Once again, current events seem to be working overtime to inject fresh gouts of anxiety into our lives.

At the moment, it’s the Russian invasion of Ukraine, possible economic fallout closer to home and whatever curveballs are coming our way with work, family and political debates that burn hotter than ever these days.

Soltana Nosrati, a psychotherapist with Novant Health Psychiatric Associates in Huntersville, North Carolina, offers a few simple steps for taking care of yourself and keeping stress in check.

And let’s not forget, controlling stress isn’t just about feeling better — stress can be a huge contributor to heart disease.

Tune out some of the news

If you find that closely following the news bumps up your anxiety level (and it probably is), take a break. You can stay informed, which certainly is important, but try to find the right news source for you – one that doesn’t raise your blood pressure.

Nosrati counsels her patients to reconsider following the 24-hour news cycle. The typical human being can’t process that much information, she said, which can lead to feeling helpless.

Soltana Nosrati
Soltana Nosrati

She also suggests settling on a source that sticks to presenting information and shies away from opinions and observations. More than anything, just know it’s OK to take a break.

“You don't have to be in the know all the time about everything,” she said. “A lot is not always a good thing.”

Stick to the issues and the ‘I’ statements

Discussions about current issues are actually important and often unavoidable, especially in today's world. Nosrati suggests that people focus on the issues or facts – and not on who’s right and who’s wrong.

"It is the best way to have a meaningful exchange of ideas," she said.

Go into the conversation with compassion and understanding, Nosrati said. When you disagree with someone, use “I” statements such as: “I can see why you feel that way. But from my perspective, this is how I see it.”

Bottom line: You don’t have to agree to have a healthy conversation.

“We all want to make sure that we get to live long, happy, healthy lives, and we worry about our kids,” Nosrati said. “So, we're really not that far apart when you really think about it.”

The 3-second hug and other stress busters

Because stress can affect your physical health – raise your blood pressure, and cause headaches and stomach aches – doing something physical such as taking a walk can help. Movement releases anxious energy, Nosrati said.

Watching a show or movie that makes you laugh can take your mind off your worries. With small children in the house, Nosrati has been known to watch an episode of “Paw Patrol” or “Shimmer and Shine” to relax. Call it a vacation for the brain.

And then there’s the 3-second hug, which you can only use right now. You hold an embrace for three deep breaths in and out, and you can feel the stress melt away. “Touch is so important,” Nosrati said. “Human beings, we need touch, we need to feel connected. And these days with technology, we're not as connected. Touching another human being that has compassion and care for you can be very stress-reducing.”

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