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Simple Strategies to Combat Stress

Your questions answered confidentially By Daniel H. Angres, MD

The Chicago Medical Society’s new Physician Wellness Committee aims to help members cope with stress or deal with impairment issues, including substance abuse. Committee members come from all disciplines but have experience either professionally or personally with wellness issues. The Committee answers all questions confidentially. Questions with broad appeal will be published in Chicago Medicine, without the author's name.

Q: The stress I am feeling in my practice is increasing. I’m not depressed and I don’t feel that the stress is bad enough to warrant seeing a therapist. Is there a simple way to manage this?

A: Two well-studied approaches to handling stress are relatively easy to do, time-conservative, and cost-effective: exercise and meditation. For exercise, it is recommended that you do 30-40 minutes most days of the week. The exercise does not need to be excessive—a brisk walk is an excellent way to get your heart rate up and thus reduce stress. Even more effective is to do 25-30 minutes of aerobic exercise followed by 10-15 minutes of resistance training, five or six days a week. In fact, aerobic exercise interventions have been clinically shown to reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms. Exercise has been further found to have benefits comparable to those of medication, group therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Studies also show that exercise improves mood.

Meditation is also immensely helpful in reducing stress. Research shows that if you meditate 12-15 minutes every day for six or seven weeks,  measurable changes in the brain help reduce stress as well as increase motivation, attention span, and decision-making ability. The type of meditation you do is less important than consistency. There are many types of meditation. One easy method is to sit upright in a chair and follow your breath. If a thought comes up, then simply acknowledge the thought without judgment and return to following your breath. It is this simple back-and-forth that allows us to cultivate mindfulness. The more we meditate, the easier and more effective it becomes.

Dr. Angres is medical director of Presence Behavioral Health. Inquiries about the CMS Physician Wellness Committee or confidential questions should be sent to Dr. Angres at

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