Beating Bad Stress

A contentious election year, an onslaught of media headlines, job tension, and family complications. The past year has been a difficult one for most of us and feeling “stressed-out” is common.

February 9, 2017

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A contentious election year, an onslaught of media headlines, job tension, and family complications. The past year has been a difficult one for most of us and feeling “stressed-out” is common.

In fact, stress is very normal, explains Philip R. Appel, PhD, FASCH, director of psychological services for MedStar NRH.

There are two categories of stress: Good stress, called eustress, and bad stress, which is distress. Eustress can help keep us motivated, happy and challenged. But when good stress becomes difficult to manage, tension builds, performance suffers and we feel distress.

“We can become overloaded with stress,” says Dr. Appel. “This type of distress can have a negative impact on our emotional and physical health. It can upset the balance of mind, body and spirit that is important to our well-being and to our quality of life.”

At MedStar NRH, Dr. Appel helps patients deal constructively with the challenges they face after injury or illness. But he says his “Strategies for Stress” can be used by any of us to manage the distresses we are likely to experience in our lives:

  • Time Orientation

    Be present in the moment, Dr. Appel says. Don’t dwell on what was or what may happen in the future.

  • Perspective

    Remember that how you perceive the world around you isn’t always shared. In simple conflicts, try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective. Ask yourself “Do I want to expend any more energy on this?” says Dr. Appel. “Be humble,” he says. Learn to let go of the little things.

  • Acceptance

    Face reality—resistance is futile! Instead of fighting what’s happening, find a way around the problem. “It’s like swimming in a riptide,” Dr. Appel says. “You can’t swim against the current. Instead move in a diagonal direction to reach your goal.”

  • Self-Respect

    Trust and believe in yourself. Don’t overload your mind with doubt. “The only things we can control are our inner thoughts,” Dr. Appel explains. Our “self-talk” influences whether we experience eustress or distress. Don’t berate yourself. Praise yourself.

  • Self-Care

    Take time to care for yourself. Schedule activities you enjoy and that are comforting—read a good book, see a film, turn off social media. And share your concerns with friends and family.

  • Mind-Body Connection

    Distress can have a negative effect on our physical well-being. Dr. Appel advises that we exercise and eat healthy foods. Try meditation, yoga or breathing techniques to relax.

  • Dis-Identify

    Whatever you identify with controls your experience. Sometimes disidentifying is the way to avoid distress and move forward. “For example, a young man who identifies as a football player has a devastating injury,” Dr. Appel explains. “He believes he has no future until be begins to see alternatives.” He “dis-identifies” with the notion that he is only a football player.

  • Re-write Your Own Program

    Our emotional responses are based on our beliefs. Next time you are about to respond in a negative way, stop and take a second look. Perhaps there are other ways to see the situation and it may be possible to see the “both/and” of the situation rather than the “either/or.” Change those thoughts and you will change your emotional experience.

While self-help is often effective, Dr. Appel says that if over time one’s distress causes sleep disturbances, moodiness and depression, ask for professional help and see a therapist. To learn more about Dr. Appel or to make an appointment, visit:


Written by Emily Turk.


Category : Rehabilitation ,

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