Stress Management

What happens when you are stressed?

Stress is what you feel when you have to handle more than you are used to. When you are stressed, your body responds as though you are in danger. It makes hormones that speed up your heart, make you breathe faster, and give you a burst of energy. This is called the fight-or-flight stress response.

Some stress is normal and even useful. Stress can help if you need to work hard or react quickly. For example, it can help you win a race or finish an important job on time.

But if stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can have bad effects. It can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.
What can you do about stress?

The good news is that you can learn ways to manage stress. To get stress under control:
» Find out what is causing stress in your life.
» Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life.
» Learn healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce its harmful effects.

How do you measure your stress level?

Sometimes it is clear where stress is coming from. You can count on stress during a major life change such as the death of a loved one, getting married, or having a baby. But other times it may not be so clear.

It’s important to figure out what causes stress for you. Everyone feels and responds to stress differently. Tracking your stress may help. Get a notebook, and write down when something makes you feel stressed. Then write how you reacted and what you did to deal with the stress. Tracking your stress can help you find out what is causing your stress and how much stress you feel. Then you can take steps to reduce the stress or handle it better.

How can you avoid stress?

Stress is a fact of life for most people. You may not be able to get rid of stress, but you can look for ways to lower it.
Learn better ways to manage your time. You may get more done with less stress if you make a schedule. Think about which things are most important, and do those first.

Find better ways to cope. Look at how you have been dealing with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better.

Take good care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Eat well. Don’t smoke. Limit how much alcohol you drink.

Try out new ways of thinking. When you find yourself starting to worry, try to stop the thoughts. Or write down your worries and work on letting go of things you cannot change. Learn to say “no.”

Speak up. Not being able to talk about your needs and concerns creates stress and can make negative feelings worse. Assertive communication can help you express how you feel in a thoughtful, tactful way.

Ask for help. People who have a strong network of family and friends manage stress better.
Sometimes stress is just too much to handle alone. Talking to a friend or family member may help, but you may also want to see a counselor.
How can you relieve stress?

You will feel better if you can find ways to get stress out of your system. The best ways to relieve stress are different for each person. Try some of these ideas to see which ones work for you:

» Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started.
» Write. It can help to write about the things that are bothering you.
» Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to with someone you trust.
» Do something you enjoy. A hobby can help you relax. Volunteer work or work that helps others can be a great stress reliever.
» Learn ways to relax your body. This can include breathing exercises, muscle relaxation exercises, massage, aromatherapy, yoga, or relaxing exercises like tai chi and qi gong.
» Focus on the present. Try meditation, imagery exercises, or self-hypnosis. Listen to relaxing music. Try to look for the humor in life. Laughter really can be the best medicine.

Want to learn more about your stress level? Use this interactive tool to learn more about your stress level.

Reynaldo Varela

Rey, tell us a little about yourself.
I have worked for the City in River Print for the last 17 years. My job is to run the two color printing press. There are a couple of factors that led me to change my lifestyle. My job, for example, requires me to stand for long hours. That, along with having gained weight over the years, contributed to finally the need for a knee replacement. In addition, my blood sugar levels were climbing, and I have a family history of diabetes. All my brothers have diabetes and my wife was also at risk.
What was your goal in changing your lifestyle?
My goal was to avoid becoming diabetic. My weight was up to 242 lbs. I knew I could lower my blood sugar levels and weight by diet and exercise. So, four years ago, I decided to take up biking. I began biking to work during the good weather months. This is a 7 mile trip one way. On weekends, I would also go for bike rides. I started eating healthier too.
What has been the result of your new lifestyle?
To date, my weight is down 40 lbs. My glucose, triglycerides and blood pressure have all gone down as well. I am able to maintain those positive results by sticking with my new lifestyle habits. In addition, my wife and I joined LA Fitness four years ago. We go together three times a week. I mix up my workouts by participating in water aerobics (which is easy on my joints), spin classes, and weight lifting.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to make changes?
My advice is to pick an activity you enjoy, start slow and work your way up, doing four to five times per week. Cut back on carbs, up your fiber and protein. Most important, have fun!

March is Nutrition Month

Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your bowl. Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods contain the nutrients you need without too many calories. Over the day, include foods from all the food groups. Try the following tips to “Get Your Plate in Shape.”

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

  • Eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green, red and orange vegetables plus beans and peas. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables all count. Choose “reduced sodium” or “no-salt-added” canned vegetables.
  • Add fruit to meals and snacks. Buy fruits that are dried, frozen or canned in water or 100% juice, as well as fresh fruits.
  • Make at least half your grains whole.
  • Choose 100% whole-grain breads, cereals, crackers, pasta and brown rice. Check the ingredients list on food packages to find whole-grain foods.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat milk. Fat-free and low-fat milk have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories. If you are lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk or a calcium-fortified soy beverage.
  • Vary your protein choices. Eat a variety of foods from the protein food group each week, such as seafood, nuts and beans, as well as lean meat, poultry and eggs. Twice a week, make seafood the protein on your plate. Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.

Cut back on sodium and empty calories from solid fats and added sugars.

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Select fruit for dessert. Eat sugary desserts less often. Choose 100% fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
  • Look out for salt (sodium) in foods you buy. Compare sodium in foods and choose those with lower numbers. Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt.
  • Make major sources of saturated fats such as desserts, pizza, cheese, sausages and hot dogs occasional choices, not every day foods.
  • Select lean cuts of meat or poultry and fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Switch from solid fats to oils when preparing food.

Enjoy your food but eat less.

  • Get your personal daily calorie limit at Keep that number in mind when deciding what to eat.
  • Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl and glass.
  • Cook more often at home, where you are in control of what’s in your food.
  • When eating out, choose lower calorie menu options. Choose dishes that include vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
  • Write down what you eat to keep track of how much you eat.

  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so sensibly. Limit to 1 drink a day for women or to 2 drinks a day for men.

Be physically active your way.

  • Pick activities that you like and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Every bit adds up and health benefits increase as you spend more time being active.
  • Children and teens: Get 60 minutes or more a day.
  • Adults: Get 2 hours and 30 minutes or more a week of activity that requires moderate effort such as brisk walking.

Find more healthy eating tips at:

Information provided by

Introducing Jim Hensrud

Jim recently joined the City as the Health and Fitness Specialist for the Police Department.


Tell us a bit about your background and experience. How will you use it to help the employees of the Police Department get and stay in shape?
I have a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science: Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation from Winona State University. I am also certified as a Clinical Exercise Specialist from the American College of Sports Medicine. My education is focused on strength and cardiovascular training, fitness programming, nutritional guidance with a special emphasis in heart disease prevention and rehabilitation. Since I have completed my education I have spent the last few years providing personal and group training to individuals in their homes, gyms or corporate fitness centers.


Every person is different. I believe in sitting down with a person to develop a fitness and diet plan specifically for them. I put an emphasis in educating someone to understand the importance of diet and exercise and how to keep themselves active and healthy. I encourage anyone with questions to call or stop by anytime.


What are some common myths people have about exercise and nutrition?
A few sources I found claimed that $61 billion was spent in the USA on weight loss products in 2012. Many products use false claims or information to make money in this large market. Healthy weight loss is recommended at 1-2 pounds a month. Any product that claims faster weight loss should be avoided. Also, avoid all sales pitches that sell you a product to consume to lose weight. Choose a diet plan that you can follow the rest of your life that contains nothing but natural sources of foods. My best advice: DO NOT take advice from someone trying to sell you something. Another myth is that people must exercise a certain location to lose weight from that area. Where you store fat is based on genetics. You cannot lose weight in specific areas and not others.


To lose weight, what has a bigger impact – diet or exercise?
I would say weight loss is 55% activity, 45% nutrition. Those numbers are debatable, but the relationship is very close. You can run marathons and have trouble losing weight if you eat fast food every day. Likewise, the healthiest eater may struggle with weight if they are completely sedentary.

For someone who hasn’t exercised in a long while or is new to it, what would a beginning program look like? Do you have tips for getting started?
Often changes happen slowly so I do not expect anyone to go from no exercise to 5-6 days a week. Three days a week is a good starting point for about 30 minutes at a time. I always tell people to ease into a program to avoid injury or overtraining. Slowly work your way to the minimal recommended amount of 150 minutes a week. A person should begin with something they enjoy to keep them interested, preferably participating in one of their favorite sports. My tips are to schedule exercise into your day early to make sure it gets done and to stick with the program for about 8 weeks to see results. Once a person sees the results they are more likely to stick with a program.

