Stressing the Importance of De-stressing

According to Amit Sood, M.D., practicing mindfulness is a good way to cope with the unexpected ups and downs of life.

Amit Sood, M.D., wrote the book on stress. Or more accurately, the book on avoiding it. Dr. Sood is the author of the Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. He also leads the Mayo Clinic Mind-Body Initiative and is director of research and practice at the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. With bona fides like that, it's no surprise he's become the go-to guy for wordsmiths looking for a stress-management expert to interview.

Thank goodness, because we love the advice he dishes out in articles for publications like The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Parade. As big fans of lists (and headlines with numbers), we were especially excited to read what Dr. Sood recently had to say in Prevention magazine's 5 Myths About Stress. And because we know from Dr. Sood that good deeds are good medicine, we're going to do you (and ourselves) a solid and summarize those myths and the truth behind them.

  • Myth #1: Alcohol is a stress-buster. Not so much. You may feel like happy hour makes you happy, but according to the article, alcohol "stimulates production of the stress hormone cortisol," which has the opposite effect. Instead of raising a glass, Dr. Sood recommends choosing a healthy alternative, like listening to music you love or connecting with a friend who makes you laugh.
  • Myth #2: Stress is a great motivator. While a little stress can indeed motivate you (deadlines, anyone?), too much "can backfire," according to the magazine. Treat stress like salt, says Dr. Sood. "Your food might be bland with zero salt. But you don't want too much salt, or it'll overpower the taste of everything else."
  • Myth #3: Stress leads to ulcers. Most ulcers develop from an infection or from long-term use of medications like ibuprofen. But stress can contribute to ulcers by weakening your immune system (making infection more likely) and causing inflammation (making you more likely to pop a pill).
  • Myth #4: Most people exposed to severe stress develop PTSD. Fortunately, just a small percentage (maybe 15 percent) who live through traumatic events develop post-traumatic stress disorder. To avoid becoming part of that group, Dr. Sood recommends reaching out to friends, family or a trusted therapist for help coping after a tragedy.
  • Myth #5: Modern life makes stress inevitable. It's not your circumstances but your response to them that matters. For example, if you're stuck in traffic, "the stress you feel is optional," Dr. Sood tells the magazine. Practicing mindfulness is a good way to cope with the unexpected ups and downs of life.

And here's a bonus tip: When you're in need of a boost, take what Dr. Sood calls a "wishing well walk," sending silent good vibes to people you pass during your stroll. (You can hear Dr. Sood talk about the benefits in this video.)

Then deliver us some good vibes with your comments below. You can deliver this story to others using the handy social media tools.