Lions and Tigers and Stress, Oh My!”

by John Riddle and Howard K. Weissman

In the 1939 film class, The Wizard of Oz, there is a memorable scene when Dorothy utters that famous line: “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” 

They certainly represent a dangerous trio, that’s for sure.  But in today’s fast paced, 24/7 scheduled world, it might be more appropriate to change that line to: “Lions and tigers and stress, oh my!”  (Sorry, bears, you are still scary, but stress is moving up and int the trio.)

Because most people are creatures of habit by nature, when things are going like we want them to, we feel that we are in control, and that life is good.  However, because “life is life,” and “stuff happens,” it won’t be long before that control is ancient history.  Suddenly you find yourself feeling anxious and stressed, and your whole life may seem as if there is no hope.

According to the American Psychological Association recent “Stress in America” survey, the top three causes of stress today include:

1.      Finances (unexpected expenses were at the top of the list)

2.      The Economy (economic uncertainty ranked high on the list)

3.      Health-related Issues (including chronic illness issues)

One item that did not make the top three list in that recent survey is “marital stress.”  And anyone who has been married even for a short period of time can certainly relate to that type of stress. Did you know that couples with marital stress have worse immune function and higher blood pressure?  According to a study done by the University of Texas, “marital stress is actually worse for your health than workplace stress.” 

Life is life, and there will always be times of stress.  The difference between how long the stress lasts, and how you cope with it, is actually up to you.

Here are some ways to help you cope with stress (hopefully you won’t be running into any lions or tigers anytime soon!):

∙         Stop being so hard on yourself – in other words, practice kindness to yourself.  You deserve it!  Yes, you might be having a bad day, or there are circumstances you cannot control, but you do not need to beat yourself up over it.

∙         Remember past victories – if you think really hard, you will realize that you did overcome stressful events in your life in the past.  Think about how you coped at that time, and celebrate every little victory and positive moment.

∙         Unplug yourself from the news – the news is depressing, so when you are feeling stressed, it makes no sense to expose yourself to more stressful events and stories!  Instead, take that 30-minute time slot that was going to be the world news on TV, and do something positive and fun.

∙         Make self-care a priority – stop letting stress control…and wreck…your health.  Make a concentrated effort to take better care of yourself: exercise, get enough sleep, learn ways to cope with stress.

∙         Stop focusing on things you cannot control – when something negative takes place in your life that you have no control over (for example, your car suddenly needs a new muffler and it’s not in your budget), take a deep breath and realize that “this too, shall pass.”  Will it help if you worry and stress over the unexpected expense?  Of course not.

∙         Learn better communication skills – how are your communication skills? By now you have no doubt that being a great communicator is the key to getting along with other people in the world.  By the way…that also means “being a good listener” as well!

Life is tough, but you can be tougher, and learn how to manage and cope with the stress in your life.

For more information: 

Howard K. Weissman, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, board certified expert in traumatic stress and is the clinical director and founder of The Chicago Stress Relief Center, Inc. in Northbrook, Illinois. You may contact Dr. Weissman at 847-412-0922 or at