For people already in shape and exercising regularly, is there anything new for them to add to or change in their workouts to get even more results?
Remember the FITT principle:
Frequency: how often someone works out in a week
Intensity: how hard someone works out
Time: how long someone works out
Type: the type of exercise conducted


The human body typically adapts to the same fitness program after two weeks. To see physical improvements, an individual must increase one of the above factors from the FITT principle. If a person is exercising as often as needed or as often as possible, they may consider working out harder (increasing Intensity), or changing what they do (different strength training exercises or biking instead of running). The more you change your program, the more you challenge your body to adapt. If an exercise does not challenge you, it does not change you!



I’ve always been involved in some kind of an exercise routine, but it was mostly working out at home with exercise videos. When I decided I wanted and needed a change, I joined a “Curves For Women” program. What attracted me to that particular workout routine was that it involved working out to music, as well as the promise of a 30-minute routine. Get in, do the exercises and get out.
Eleven years later, I’m still going to my workout sessions. This club was recently purchased by an individual who broadened the choices offered within the program, making it more interesting, fun, and much more flexible. The club is open 24/7 which I like a lot! I can go and do my routine whenever I want. Even though “get in, do the exercises and get out” is still sometimes in my mind, I’m really not in such a hurry to leave. My workout can be short or long, strenuous or easy – the choice is up to me. I actually enjoy working out because I know I’m doing something good for me, physically and mentally. Exercising is a great stress reliever, especially after an especially difficult day at work. After my workouts I hula-hoop, which puts a smile on my face (and on some other faces too!!)
Joining a gym or an exercise club may not be for everyone. I know it’s a cliché, but if a person is thinking about making a change to a healthier lifestyle it’s really important to find an activity that is enjoyable and fun. (Yes, working out can be fun!) If the activity isn’t fun, chances are that person won’t stay with the program for a very long time. It’s been said before, but I believe the hardest part of making any change is the first step. After that it does gets easier.
If I don’t get to my club I actually feel the difference in my body and in my mind. Before the end of a work day I can be feeling so tired that just thinking about going to do my routine is kind of depressing! But once I get there I start to feel uplifted. After I’m finished, I feel exhilarated and good about myself. It’s not the answer to all of life’s problems, but it sure doesn’t hurt!

February is American Heart Month.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; in fact, 2200 people die every day from heart disease and stroke. Many of these could have been prevented.

Prevention starts with everyone. Protect yourself and your loved ones from heart disease and stroke by understanding the risks and taking these steps:
• Control your blood pressure
• Maintain a healthy cholesterol level
• Try to get 30 minutes of activity most days of the week
• If you smoke, get help to quit

Also, it is important to recognize the signs of a heart attack and to act immediately by calling 9–1–1. A person’s chances of surviving a heart attack are increased if emergency treatment is given to the victim as soon as possible.

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are:
• Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
• Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
• Chest pain or discomfort
• Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder
• Shortness of breath

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.

New Year – Fresh Start

The #1 most often made New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. It is no wonder – the percentage of people in the U.S. who are overweight or obese has grown steadily over the past 20 years. Here at the City of Saint Paul, this is our employees’ top health risk. In fact, 80% of our employees were identified as being overweight or obese.

Healthy Saint Paul has made it a priority to support employees’ New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Find out what’s available to help reach a healthier, new you goal.

Healthy Saint Paul is offering the following options to support you in reaching your weight loss goals:

Lose Weight in 8 Challenge
Competition is sometimes just the motivation people need to reach their goal. The Lose Weight in 8 Challenge will begin January 19. It will motivate and inspire you with engaging online tools, tips and trackers to help you be successful. Plus, great prizes will go to the winners!

Weight Watchers at Work
Current meetings are held on Thursdays in the basement of City Hall from 12-1 p.m. A $10/month subsidy is available for up to 6 months. Want to start a Weight Watchers Group at your worksite? Contact for more information. A minimum of 20 people is needed to start a group.

healthpartE-Weight Loss
Offered through HealthPartners, this online coaching program offers support and education to people with a weight loss goal.

Other places for support and information on losing weight:

Express Fitness offered by St. Paul Parks and Recreation: a low cost, 2 hour drop in class, offered exclusively at El Rio Vista recreation center located in the Wellstone building at 179 East Robie in St. Paul. The class consists of core, balance, strength, endurance and cardio activities combined with a nutrition plan. Contact the El Rio Vista for more information.

HealthPartners’ A Call to Change…Healthy Lifestyles, Healthy Weight – phone-based program.

Local hospitals and clinics that specialize in weight loss.

Best websites to help you stay focused on your weight-loss and fitness goals.

(Best of all, these websites are completely free to use.)


I’ve been with the City of Saint Paul since 1999, having relocated here from California where I also worked in City government, for the Cities of Mountain View and Berkeley. I currently work in the Department of Safety & Inspections, Code Enforcement where my duties include managing the Truth-In-Sale of Housing program.
I was a competitive swimmer in my youth. I started playing tennis when I was in my mid-twenties, and began adult competition through the USTA a couple of years later. I’ve been competing ever since. Playing tennis is now my major recreational activity and is so much a part of the structure of my life that I get very distressed when I can’t play.
What was your problem? What was your motivation to change this?
I’m in my 60’s now, and I have been looking forward to continuing to play tennis long into retirement. Unfortunately my knees weren’t cooperating with my plan. I have arthritis in both which was making my time on the court very uncomfortable and limited. I looked in the mirror and saw that I was no longer trim and svelte; I didn’t look 30 anymore. Now, while I never expect to again look like I’m 30 instead of 60, I did recognize that being overweight was contributing to the problem with my knees. I knew it was something that I could actually do something about, without medical intervention, to improve my odds of spending retirement the way I planned to do.
So, what did you do?
Several years ago, I attended Weight Watchers. At that time, I lost about 35 pounds and kept it (mostly) off for about 5 years. Then, I got lazy and stopped paying attention to what I was eating. I gained back almost every pound I initially lost. (Ice cream and chocolate are my go-to treats!) This was frustrating. I was having trouble motivating myself to make any significant changes. – that is, until I saw the City was offering a discount to employees for participation in Weight Watchers and that meetings would, conveniently, be in City Hall, during the work day (lunch hour). I think there was no more than 3 days between when I saw the announcement and went to my first (reprise) meeting on October 3, 2013.
What have the results been?
I was stunned to lose 5 pounds the first week back on Weight Watchers! That result is NOT typical. What it meant to me was that I knew what to do, and I could do it. Progress since then has been slower, but still steady. The Holidays were a challenge and while I didn’t continue to lose, at least I gained only 1 pound back. It took only 9 weeks to lose 20 pounds. Amazing. That’s a little more than 2 pounds a week. I’m not yet at my goal and that goal is still a little bit of a moving target. I want to lose another 5 to 10 pounds.
How is your life different now?
I’m more mindful of what I’m eating. It helps that I truly like fruits and vegetables, and don’t care that much about meat. I still go to restaurants and eat out. The Weight Watchers program is one that teaches you to recognize sensible foods and portions so that you can balance out your consumption of the treats that you still can have – in moderation!
And, most importantly, my tennis game has improved! I’m able to play longer and more frequently, and I move better on the court. I’m really happy about that!
Do you have any advice for others wanting to lose weight?
What you eat is something that is totally within your control. You don’t have to deprive yourself of any of the foods you love, you just need to be mindful of your portions and make sure that your other choices are ones that are healthy for you. Attending group meetings is one way to assist you in maintaining your commitment to yourself. Weight loss is not easy and old habits are always hanging around just waiting to creep back in; banishing them to history is a constant battle that does get easier and can be won.
If I have any advice at all, it’s to set a goal and find help to reach it. This way works for me.

Worry-free Holiday Food Prep

The holidays are fun and joyous occasions when family and friends get together for parties and food galore! The last thing you want to invite to your party is food ‐ borne illness. Use the following tips to keep your family and friends from becoming sick. Don’t let bacteria (germs) crash your holiday parties.

Preparing Food for Your Party
• Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling food.
• Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.
• Always serve food on clean plates ‐‐ never use plates used for holding raw meat and poultry for cooked food.

To prevent problems with bacteria growing in your food:
• Keep cooked foods hot (140 F or higher).
• Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep foods hot on your buffet table.
• Keep cold foods at 40F or colder.
• Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice OR use small serving trays and replace them often.
• Cool foods quickly in your refrigerator.
• Divide large portions of cooked foods into smaller portions to cool quickly in your refrigerator. Bacteria can also multiply quickly in moist desserts that contain dairy products. Keep eggnog, cheesecakes, cream pies and cakes with whipped ‐ cream or cream ‐ cheese frostings refrigerated until serving time.

Helpful Hint ‐
Prepare extra serving platters and dishes ahead of time; store them in the refrigerator or keep them hot in the oven (set at approximately 200 to 250 F)
before serving. Then REPLACE empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it.

Learn more by visiting: Helpful Holiday Links


Once I finished high school, I was always on the heavy side when it comes to my weight. About three years ago I walked up a long flight of stairs and found myself completely out of breath. That was when I knew I had to make a change.
The first thing I told myself was that “you did not end up like this overnight and you cannot reverse it overnight.” I established very realistic goals for myself to keep things in a healthy perspective. For example, it seems that everyone focuses on losing weight when they realize they need to make a change around being healthy. I had been there and done that numerous times and it was always a short-lived experience. I began by focusing on what it means for me to become healthy as a person, what a healthy ‘me’ looks like. Did this include weight loss? Yes, but it has never been my primary motivation or focus. This also woke me up to the fact that part of the legacy that I was leaving my family, especially my kids, was not what I really wanted it to be. I did not have a healthy image of myself and it showed. Knowing I have chosen to make this change still motivates me every day.
My goal is really simple and it applies to more than just my physical health: Be a Healthy Person. To do this takes more than just focusing on one aspect of my physical health. For me, I not only had to learn how to make healthy choices for my physical health (specifically around how food and what I ate), but I also needed to make changes in areas that affected my mental and spiritual health as well. The good news about this approach is that when you do one healthy thing, it helps you do the next healthy thing. If I make a good decision around food choices, I tend to make good choices around my activity levels, etc.
I use a “FitBit” that I won through the Healthy Saint Paul program and use it to track my activity, what I eat and how I sleep. I love it! You need to find the tools that help you stay focused and on track and for me, this device works great. I also have involved my family to help keep me focused on what my goals are. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the good choices reflected in the choices your kids make. I have learned to celebrate my successes, but NOT with food! I have donated the clothes that no longer fit-I tell myself “you are NOT going back, this is a one-way street!” This helps me to keep my focus moving forward. I also have what I would consider some very audacious things I want to do. These are long term goals that I believe will contribute to me being a healthy person for the rest of my life.
I love to cook and I love to eat, I still do! Because of this, I have learned how to cook different things and found there are a lot of foods that I did not know I liked which are much better for me than what I used to eat all the time. I also share meals with my wife when we go out rather than having each of us order our own. For me it was not just the type of foods I was eating, but the amount as well. I have learned through this process that I really don’t need as much food as what I thought I did. Even though I try to focus on being a healthy person, it’s hard at times not to just focus on just losing weight. You might say WOW if I told you that I have lost 49 pounds, it is a great accomplishment. But it has taken me the better part of 3 years to do it and what makes me say WOW is that I have kept it off.
My advice for someone who wants to make a change is simple: Do it! You are worth it! You have the ability to change whatever is necessary for you to be the healthy person you want to be. Use the tools available to you, like the healthy Saint Paul program. I did not start my journey to be healthy because of it, but I am thankful that good tools are available for me to use. Find what keeps you motivated-if it helps, take a piece of paper and make a list of names of every person you know. Start with those who mean the most to you and list all the reasons you make a difference in their life. When you struggle and you will, take the list out and read it, you will find it to be great encouragement. For those who mean the most to me, I want to be here for a very long time and being a healthy person enables me to do just that!