5 Healthy Ways To Respond To Stressful Situations

One doctor shares what happens to our bodies when stress takes over and how to manage it.


Somewhere along the way, we decided that being stressed and tired was a badge of honor. When you ask people how they are, they usually respond with being busy or having a lot to do. We of course, do have a lot to do, but why do we publicize it the way we do? Why are we proud to be so exhausted and of having stressful lives? Because somewhere along the way, it became synonymous with success and accomplishment. But the truth is, being under constant stress isn’t good for our bodies.

How Stress Affects The Body

“New research is showing that stress can actually rewire a very important part of the brain known as the Limbic System, which controls emotion and memory,” explains Dr. Bradley Nelson, D.C., author of The Emotion Code. “Recent studies of mice have revealed that the brains of highly-stressed mice suffered from physical changes that made them more prone to depression and anxiety.”

It’s not just your brain that is affected. Dr. Nelson explains that other side-effects include lowered immune function and elevated blood sugar and blood fat levels.

“Chronic stress results in the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response, or the body’s response to trauma or injury,” adds Dr. Nelson. “In addition, another fascinating study is now indicating that the level of stress-induced inflammation in the body is directly related to the emotions that a person chooses in response to their stressful situations. If you choose negative emotions, you are choosing more inflammation, but if you choose to respond to stressful situations with cheerfulness and acceptance, your inflammation levels will be lower. Inflammation is now thought to be the underlying cause of many illnesses, including allergies, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease and cancer”

If you are chronically stressed, you may have increased susceptibility to illness, depression, anxiety, allergies, exhaustion and increased pain in joints and muscles. For runners specifically, all of these things damper your training and ability to manage it with other parts of life.

How To Respond To Stressful Situations

In Dr. Nelson’s experience, following these five steps is often enough to change the ‘automatic’ stress response into a healthier one. He offers these five simple ways to respond in stressful situations to improve your mood and health:

  1. Recognize unresolved emotions are responsible for guiding (or misguiding) our choices on a daily basis. For example, if you have a trapped emotion of anger from a past event, you’ll be more likely to become angry when future situations arise that may upset you. This is because part of your body is already resonating with anger, and is just waiting for someone (or something stressful) to light the fuse. Learn and use a simple method of releasing “Emotional Baggage” such as The Emotion Code.
  2. Listen to your body (and when necessary, say “no”). Don’t volunteer to take on additional tasks if it interferes with your health, your family or your stress level—it won’t be worth it.
  3. Exercise daily. Too busy to work out? Look for ways to incorporate more activity into your routine. “Find a way to work exercise into your daily chores,” Dr. Nelson advises. “Challenge yourself to get the whole house cleaned in half the normal time, and you’ll work up a sweat with all the scrubbing and running from room to room.”
  4. Eat right. When you go out to eat with friends, come prepared with stories to tell so you’re talking more, and as a result, eating more slowly. Eat your salad first so you fill up on live food instead of the sugary and fattening stuff. Remember your body’s needs and respect them.
  5. Take a breather. If you find people you are with are making you feel stressed out, go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air. “Ask yourself if you’re overreacting,” Dr. Nelson explains. “Recognize your own feelings and analyze what the other person meant to say. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt – it’s likely no offense was meant. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification, then respond appropriately, with kindness, with love and with forgiveness if you can.”