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If Your Life Seems More Stressful Now, Learn How To Cope Better

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The stress response isn’t necessarily bad. It might help you perform better by sharpening your focus, helping you meet an important goal. But it is designed to allow you to respond to a potential problem quickly, potentially saving your life. 


The acute stress response takes longer to type out than to happen.  If you hear or see something, a stressor, that startles you, the amygdala signals to the hypothalamus to stimulate the autonomic nervous system. Then, your sympathetic system stimulates your adrenal glands to trigger adrenaline and noradrenaline hormones.  Once your brain has decided there is no longer danger, hormone levels drop and heart rate and respirations return to normal.  Even if this was a false alarm you might feel a little shaky as the adrenaline rush wanes but soon you will feel fine again and life will go on. 


In today’s world of course there are times we need that rapid response but there are also many stressors  that we respond to in this exact same way. Constant traffic noise, car alarms, text messages, ‘breaking news’, late trains, angry co-workers and approaching deadlines… we are in high-alert much of the day. Over the days and weeks it builds and builds until it becomes overwhelming for some, leading to a vicious cycle of anxiety, poor outcomes, more anxiety and worsening outcomes. This exaggerated stress response can also negatively impact physical health leading to: heart disease including hypertension, digestive trouble including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), headaches, diabetes, weight gain, memory issues, loss of focus leading to accidents, decreased immune response meaning more frequent illnesses, depression and sleep dysfunction.

When we say we are stressed, what we mean is something happened and we had this rapid response but instead of returning to our baseline after whatever had ended, we continued in this hypervigilant state and the next thing that happens adds on top and the next thing and the next. We become overwhelmed. We need to regain our balance, return to baseline as soon as it has passed.  This is resilience.  How do we do that when more and more things are piling up? 


Most of us cannot change where we live easily or the traffic patterns we deal with and for most, if we changed jobs, even if it were a possibility, the issues would still continue.  So it is essential to prioritize things we can change to improve our ability to cope, our resilience.

Check out Denise Billen-Mejia’s Commentary Series Here

Some of the things to consider

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time each day (including weekends). 
  • Take a few moments to breathe deeply several times a day

          Breathe in count of 5, hold count of 5, breathe out 5 or more

  • Get exposed to daylight early ( helps stabilize sleep-wake cycle) 
  • Get some exercise daily, eg 20-minute walk in early morning light 
  • Eat healthier meals and fewer salty/sugary snacks
  • Gaze at plants or the clouds in silence, don’t think about anything for 2 minutes or more*
  • Find something funny to laugh about everyday – or just start laughing at nothing at all.


*Even looking at photographs of green plants will help


If you adopt some, or all, of these lifestyle habits you will help your body and mind to reset and gain resilience.  


With hypnosis my clients learn to manage negative self-talk and the constant loop going back over an upsetting event, they can visualize situations  that bother them and see themselves coping well.  This is not just a short-term fix – this is helping them create a new skill for life, to develop a life-habit which will be useful whenever a stressful event occurs. After all, as soon as the session ends,  they’ll be back in traffic or at work or wherever they experience stress.  The self-hypnosis techniques they learn allow them to develop habits they can use to be more calm and relaxed and use for other areas of their life too. 

If you feel stress is causing problems at work or that you feel unable to cope you should seek your doctor’s help, there may be an underlying medical problem and if there is not,  ask your doctor if psychotherapy or hypnosis might help you regain some calm.


Denise Billen-Mejia MD, Consulting Hypnotist and Coach worked for two decades as a clinician in Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine and now, retired from medicine, she actively seeks opportunities to educate physicians and the public about hypnosis.

She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (section on Hypnosis and Psychosomatic Medicine), and a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists.

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