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On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

Natural Ways To Prevent Stress

Paul Huljich had it all. His organic foods business brought him wealth and luxury. But he lost it all after a nervous breakdown and a bipolar diagnosis.

Doctors told him a relapse was likely, but Huljich says through trial and error and research he developed nine natural steps to wellness. He details them in his book Stress Pandemic. In a KERA Health Checkup, Huljich talks about the stress and poor lifestyle choices that began to bring him down.

Huljich:  It all started with having some symptoms of stress: That was grinding my teeth and having insomnia. I leaned on my coping mechanisms which actually affected the stress response: eating junk food and alcohol.

Baker: You sought out the help of doctors, but what convinced you to go out on your own?

Huljich:  Well, all the time I was under the supervision of doctors, but after putting my faith in the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and admitting myself into a clinic, to understand as much I could about addictions, stress, depression, anxiety – our coping mechanisms we lean on when we’re feeling most stressed and vulnerable.

Baker: You’ve come up with what you call the Lifestyle Solution, which includes nine steps. And some, like sleep, exercise and nutrition would seem to be common sense steps to take. But the first step, you say, is to take charge?

Huljich: Yes. In taking charge you need to realize that if you’ve got any symptoms of stress and the medication that you’re taking, or whatever you’re doing at the moment, it is still there, its not going away, that means you’re living in the band-aid world. You’re looking at the symptoms and not looking at the root cause. And you’ll just go into that holding pattern until you develop more serious conditions like I did.

Baker: Next, you say, kick your habits. Like what?

Huljich:  According to the Mental Health America survey, 45 percent of us wonderful Americans eat to cope with stress, and 42 percent of us rely on alcohol, drugs and smoking. And the remainder is made up of gambling, sex and even addiction to the Internet.

Baker: Of course, the key is you have to recognize it as a bad habit to begin with.

Huljich: What you have to realize is when you are under stress, you normally reach for destructive coping mechanisms, I call ‘em. That’s your crutches you lean on when your most stressed and vulnerable.

Baker: Learn to say "no."

Huljich: Well, we live in a pretty bullying sort of a world now. We’re trying to satisfy our boss, or satisfy our spouse or our friends. The boundaries of saying “no” now are blurred now.

Baker: So whatever it is that’s making you unhappy…

Huljich: Yes, you have to be more vocal and stand up because other people might not feel stressed the way you do to certain situations. It is no good allowing the world to bully you around because that’ll make you a very unhappy person, and you’ll be relying on more destructive coping mechanisms to just deal with the challenges and stresses of your life.

Baker:  With this Lifestyle Solution, are you saying you should avoid doctors or are you saying with them or without them, you should be pro-active about your health?

Huljich: I feel that whether you’re on medication or not, if you’ve got any of the warning signs of stress, you need to have an awareness. Unchecked stress has real consequences. So prevention is the key. Prevention from allowing your stress level to go to the next level before it could be out of control.

Paul Huljich’s book is titled Stress Pandemic: 9 Natural Ways to Survive, Master Stress and Live Well.

For more information: 

American Institute of Stress

Stress Management Center at

U.S. National Library of Medicine on Bipolar Disorder

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Mental Health America