You probably have your own ways of dealing with stressful times. Some may be healthy, such as calling a friend, cooking a comforting dinner, or curling up in bed earlier than usual. Others may not be as harmless. All too often, people self-medicate or turn to other unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to relieve pressure they feel. They may do so in a variety of ways. For example:
- Watching endless hours of TV
- Withdrawing from friends or partners or, conversely jumping into a frenzied social life to avoid facing problems
- Overeating or weight gain
- Undereating or weight loss
- Sleeping too much
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Lashing out at others in emotionally or physically violent outbursts
- Taking up smoking or smoking more than usual
- Taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs that promise some form or relief, such as sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, or anti-anxiety pills
- Taking illegal or unsafe drugs
Becoming aware of how you typically handle stress can help you make healthy choices. If you normally reach for a sugary snack, for example, you might instead call a friend. Choosing to connect rather than consume can relieve your stress. Studies suggest that emphasizing social ties can provide definite health benefits – with no calories!
Because you can't avoid stress altogether, learn healthier ways to manage stressful situations with the Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, Stress Management.