Mental Health Matters: Avoiding Stress vs Managing Stress

  1. yoga
  2. work with a therapist
  3. self-therapy
  4. daily meditation
  5. find meaning and purpose
  6. connect with nature and natural light
  7. correct your nutrition and supplement
  8. correct your nutrition and supplement for detoxification and anti-inflammation
  9. heal your gut
  10. exercise
  11. practice “radical acceptance”
  12. use mantras
  13. practice gratitude
  14. keep a journal
  15. manage your technology and social media use
  16. balance your hormones
  17. sleep better
  18. change your lifestyle habits 

I do a combination of these eighteen things a minimum of four times a week. On the weekends, I rest, and call it balance. 

You may be wondering the following: if these eighteen habits are already a part of my daily life, then how did Stressed in the Netherlands occur, and why was there some residual when I was De-Stressed in Croatia?  

Well, apparently, there’s a difference between avoiding stress and managing stress


Dr. Linear Passaler (the person with the dysregulated nervous system quiz) said that a lot of the narrative around sensitivity is built on the idea that in order to honor it, we need to reduce stressors

Exactly, Dr. Passaler, exactly, I thought as I listened to her. 

In addition to the eighteen above practices, my husband and I have designed a peaceful home. 

Our walls are creamy white. Our gray, wraparound couch is soft to the touch, and easy to fall asleep on. When we open the blinds to our Florida room, otherwise known as an enclosed patio, the sun lights up the entire kitchen, dining, and living room. It is spacious and light. Each of these was an intentional choice to create calm.

Aside from the eighteen habits and a peaceful home, I block stress with a tight schedule. I have two agendas: written and electronic, so I will never be caught off-guard. Lunch with friends, editing clients’ books and dissertations, and posting to social media are logged onto both to maintain a sense of control in my life. There is no room for a surprise-something-or-another. Unless it is a death situation, I do not and probably will not make time for your “emergency.” People who know me accept this.

I’ve spent the last thirty-three years developing and perfecting a system to avoid stress, which works in the States when I adhere to it. But when I’m somewhere else and don’t? Stressed in the Netherlands creeps up.

It’s easy for me to become dysregulated, because I’ve never really learned to be regulated in the moment. However, learning to manage stress is important because stressful events will always occur, and for someone like me, whose set point is stressed, events will always appear more stressful than they may actually be. 


Instead of eliminating stressors, Dr. Passaler says, deliberate stress exposure trains us to expand our capacity. It teaches our nervous system that we have some control over external circumstances. This is one way to learn how to rebalance your nervous system. She also says moderate stressors can help us be more resilient, adaptable, and successful.

I haven’t found more information about deliberate stress exposure; however, I do know one thing I can practice to include moderate stressors—not having an airtight agenda. 

One example is before Dwight and I left, he asked me if I could drop him off to get an oil change. This wasn’t on either of my to-do lists, so the answer, without blinking, was no. Moving forward, I plan to take baby steps toward saying yes to some unscheduled requests…not all, but some.

I developed the above list from MindHealth360, a site that describes how complex this issue is and lists ways to rebalance your nervous system, depending on your specific issue (e.g., hormonal or cognitive).

As it turns out, I’ve already been working on rebalancing my nervous system. However, when I’m out of the country again, I have to not only prioritize things like finding fresh fruits and vegetables and exercising, but also making time to meditate and using pranayama breath when unexpected stressors appear. 


That’s the lesson. Wherever I am, there I will be—sensitive nervous system and all. In addition to my hair care supplies and jacket, I must pack my eighteen strategies for avoiding or managing stress, especially if I am planning to live somewhere with unknown stressors for eight weeks. On some trips, like Central America, I may only need five. On others, like Europe, I may need more. Either way, next time I’ll be prepared.

Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting.


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29 thoughts on “Mental Health Matters: Avoiding Stress vs Managing Stress

  1. Thank you for sharing the list!!.. I use Tai Chi at times, normally I just follow my heart… “Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” ( Roy T. Bennett ).. 🙂

    Until we meet again….
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it is similar… one can choose whatever works for them and having to deal with arthritis, I do not have to sit down, etc… I will often do the routine with some slow zen type music… 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You have much more discipline than me! We do have similar lists. I became a lifetime member of the Fabulous app hoping for stronger compliance. I have routines worked in for cleaning and organizing. My HMO gave me a subscription to the Calm app and MyStrength for therapy but I use AlanMind more than MyStrength. Therapists, in person, make me feel horrible about myself, but I love self help books to plow forward. This works for me, but I find similar people from my childhood repeatedly find me. I like to think they haven’t changed me and if you stick it out Karma usually takes care of the problem. I find you need exercise for the motivation hormone, but motivation to exercise and too rigorous of exercise triggers cortisol (stress) hormones. I read for my health Yoga is the recommended exercise, but…Lists we’re working great before COVID, but I haven’t found my grove with my husband working from home. It does seem, strangely, that I am less stressed with him home. Keep up the great posts, I am learning something new from each one!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the kind words!

