Going the distance

Tired of feeling hassled? Try these tips

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. March 13, 2014

We've all been there. The mad dash to the airport and, guess what, you forgot your passport; and a bad day at work followed by a rush to get Susie to the piano recital. You arrive on time but left her music at home on the kitchen table. You're caught in traffic on the morning of an important presentation. The late start and the lingering anxiety cause you to fumble the speech.

What's happening and how can you stop it?

When you're swept away in a volcano of demands, your stress hormone climbs sky high. This hormone is called cortisol and it is produced by the adrenal glands, pyramid-shaped structures on top of the kidneys.

Cortisol increases your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Just as important, cortisol also uncouples some of the connections in the brain involved with memory, judgment and recall.

To avoid having one bad day after another, look for ways to keep stress — and cortisol — at manageable levels. Here are two practices that durable people use to bring impose sanity on their busy lives:

  1. Ritualize. This means having a consistent pattern, within reason, to your day. This means something as simple as making lunch the day before, making sure that your clothes are available, so you're not running around like a lunatic in the dark of the early morning trying to find what you need.
  2. Minimize decisions. To decide on anything creates stress and erodes energy. Once upon a time, you could go to the drug store and purchase a toothbrush. No problem. Now even such a simple purchase can overwhelm you with options and choices. With that in mind, try not to sweat the small stuff. Save your energy for the big decisions.

If you have predictable routines and work to minimize distractions, life will not become a rose garden, but at least you will have shifted the odds in your favor to make the days a little less stressful and maybe a tad more productive too.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

March 13, 2014