mind that allows us to take a break from it all. As in your article, you advise to make U-Turns that not only help eliminate stress but also heal the soul. Thank you for the inspiring words.

  27. Coni May 17, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Thank you – thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!
    After reading this I went to the Center Pointe site and bought the Holosync. I have used it for 2 weeks now and have not felt this good in the last 3 years! I started with some health problems, then a death in the family and to top it off, unrelenting wicked bad stress at work. Bottom line, this has worked where Prozac hasn’t and I’ve already recommended it to several co-workers! As an aside, it’s also calmed me to the point I’ve been able to give up sugar and junk food! I’m a Happy Camper :)

  28. FLAVIA ARAUJO May 18, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    As a diabetic person, I really thank you for this great article. Thanks.

  29. Dorothea May 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Would like to try the diet, but I don’t want to lose weight. Will it still work?

    • Profile photo of HymanStaff
      HymanStaff May 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Hi Dorothea,

      Thank you for your message and your interest in Dr. Hyman’s work. This is not a diet, it is a healthier way of eating.

      Wishing You the Best of Health!

      Dr. Hyman Staff

  30. Kishore May 23, 2013 at 6:38 am #

    Thank you for great article. I’m having IBS for last few years and that keeps me stressed. But after reading this, I feel I need to breath a lot and slow, and say when ever I feel the cramps in my stomach ” stinkin thinkin”. Thank you again.

  31. Kim October 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

    I think that there should be a policy in work places to decrease stress , and if you are in a high stressed job there should be some understanding that the job will cause stress and to make sure employee know the risk involved in with the high stressed position. I think there should be a stress eval after so many months or years in high stressed areas. I think working doing what you love should not cause you to be sick.

  32. Stacy January 5, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Thank you for such an informative and reflective article…definitely wonderful tools to add to the ever increasing tool box of sage advice on how to truly live a healthy way of life…on every level.

  33. Carie Roth January 5, 2014 at 11:46 am #

    Scripture tells us not to worry about anything, but to pray about everything. When I am worried, I receive that as a personal invitation from the Lord to pray about whatever it is that is worrying me. This enables me to release the concern into the hands of my loving Heavenly Father, and to trust His perfect grace for each of my needs.

  34. Jane January 5, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Great article. I call this thought medicine. Thank you!

  35. Amanda January 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Great article! I too experienced chronic fatigue syndrome several years ago and perhaps that’s why I became increasingly interested in holistic/alternative/integrative practice. I started to realize I was physically and mentally stressed beyond belief and spiritually bereft to boot. I began my own spiritual practice of developing a philosophy of life while learning to take care of myself (novel thought for me back then!) The philosophy and attitude changes I have developed continue to carry me through difficult times. One thing I read that saves me much angst is called “You Never Know” :

    An aging farmer, in a country of long ago, went to his barn and found that his horse had run away. His neighbour, always alert to what was happening, said, “Oh, how terrible,” but the farmer replied, “You never know.” The next morning the horse returned accompanied by another horse. To this the neighbour exclaimed, “Oh, how wonderful!” and again the farmer said, “You never know.” That afternoon, as the farmer’s son rode the horse, he was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbour said, “That is horrible,” but the farmer repeated, “You never know.” The following day soldiers came looking to press recruits into the army but seeing only the aging farmer and his injured son they left. To this the neighbour said, “What a wonderful stroke of luck,” and the farmer answered, “You never know.”

    And so the story goes on.

  36. Grace January 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    I have a lot of issues with stress. It does so many bad things to our bodies but yet we all suffer from it in one way or another.
    Thanks for this very informative and smart article. I’ll try my best to do it.

  37. Laura H January 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Thank you for the great article! So many insights and tools. I only wish I’d had all of this information years ago. I’ve been a stress sponge, and knew I was creating some of it myself, but I didn’t realize that I was really creating most of it. Worrying about well, everything! I am bookmarking this for future reference.

  38. Roberta January 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm #

    Much thanks for this article to remind us that we can get control over our stress. I see a nice hot lavendar bath in my future…

    Happy New Year! R

  39. John June 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm #

    You can never know for sure whether stress symptoms will wear off until you are way beyond the stress triggering problems. Some people get high on stress and later develop depressions because they do not deal with stress in time. So, it is better to develop a daily relaxation or meditation ritual, to prevent stress from accumulating. Mindfulness is a great asset. http://www.destress-now.com

  40. Dave July 7, 2014 at 10:28 am #

    Thank you for sharing!

  41. Sharon Kindel July 7, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Stress kills! Good advice given to protect ourselves from our thoughts!

  42. charles July 10, 2014 at 10:43 am #

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  43. Kristine August 18, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    Hi Loved the flow of this article. I personally believe all of us need stress only so much to keep ourselves on the run, to make us move and achieve our goals but the minute that stress takes control of your feelings and emotions, I think, you are over-stressed and apart from that there is no other explanation. I started practicing meditation and aromatherapy way long before the hype about it! And honest to God, aromatherapy rejuvenates your skin as well as your health. You are in better control of your self. Recently I started using Cycle Pure home fragrance range on recommendation of my friends and it has helped me better even with my meditation practices. For more info you can check out http://www.purefragrances.com and once again appreciate your effort in writing this beautiful article!

  44. Sharan September 3, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Nice Article Mark! Generally when I am stressed, I play with my 2 years old daughter. And the moment i see her smiling, my stress just evaporates. So i guess, playing with the children can also be a very good stress buster. http://stressgo.info/

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