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Q & A: Plan ahead to reduce stress, health educator says

Sunday, April 6, 2014
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Community health educator Wendy Chirieleison says one way to reduce stress is to stay away from computer screens. (Courtesy Healthlink Littauer)
Community health educator Wendy Chirieleison says one way to reduce stress is to stay away from computer screens. (Courtesy Healthlink Littauer)

Relax — that’s one word of advice that community health educator Wendy Chirieleison can offer to reduce stress.

Chirieleison will offer other advice to free people from personal pressure cookers on Tuesday, April 15, as she presents “50 Ways to Reduce Stress.” Two one-hour lectures, sponsored by HealthLink Littauer — Nathan Littauer’s Hospital’s wellness education and resource center — will be held at the Fulton County YWCA at 11:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The YWCA is at 213 Harrison St. Extension, Johnstown.

People interested in attending either of the lectures are asked to call HealthLink at 736-1120.

Q: Can you tell that people in our community are under assorted stresses these days?

A: I think you can see people are looking tired, looking a little bit frantic when they’re working and carrying out daily activities. People can be a little short-tempered at times . . . I think it’s a combination of family, not having enough time, high demands at work, not getting enough sleep, not getting enough exercise, not eating well, not getting the fruits and vegetables and water that we need to maintain a healthy balance.

Q: How can people dampen their daily stresses?

A: Here are some of the ways to help minimize or prevent stress — one would be improving time management, making a schedule and sticking to it. Getting ready ahead of time, prepping things ahead of time and leaving yourself enough time to arrive early. So leave a little earlier for appointments. When you don’t plan for enough time, people start rushing — especially in the car, when you may not have planned to be behind a slow-moving vehicle. Your blood pressure goes up, you need to get to your appointment on time and you didn’t factor in this travel time.

Q: How can people reduce their stress in their workplaces?

A: Technology has placed an expectation on workers they will be available 24-7. If you’re working on a project, and your team has a question, they may feel they can text you or email you with questions when you’re home trying to have a relaxing evening with your family. Turn off, unplug your devices so you can connect with your family and have a clear division of work time and personal time.

Q: How about some other ways to minimize stress at the office?

A: Being organized is one great way to minimize stress at work. That means everything from organizing your work space to your schedule and really giving yourself either 30 minutes or 60 minutes to de-stress from what you were doing at work, have a healthy lunch, get in some exercise. I think people would really feel better if they did that. They would feel a lot more energized.

Q: How can people on the job beat stress when so many of us have extra duties these days?

A: It’s OK to say no. If you are being asked by the PTA to run an event but your plate is full, know that it’s OK to respectfully decline helping out . . . you can ask your supervisor to put that project on hold until you can have finished some of the other things you’re working on. It would give you some time to finish working before starting something new.

I think supervisors also have to be mindful of realistic expectations, take into consideration how much time employees are spending working on projects and be a little bit more flexible with the demands they’re placing on their workers and their staffs.

Q: How does healthy eating figure into stress?

A: Unhealthy eating connects to stress because our bodies need nutrients in order to help us cope with the stress that we experience all day. So healthy eating would make sure you’ve gotten the proper servings of proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables and avoid things that add to stress such as caffeine, excess sugar and alcohol.

Q: How does exercise help chase stress?

A: Exercise creates endorphins that make us feel happy, so that kind of balances our stress as well. If people were getting 30 minutes of activity every day, even if they divided that 30 minutes into two 15-minute increments or three 10-minute increments, they’d feel more energized and much less stressed.

Q: How much sleep do we need to relieve stress?

A: You need at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night. That really helps maintain balance. If people have trouble sleeping at night, they might try putting their devices away early because the light from the screens really triggers the brain and doesn’t allow the brain to relax. You might think reading a tablet a half hour before you go to bed is helpful, but really, it isn’t. TV is another thing you would want to avoid in bed.

Q: How does positive thinking figure into the de-stress equation?

A: Sometimes we tend to be more negative in thinking about ourselves and what we have done. Replace those thoughts with something more positive. So if you made a mistake or, for example, you’re on a diet and you eat something you shouldn’t have eaten and didn’t want to eat. Tell yourself “Tomorrow starts another day . . . I’m not going to beat me up over this one mistake.” Recognize all the good efforts you have made.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at wilkin@dailygazette.com.

 
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