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Gulf Bend offers tips for back-to-school stress

The start of a new school year often means the start of higher stress in the lives of many people.
“Stress can cause all kinds of problems for people both mentally and physically,” said Lane
Johnson, director of clinical services at Gulf Bend Center. “But there are things you can do to
reduce the negative effects of stress on your health and happiness.”

Get Prepared – Make sure you face stress head on by getting yourself in good shape to absorb
the effects of anticipated stress. Get plenty of rest, eat right, and exercise regularly. In addition,
don’t schedule any other stressful events during the back-to-school season that you can avoid
until later. Johnson advised against trying to start too many new things at one time.

Breathe Deeply – During moments of high stress, pause briefly, shut your eyes, and take a few
deep breaths. This forces the body to relax. Enhance this deep breathing with mental images of
relaxing locations.

Journaling – Journaling has been found by several studies to help someone cope with stress.
Individuals should journal what they are going through, how they feel, and how they are dealing
with it. This not only helps to express feelings, but can also serve as a reference guide as to how
such stress was effectively dealt with in the past.

Change the Internal Dialog – Everyone repeats mantras and phrases to themselves. In times of
stress, these are often negative and debilitating. By changing the internal monologue to positive
thoughts such as, “I can deal with this,” or “I have taken this before,” the actual level of
perceived stress is reduced.

Be Aware of Potential Elevated Risk – Anyone at a high risk for mental illness, such as
someone with an immediate family history, should be aware that stress can cause such conditions
to manifest. Often, these are temporary situational conditions like depression or anxiety, both of
which can be treated and recovered from. Even rarer conditions like bi-polar disorder or
schizophrenia can be managed like any chronic disease. Symptoms can be controlled and often
eliminated with proper medication and counseling.

One of the other best pieces of advice is to remember that stress is only transitory, Johnson said.
“Stress is just a temporary condition often caused by uncertainty,” Johnson said. It often passes
once someone knows what to expect.  In the event someone needs professional help, they can contact Gulf Bend Center at 800-421-8825.

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