      I mean, I find it’s easy to be disciplined with these types of things, because if I’m not, trouble ensues in some form or fashion.

      “if you stick out Karma usually takes care of the problem” LOL probably, but I don’t have the patience!

      I’ve read a few times that we should ditch rigorous exercise once we’re in midlife, and I can see why. I used to do CrossFit in my 30s and I left there in tears several times; it was actually stressful.

      Maybe your hubby is like a mood stabilizer or something; I know mine is 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I like that you have 18 things in your rotation and that you find balance in your weekends. I’ve been rethinking core beliefs and habits recently, and I’m taking a page from your book, Dr. G.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you for this and other recent posts on stress. I’m going to copy your idea here and make a list of my self care activities! It’s fun to identify them. You seem to have done a really great job at making self-care activities conscious and intentional. Thanks for everything you share. Hope you have a stress-free settling-in when you get home!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re welcome ❤ and thanks for this comment. Over the years, I've honestly felt as if I didn't have a choice (and in some ways, I was right). If, for example, I don't do some form of exercise during the week, then I can literally feel the energy build up in my body, and that is no bueno lol

      I let out a huge exhale as soon as I landed lol

      Thank you again for this comment! I appreciate knowing you've benefitted ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Another great post, and great list!
    Stress will happen, managing it is indeed the key. I already do several of the items on your list, but I struggle with getting back to a routine after a few days away from it.
    Thank you and blessings to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Stress management is the key! Clutter is a stress trigger for me, so when I travel, I always unpack and store my things neatly away in the dresser and closet of the hotel room, even if we’re just staying one night. But that way I can find my things and not dig through a suit case. My sisters always make fun of me for doing that, but it helps me, so I do it anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for saying this! I just commented to the other Anne that what I’ve also learned is it’s okay to be me on vacay. If I need to do 18 things to stay sane, then I’m responsible for doing that, no matter how it looks or what anyone thinks.

      I so appreciate this example you’ve given!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Libby!

      I mostly use food. Everything with me is food related. So, I eat vegan/vegetarian at least 1-2 xs a week: breakfast, lunch, dinner. Caffeine and liquor no more than twice a week. Limit my sugar intake.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Managing stress it’s a better option because let’s get real, everything you do in order to have a better life is stressful so actually there is no way to avoid stress the only thing you can do is try to limit exposure.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. “…deliberate stress exposure trains us to expand our capacity. It teaches our nervous system that we have some control over external circumstances.” I believe it!

    I’m rooting for you! Practice makes progress 💪🏾

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I assume you are not expecting us to do all that at once, the day would have not enough hours. Journaling and listening to the birds in the morning achieve all the balance I need and what the food intake concerns, everything I like but all in moderation.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha! Absolutely not. You’d be stressed trying to do all of these at once. But for me, each one is built into my life in some way. Point is…I still need to practice managing stress in some ways.

      Listening to the birds sounds really peaceful.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Great list, Katherin. I think motivation is probably the most important thing for me, personally. I get stressed when I think about how many things to implement. One step at a time – or just doing any one thing on your list would be a good start for me. But fortunately, currently I don’t have too much stress in my life. So much is self-imposed.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. For me it’s all about managing stress…I had my habits and my routines, and when I travel I need to try to create new habits quickly. When we did a two week college road trip tour, I was stressed because I was essentially living out of a suitcase a day at a time. It was very hard for me to adapt, but I muddled through,

    Liked by 2 people

      1. With the travel thing…my daughter and I are organized and habitual, so the Tuesday it must be Belgium way of traveling was just exhausting, whereas my husband, who is forever misplacing things, had no issues at all

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Since you’ve mentioned husbands, I’ll add this: I think part of what I’m learning is that I have to just worry about myself and what I need. A lot of times, I’ll look over at my husband and he’s chilling, not a care in the world, meanwhile, I’m 50 shades of stressed on the inside. I guess this has reinforced that it’s okay to be whoever I am. If I need to function a certain way on vacay, then that’s okay.

        Liked by 2 people

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