Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Don’t let stress… stress you out!

Mental Notes with Hilary Valdez: Don’t let stress… stress you out!

by Hilary Valdez
Stripes Japan

Dear fellow humans, stress is a serious threat to our lifespan and health. Our lifestyle habits or how we live our lives in terms of diet, exercise, occupation, attitudes, emotional condition, and our beliefs in how we see the world, all contribute to our health and longevity. Very simply, our mind affects our bodily functions. 

Stress is not all bad. It’s a signal that something needs to be done. Stress is the way we respond to change. Most people think of stress as negative. But your body cannot tell the difference between a positive or a negative stressor. The first step in analyzing your stress is to identify your thoughts to a stressful situation, whether it be a positive or negative event. This is called a trigger. So, what were you saying to yourself? What was your interpretation? And, what was your reaction to how you behaved?

Do not choke back your stress and keep it bottled up. Release your stress a little at a time. Not talking about it leads to frequent illness, insomnia, weight gain or loss, high blood pressure, headaches, self-medicating and physical exhaustion. Muscle tension responses such as teeth grinding, ringing in the ears, jaw tension, and dizziness are caused by stress. Asthma and hyperventilation can also be triggered by emotional reactions and chronic stress. 

Emotional signs are anxiety, apathy, snappy or defensive attitude, preoccupied and unable to focus. Critical stress is apathy, loss of emotional control, panic states, depression, rage and suicidal thoughts. If this happens, help yourself by talking to someone. It’s free! You are responsible for your happiness. Put the stressful event in perspective. Stop catastrophic thinking, reduce your anxiety, and improve your problem-solving ability.

How you think determines your mental fitness. Don’t fall into thinking traps. Identify and correct counterproductive patterns in thinking through critical questions. Separate what you see happening from your opinions about what is happening. Then separate how you feel about what is happening from your opinions about what is happening. Observe your irrational thoughts and beliefs associated with your attitude toward a stressful event. 

Our stress triangle, the head, neck and shoulders are where we hold a lot of our tension. But our muscles tighten to protect us. These tightened muscles hold that position — the fight-or-flight syndrome. As such, your muscles shorten and “metabolites,” or the waste products from the muscles, are trapped and that causes pain. When this happens, get a massage or just do some stretching exercises. Stretching helps muscles regain their natural length.

Exercise is a healthy release for stress. Exercise at home or go for a walk. During exercise, there is a biochemical change in the levels of hormones and fatty acids; post-exercise muscle fatigue and feelings of relaxation; and improvement of heart, respiratory, and metabolic functions. Keep it simple, you don’t have to be a gym rat. When under stress, be nice to yourself. Exercise, rest, and eat healthy foods. Don’t ignore the warning signs. Listen to your body. You are as you think. Be kind to yourself. Be your own best friend and put stress to work for you.

Instant Insight: Focus on solutions, positives, and possibilities, this helps change toward the desired direction.


Hilary Valdez is a retiree living in Japan. He is an experienced Mental Health professional and Resiliency Trainer. Valdez is a former Marine and has worked with the military most of his career and most recently worked at Camp Zama as a Master Resiliency Trainer. Valdez now has a private practice and publishes books on social and psychological issues. His books are available on Amazon and for Kindle. Learn more about Valdez and contact him at or at

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