Managing Stress and Reducing Anxiety – 2008

Fran Miller, Ph.D. ©

I’ve made an interesting observation about working with depression and anxiety. Most depressions can be completely resolved with psychotherapy, motivation, effort, and if necessary medication. However, I don’t think we can completely eliminate anxiety. There will always be cause for anxiety. We have anxiety related to our families, relationships, work, careers, health, life and death issues – and yes, because of the economy. For this reason being able to reduce anxiety and learning how to manage stress are extremely crucial to having a balanced, healthy, and happy lifestyle.

Our overall stress level is the combination of physical, emotional, and practical concerns, conflicts, worries and demands placed upon us. To address our stress level takes a multifaceted approach. It requires looking after and keeping up with medical care as well as taking care of what I call “The Basics”: sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Each of these three requires our attention and effort. We know that sleep, nutrition and exercise are important, but when we are stressed we forget or delay giving them our attention, and then the stress level becomes worse. 

In addition it is necessary to keep emotional and spiritual needs in balance along with our physical ones. It is like trying to keep a sailboat balanced while taking into consideration the force of the water and the power of the wind. Some years ago a friend of mine, Paul Brenner, wrote a book entitled “Health is a Matter of Balance.” I often say that health is a matter of a precarious balance. It is necessary to take care of our physical, medical, emotional, and spiritual needs in order to maintain equilibrium and sail in peace. Then, of course, it is important to resolve or improve on the factors causing stress. Reevaluating our decisions or strategies, developing an action plan, and prioritizing are all important.

Reducing anxiety also requires a multifaceted effort. There are several methods that combined, and if practiced consistently, will reduce anxiety. They are: psychotherapy, journaling, sometimes dream work, relaxation exercises, visualization, mindfulness practice, breathing techniques, and meditation. Some of these methods can be learned and practiced independently, but unfortunately frequently when they are tried solo they are not successful. This is especially true for visualization, mindfulness practice, and meditation. Finding someone very experienced in these methods is usually necessary.

The reason that psychotherapy may be necessary is that there are usually underlying issues or conflicts that cause stress and anxiety and that are out of awareness or do not get resolved without help. Choosing a psychotherapist is extremely important, and you should feel confident that the therapist is knowledgeable and competent. There are many psychologists available in Central Oregon, and they can be found in the phone book, through your insurance company, or online

Our spiritual or religious life is also crucial in reducing stress and anxiety. This could be a matter of simply finding inspiring books to read regularly when stressed in order to remind us of our values and goals. Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices such as prayer, mindfulness and meditation are extremely helpful in reminding us to keep perspective, accept our current circumstances, and to have hope and faith in the future. Values, spiritual practice, and religious beliefs give us courage and keep us balanced. 

With these considerations in mind you will be able to manage stress and reduce anxiety even in a challenging economic time.