Ask an Expert: Tips for Reducing Stress and Boosting Optimism in Your Life

Clinical psychologist shares her expertise on overcoming psychosocial stressors and how optimism can help to promote healthy aging.

By: Giana Carrozza

Photo by Finn on Unsplash.

From Instagram “wellness influencers” to positive affirmation gurus on TikTok, it can often feel like self-help culture permeates every corner of the Internet. Fix your sleep schedule. Commit to a daily exercise routine. Throw away the junk food. Think positively. While some of these recommendations are well-intentioned, in reality, shifting your mindset and habits is an enormously difficult task. For many, the residual effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing societal and political unrest have caused deep feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety. And according to data from The National Institute of Mental Health, one in five American adults lives with a mental illness. Taken together, these struggles can make it challenging to accomplish daily tasks, much less a complete “healthy lifestyle” makeover.

But according to Dr. Lewina Lee, there are small, meaningful steps people can take to deal with everyday adversities and boost a “glass half full” approach. She recently look to Reddit to host an open conversation about mental health, psychosocial stressors, optimism, and more. The top takeaways from her conversation provide helpful tips on dealing with everyday stress and how to help others in times of struggle. Dr. Lee is an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine and a staff investigator and clinical psychologist at the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress at the Veteran Affairs Boston Healthcare System. Additionally, she co-directs the Boston Early Adversity and Mortality Study (BEAMS).

1) Be present and available to those who are in distress.

Often times, folks who are struggling may have a difficult time listening to or taking a friend’s advice. Dr. Lee explains the best way to get through to them.

2) Breaking behavioral patterns is different for everyone.

When someone starts to spiral, it may feel like there is no way out of the negative thought patterns. Dr. Lee suggests tips to stop and soothe the downward “spin.”

3) Stress and grief can have impacts on our health, but there are many solutions available.

While most people will experience stress or grief at some point in their lifetime, Dr. Lee emphasizes that consistent self-care and speaking with a professional can help to mitigate the negative health effects.

Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash.

4) Higher levels of optimism can make you physically healthier.

According to Dr. Lee’s research, optimism may be linked to better emotional and physical wellbeing, including lower risks of heart disease and chronic illness.

5) Stress can also affect the aging process.

Listening to your physical and mental needs is key for boosting longevity.

Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash.

6) Our reactions to stressful situations can be modified over time.

Adjusting your stress response to specific situations is possible.

7) Take time to weigh the pros and cons of your stress response.

When dealing with stress, Dr. Lee explains that behaviors that seem helpful in the short-term may not be as beneficial in the long-term.

8) Last but not least…

Dr. Lee shares the usefulness of participating in a Reddit AMA.

For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Dr. Lewina Lee on Twitter at @DrLewina and BU’s Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine at @BUMedicine. To learn more about on Dr. Lee’s research on optimism, visit PNAS.



Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert:

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BU Experts

Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: