Duke Medicine HealthLine
Published: Aug. 16, 2007
Updated: Apr. 4, 2011
It’s a car full of rowdy kids. It’s an unyielding client at work. It’s the grocery shopping and the vacuuming that never gets done.
It’s stress, and though it may seem to be ”all in your head,” it’s actually a full-body event.
Stress causes the body to increase its production of hormones such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol; high levels of these hormones are linked to a variety of ills, from weight gain (in the form of fat) to disruptions in the body’s blood sugar levels.
Cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as muscle relaxation exercises, can decrease the levels of these stress hormones in your body. Duke medical psychologist Richard Surwit, PhD, who wrote The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution, says we can all learn simple techniques to manage stress on our own.
“A lot of stress has to do with how we appraise what’s going on around us,” he says. For example, if your work supervisor snaps at you, how you respond internally is up to you. You can assume that he’s unhappy with you, or you can assume that he’s just having a bad day.
“People have to be able to figure out which is true,” says Surwit. “If your boss is having a bad day, that’s too bad for your boss, but it’s not something that should make you upset.”
Surwit created a structured set of exercises that train the brain for stress management. “They help you look at a situation, analyze it, decide whether the way you are responding is appropriate or not, and then change how you are responding if necessary.”
Among the physical and mental techniques recommended in The Mind-Body Diabetes Revolution: