Stressed ... need help? | Dr. Petter

Who isn't stressed? The holidays are among us, and the economy lingers in a recession. People are still desperately searching for jobs. Individuals and families are struggling to pay monthly mortgages, make car payments and pay utilities bills.

Unfortunately, stress can take a toll on the mind and body. Stress that is constant, without a break, with no apparent end in sight, can be extremely taxing and even detrimental to our health.

Stress is like a "disease" for the mind and body. Prolonged stress can pose a significant range of health consequences. Examples include: neck and back pain; headaches; heartburn; hair loss; chest pain; anxiety; panic attacks; insomnia; menstrual disorders; infertility; irritable bowel; suppression of the immune system; depression; eating disorders and sexual dysfunction.

How to cope

Focus on the basics. Obtain seven to nine hours of sleep every night (for an adult). Eat a healthy diet and do not skip meals. Exercise 30 minutes, five to seven days a week.

Develop "outlets" for stress. Spend at least 30 minutes every day doing things that make you happy and bring joy. By giving back to yourself, you will have more to give to others. Examples of stress outlets: listening to your favorite music and singing along, reading a book, working on crafts, soaking in a tub, getting a massage, taking a class in yoga or meditation, taking the dog for a walk.

Consider other alternatives. There is a tea called "Calm" by Tazo. Not only does it taste good, it appears to promote relaxation. And I agree, as I have tried it with great results.

If your stress level remains high despite implementing these stress-reducing tips, consider counseling services, either those approved by your insurance carrier, or free spiritual guidance at your local church. Also, consider seeing your medical doctor, as we can help with an array of prescription medication available, if indicated.

Dr. Linda Petter is a weekly feature on KOMO TV/News Radio (1000 AM & 97.7 FM) every Saturday and Sunday 7:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m., and Thursday's during the evening commute. She trained at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Illinois, Carle Hospital. Dr. Petter is chief of the Department of Family Practice at St. Francis Hospital in Federal Way. She is a consumer healthcare advocate, and her books, "Healthcare On a Budget" and "Common Medical Sense" are available on Visit her website,, or call her office at 253-568-0841.

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