SOURCE: Dr. Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D.

June 05, 2007 11:05 ET

10 Ways to Cope With Stress This Summer From Stress-Management Author Dr. Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D.

Medical Professor, Psychologist and Single Mother of Three Cites "Healthy" Coping Techniques From Her New Book, "10 Simple Solutions to Stress: How to Tame Tension & Start Enjoying Your Life"

PORTLAND, OR--(Marketwire - June 5, 2007) - Hosting backyard barbecues and deciding what to wear at the beach this summer may not be the worst of your problems, but -- when it comes to stress -- it all adds up.

It turns out that everyday stressors such as stop-and-go traffic and strained relationships can be more harmful to your mental and physical health than residual stress caused by major life events such as a death or divorce, according to the author of "10 Simple Solutions to Stress: How to Tame Tension & Start Enjoying Your Life," Dr. Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D.

"Once you accept that stress is a fact of life, the key to managing it is not falling back on the bad habits or coping mechanisms we're all so tempted to rely on," said Dr. Wheeler, who's a professor of integrative medicine at Portland State University and a single mom of three. "Coping with stress in healthy ways goes a long way to curbing its ability to negatively impact our minds and our bodies."

Dr. Wheeler offers the following suggestions for managing stress in a healthy way:

10 Ways to Cope With Stress This Summer

1. Be a Problem Solver -- Instead of mulling a problem over and over and getting nowhere, put a pen to paper and brainstorm steps for dealing with it. Be unrealistic and fanciful and see where it takes you. You'll get a big-picture perspective of negative outcomes and learn how much or little control you have to deal with the problem and if, perhaps, you should simply seek support in others.

2. Seek Out Information -- This will reduce feelings of uncertainty and alleviate stress from short-term challenges -- particularly many health problems -- that can be readily researched. On the other hand, for long-term challenges or challenges you have little or no control over, seeking out information can lead to hyper-vigilance or obsession that becomes a stressor in itself.

3. Practice Mental Simulation -- Take yourself through a stressful event such as a party or move and see yourself staying calm, making good decisions and experiencing a positive outcome. The mental imagery is a dress rehearsal, which helps you see what aspects of the event you can control or change and what resources such as humor or concentration you'll need to succeed.

4. Seek Practical Social Support -- This is asking for and getting help from others for day-to-day stressors when you need it. Ask a colleague for a ride to work when your car's in the shop or ask a neighbor to babysit when something comes up. Family members often provide this sort of help, but cultivating a social network for practical support will help you cope with everyday stressors that wear you down.

5. Seek Emotional Social Support -- Talk to someone you can trust. Talking with someone helps you create a logical story about a problem and identify resources that can help you deal with it. You also feel more connected and avert loneliness, which is a documented risk factor for illness and premature death.

6. Be a Confrontive Person -- Think of this as sticking up for yourself -- with artful precision and loads of emotional regulation. If, for instance, you're upset with your boss or friend, communicate your negative emotions directly rather than taking your frustrations out on co-workers or loved ones. You'll feel less hopeless and gain a sense of being in control of what happens to you.

7. Find the Silver Lining -- This can be the difference between being a victim versus being a survivor. Once you accept that certain stressors are out of your control, loss or hardship become events that can change us and give our lives a new path -- rather than simply defeat us.

8. Access and Vent Emotions -- Suppressing your emotions is an avoidant coping mechanism that can be harmful to your health. On the other hand, anger can increase your blood pressure and heart rate to dangerous levels. The trick is to allow a free flow of what you're feeling, while not getting preoccupied with a problem or its consequences at the expense of actually working on it.

9. Turn to Religion or Spirituality -- The physical and mental health benefits of being a religious or spiritual person have been well documented in recent medical literature. Having a transcendent perspective on life allows you to put your everyday problems into a much larger context that makes them seem smaller and more manageable. Your feelings of self-worth will likely increase and you'll find a new support network in your spiritual community.

10. Make Comparisons and be Grateful -- While it may be morbid, no matter how bad things get, it's always possible to imagine someone who's worse off than you or that things could be worse. These thoughts give you a feeling of hope, spark feelings of good fortune and allow you to actively cope with or acknowledge a problem. If you get in a fender bender, focus on the fact that you weren't seriously hurt.

SOURCE: "10 Simple Solutions to Stress: How to Tame Tension & Start Enjoying Your Life"; New Harbinger Publications; Dr. Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D.; www.stresshappiness.com.

About Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D.

Claire Michaels Wheeler, M.D., Ph.D. is a physician, psychologist and professor of integrative medicine at Portland State University and a professor of family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. She has run MindBody Medicine of Portland, P.C. since 1999 and counseled both groups and individuals on how to combat everyday stress and chronic medical conditions with integrative medicine, nutrition and art. Dr. Wheeler holds an A.B. in physiology from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with highest honors. She received her M.D. from the Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and her Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Wheeler has practiced emergency medicine in emergency rooms in New Mexico and West Virginia. She completed a year of training in Dr. Andrew Weil's program for M.D.s, the Associate Fellowship in Integrative Medicine, at the University of Arizona. She is the spokeswoman for "Take 10," the new promotional campaign for Nonni's Biscotti. Dr. Wheeler lives in Portland, Ore., with her significant other, Matt, their five children (ages 6 to 16) and two dogs.

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