Stressful times

By Alan Koenigsberg, M.D.

It’s been about a year since I started writing this column for the TJP. During that time, I’ve covered a wide range of topics, from car and home safety to depression as well as sleep hygiene.

A few weeks back, I was asked to write a column on trauma. Given the recent world events, I thought it would be helpful to follow up with some thoughts about dealing with stress.

For some of us, our grown children have volunteered to go abroad and rejoin the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). While we are immensely proud of our children for doing so, it’s also an incredibly stressful situation for us as parents.

For others, we have relatives in Israel, some siblings, parents, children, some more distant. Regardless, another source of profound stress.

There have been many helpful recommendations as to how to help those abroad and I heartily endorse doing what we can to support friends, family and those who need our help.

I’m going to focus on how to help ourselves get through these turbulent times. We may be the glue that holds our families together and we need to take good care of ourselves.

Sometimes, we have others who may care about us, but frequently, we are the ones who are caring for others. We tend to look out for our parents, our children and our friends. They rely on us to be there for them during difficult times and we do indeed tend to respond well and provide comfort.

There come times, however, when we need to be a bit more selfish and focus on making sure the glue that holds our loved ones together is stable and well; that responsibility falls squarely on our own shoulders.

Get a good night’s sleep. Please research through the TJP archives if you want my article on a more comprehensive review of sleep hygiene. If we are to function well during the day, we need a good night’s sleep.

Eat well. We need nourishing, healthy food to fuel our brain and body. Food doesn’t need to be fancy or particularly varied; just make sure to cover the bases.

Stay well hydrated. Now that the brutal summer is behind us, we may think that being hydrated is not so difficult. Please keep in mind that when we turn on our central heat, the furnace works by blowing air over an open flame, which evaporates the inherent moisture in the air; heated air is usually quite dry.

Weight training. Lift whatever you can to maintain muscle strength.

Move…walk four or five times weekly.

Socialize…be with friends, have a meal together, avoid isolation. Invite people over for tea or coffee, relax and enjoy them.

Do something meaningful…volunteer, build something, plant something, whatever engages you and helps someone.

Learn something new…read, take a course, watch a video about a new topic in your life, learn to juggle or play piano.

Take naps.

Ask for help from your family and friends. It can be something minor, like help with changing a lightbulb. People enjoy helping others; asking for help can nurture both you and someone else.

Subscribe to an actual newspaper and read it daily. No screaming, a bit of everything, especially news you might not encounter when reading online and generally well-written and well-thought-out.

Go to the library. Take down a magazine or book and read something there. It’s quite soothing.

If needed, seek professional help. One of the best methods of ensuring that your health is being tended to, by a professional who knows how to listen. Sometimes, a few sessions may be all that is needed; this is something done privately, professionally and objectively.

I have only scratched the surface of suggestions, so I am asking readers to send in additional suggestions to have us help each other during these times. Any and all comments are appreciated and I will include those recommendations in future columns.

Alan Koenigsberg, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UTSW Medical School in Dallas. He can be reached at

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