4 Tips for Managing Stress Holistically

This time of year, it’s hard not to feel the pressure. The holiday crunch, the obligations, the need to fit it all in—including a few workouts. Pressure leads to stress, a state of mind that can easily zap our immune systems.

“The body and mind are inseparable, and what impacts one impacts the other,” says Dr. Eudene Harry, medical director of Oasis Wellness & Rejuvenation Center in Orlando and author of the new book Anxiety 101: The Holistic Approach to Managing Your Anxiety and Taking Back Your Life. “I treat anxious patients every day and know firsthand how anxiety can adversely affect a patient’s health and quality of life.”

Are women in particular more susceptible to stress and anxiety in today’s world? According to Dr. Harry, MRI studies have shown that a woman’s brain may, in fact, be more susceptible to stresses based on how information is processed. One study done at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School showed that, under stress, the emotional part of the brain is more activated in women while the fight or flight or action part of brain is more activated in men.

“It also revealed that the effects on the brain produced by the stressor tended to last much longer in women than it did in men,” says Harry. “In other words, the male brain recovered more quickly from the stressful event than did the female brain.”

In addition, other studies have shown that certain anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder, are twice as likely to affect women when compared with their male counterparts.

“Studies also state that women are more susceptible to the adverse effects of stress than men,” she says. “Several studies seem to suggest that working mothers—married or single—seem to be particularly susceptible to elevated stress levels.”

Can anxiety and stress really work to hijack our emotions and affect our health? “Exposure to prolonged stress and anxiety absolutely can hijack our health and compromise our well-being,” says Dr. Harry. “Prolonged exposure to stress hormones and being in constant overdrive can increase our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and chronic pain syndromes. It can also contribute to insomnia, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.”

How can you know when it’s time to get help managing your own stress? Dr. Harry says that if you can pinpoint one or more of these signs it may be time to seek out some professional help:

• If you feel yourself isolating from family and friends

• Everything brings on anxiety symptoms, from checking the mailbox to the telephone ringing

• You start experiencing other mood disorders such as depression

• You are so overwhelmed and you can’t seem to get a handle on your anxiety

• You unable to think clearly

• You are becoming forgetful and your productivity is declining

To help minimize your anxiety level through the holidays (and beyond into the new year), Dr. Harry suggests daily exercise, balanced nutrition, healthy relationships, and a stable environment. Here, we check in with this holistically focused practitioner to get the details on her four best lifestyle tips for managing stress:

• Exercise for at least 20 minutes 5 times a week.

Exercise improves moods, improves memory and helps you to think more clearly—not to mention, its beneficial effects on the heart, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

• Cultivate those friendships that nurture you and work on identifying the ones that deplete you.

This is especially true for women. It turns out that the brains of men and women are wired differently. The emotional part of a woman’s brain responds more strongly to negative stimuli while the emotional part of a man’s brain responds more to positive stimuli.

• Find something to laugh about several times a day because laughter is good medicine.

Laughter decreases inflammation and levels of stress hormones.

• Get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep decreases inflammation and anxiety levels plus it gives the body a chance to rejuvenate and replenish.

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Erinn Morgan


After a 10-year career as an award-winning New York City-based editor launching and redesigning urban, style-driven magazines, Erinn Morgan left her downtown Manhattan digs after September 11th, 2001, in search of a less encumbered, freelance lifestyle. A life-changing, two-year-long trek around the country in a motorhome eventually landed her in Durango, Colo., which she now calls home. Her writing has appeared in numerous— More about this author →