Lifestyle Modification for Stress Relief

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Debbie Mandel, M.A.-Stress Management Specialist and Author

Lifestyle modification for stress relief is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. Stress is your biggest enemy, but a change in lifestyle can free you from your stress addiction. Author, speaker, and stress management specialist, Debbie Mandel, M.A., explains how you can succeed in a lifestyle modification for stress relief.

Stress Management Specialist: Debbie Mandel, M.A.

Debbie Mandel, M.A. dedicates her life to helping people improve their lives through stress management. She relays her knowledge as a radio show host, mind/body lecturer, and author to three self-help books. Her most recent book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, helps readers truly understand why they have stress in their lives and ways to change their lifestyle to decrease the amount of stress they experience.

Understanding Stress Addiction

What is stress addiction?

"People carry massive responsibilities and are blown about in so many directions as they follow an endless to-do list. Are they happier? Satisfied? When tasks don't get crossed off the to-do list, people experience stress, resulting in sleepless nights and days filled with feelings of negativity and inadequacy. Since these people can accomplish on so many levels, they tend to believe that if they don't do it all, then they simply don't measure up. Then chronic stress sets in, unleashing damaging stress hormones, which trigger inflammatory responses responsible for diseases affecting the cardiovascular and digestive systems as well as causing fatigue and depression. People do things with a "loose mind" and feel guilty about relaxing and having fun. In fact, people who find free time, usually don't know what to do with it."

How does someone become addicted to stress?

"Stress is everywhere and we tend to get accustomed to living on a high - that surge of adrenalin. The problem is that with every high, we crash both body and mind, and then need a bigger fix. Mostly this stress is internally driven - we need to prove to everyone how important and indispensable we are. We have lost our identity, what makes a person unique. Basically, this incredible busyness helps us to run away from the self - the deficits in personality and our fundamental unhappiness."

Are there certain types of people that are most vulnerable to stress addiction?

"A little stress (acute stress) can be good because it jumpstarts people to perform better and keep the immune system vigilant. For example, some people do well on deadline. However, when stress becomes chronic, it becomes unhealthy and saps our vitality. The people who are most vulnerable to stress addiction are victims of 'identity theft;' they have lost their personal power along the way to becoming a colleague, spouse, parent, etc.

Another predisposing factor is emotional programming by parents, teachers and religious leaders to be good, self-sacrificing and giving - people pleasers. People pleasers have plenty of parasites lined up for them. Suppressed and silenced, these people wonder why everyone is happy, except for them."

The Impact of Stress

How does stress affect relationships and other areas of a person's life?

"Stress robs people of joy and natural self-expression. People become irritable, abrupt and inattentive listeners - many unnecessary conflicts follow. Everyone is affected by this negativity. It's like people have a big chip on the shoulder. Quite often people will keep giving and doing for others, then feel resentful. This is a recipe for road rage in the living room because if you live with someone, that person becomes a mirror in which unhappiness projects on. This causes the person to tiptoe around you."

Steps for Lifestyle Modification for Stress Relief

What are some lifestyle changes someone can make to combat stress?

Time for Yourself

"My book, Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life, contains seven steps with quizzes and concrete empowerment exercises. The first step is awareness. Instead of helicoptering over others and taking care of their needs, helicopter over yourself. See the pattern. Create some special time for yourself by shedding one thing from your to-do list. How does this make you feel? The next day, let go of another chore. Instead of that to-do list, create a "look what I did today list." Find an activity which makes your heart sing and revive the inner child who had hopes and dreams. Do you dare to dream anymore?"

Eating and Exercise

"Food and mood correlate. Even the order in which you eat your food is important. The key word is balance. In the book, I give you the food science. Also, exercise is vital because activity alleviates anxiety. Exercise releases damaging stress hormones, increases feelings of empowerment and improves focus. Exercise breaks you out of a negative mindset because 'you mind your muscle'.

"Tip: When you are highly stressed, walk it off wearing headphones. Music and exercise create a great synergy to release stress. Walk with headphones outdoors in the light and you can reset your natural rhythm, the more intense the stress, the longer the walk. "

How can someone bring his or her stress level down when going through a challenging time?

"Stress is fueled by perception. 'Life is a series of recoveries.' Each time you manage a stressor, you raise your stress threshold to cope with the next stressor - creating experience and empowerment. Stress management means preparing to reinterpret those negatives into optimistic resiliency with constant practice beginning with the little things.

"Everything is a story, the story we create out of the facts. Reframe your story. Shift your perception after you've calmed down and come to your senses instead of numbing them."

Additional Resources

"My latest book, Addicted to Stress, provides seven steps to overcome daily stressors in order to feel more spontaneous and happy. Through science and the stories of other recovering stress junkies, you will learn how to build immunity to external pressure. Stress is cumulative, so it is important to deal with the many different stressors you are bombarded with, the ones within your control. My educational stress management site where you can listen to my radio shows and learn more about finding a reasonable happiness. "


LoveToKnow Stress Management would like to thank Debbie Mandel, M.A. for sharing her tips on ways you can break your addiction to stress.

Lifestyle Modification for Stress Relief