I always feel busy, stressed and hassled. Do you have suggestions of how I can manage stress in my busy life?
Answers from Edward T. Creagan, M.D.
Yes. It's important to manage stress, even when you're busy.
When you're swept away in a number of demands, your stress hormone climbs sky-high. This hormone is called cortisol, and it's produced by pyramid-shaped structures on top of the kidneys (adrenal glands).
Cortisol can suppress your immune system, so you're more likely to become ill. And it can increase your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Cortisol can also affect some of the areas in the brain involved with memory and learning processes.
To avoid these negative effects of stress, look for ways to keep stress — and cortisol — at manageable levels. Here are two practices that you may consider trying to manage your stress:
- Ritualize. This means having a consistent pattern, within reason, to your day. For example, in the evening, you can plan ahead for the next day. Try making your lunch and setting your clothes out the night before. That way, you're not running around in the morning trying to find what you need. Aim to make these daily habits, which can take you less effort and can give you less to think about the next morning.
Minimize decisions. To decide on anything creates stress and erodes energy. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the decisions in everyday life. For example, in the past, you could go to the drugstore and purchase a toothbrush. Now, for this simple purchase, you need to decide from many options and choices.
Try to limit how many decisions you need to make. You can do this by limiting how many choices you have, which can help you reduce the number of decisions you need to make. And try not to sweat the small stuff. Save your energy for the big decisions.
If you have predictable routines and work to minimize distractions, you can make your days a little less stressful and maybe a tad more productive, too.
Feb. 07, 2018
See more Expert Answers
- Seaward BL. Physiology of stress. In: Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being. 9th ed. Burlington, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2018.
- Creagan ET (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 16, 2018.
- Ersche KD, et al. Creature of habit: A self-report measure of habitual routines and automatic tendencies in everyday life. Personality and Individual Differences. 2017;116:73.