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January 2014

Stress: The Number One Proxy Killer

by Nick A. Titley, M.S., NPI-Certified Posture Specialist

Throughout our lives, we encounter situations where we find ourselves knee deep in difficulties. Our mind and body can't react effectively and our ability to function is hampered by the feelings that accompany the situation. Stress is something that every human being has encountered and yet many of us know so little about it. This article will discuss stress, why it hurts and how to deal with it.

What is Stress?

The Stress Management Society classifies stress as a physiological response to pressure placed on the body. When our body perceives a threat, it reacts by activating a "fight or flight" mode that allows us to react to perceived threats to ensure our survival. While this is a hard-wired function of our body, stress becomes problematic when we constantly find ourselves in stressful situations.

According to the Mayo Clinic, when you encounter a perceived threat, your hypothalamus, a tiny region in the brain, reacts by alarming your nerve and hormonal systems which in turn prompts responses from your adrenal glands. As a result, the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released. 

Adrenaline increases heart rate, elevates blood pressure and boosts energy supplies, while cortisol increases sugar in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of sugar/glucose and increases the availability of tissue repairing substances. Cortisol also suppresses functions that would be detrimental to your fight-or-flight mode. Cortisol also alters the immune system, and affects the body's reproductive and growth processes. It can also affect a person's digestive system, which could lead to overeating or rejecting food.

Why is Stress Dangerous?

The Mayo Clinic also explains that you will undoubtedly face multiple demands every day that may cause you to feel stress. Even when your body encounters minor hassles, it still perceives them as threats and responds in kind. This may cause you to feel "stressed" or like you are constantly under extreme pressure. This constant stress may cause us to eventually get sick and incur other problems.

The Institute of HeartMath explains stress has been recognized as the number one proxy killer disease today. The American Medical Association has noted that stress is the basic cause for more than 60% of all human illnesses and diseases.

Stress has become so common that its effects are often ignored, but if not monitored, stress could lead to mental and physical problems such as losing focus, sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension and digestive disorders. The Helpguide website explains that prolonged stress can also lead to heart disease, skin conditions like eczema, depression, pain and discomfort and obesity. It's also been linked to accelerated aging and higher risks of premature death.

How to Deal with Stress?

An article by Medical News Today provides the methods to manage stress in our environment.  Exercising often is stated as a beneficial means to reducing stress as it can have a positive impact on a person's physical and mental state. For many, exercise is an extremely effective stress buster.

Proper nutrition is another method that can help relieve stress. Changing our diet can ensure that we are staying healthy and well balanced. We may also need to reduce our caffeine and alcohol consumption if we constantly consuming them.

Other methods include talking to family and friends, relaxation and meditation techniques, and simply taking time to ourselves. We may also need to delegate tasks to others and become more assertive in the way we handle situations. Saying "yes" to everything can lead to more stressful situations, so we must also seek ways to pleasantly disagree or remove ourselves from the situation.

Stress is also best handled in the moment; by dealing with the issue promptly we save ourselves from future trouble. We must develop a habit of controlling the way we respond to stressful situations. By managing our stressors, learning to relax, and engaging in physical activity, we could reduce the impact stress has on our lives.

Stress is a powerful, unavoidable feeling, but the way we manage and react to stress is important for our future. We have the ability to decide between a healthy lifestyle and one full of illness by understanding stress and developing ways to deal with it.

 

References:

  • Smith, Melinda, and Robert Segal. Stress management. (3, Dec 2013). Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm
  • "What is stress." All about stress. Stress Management Society. Web. 3 Dec 2013.

http://www.stress.org.uk/What-is-stress.aspx

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (11, July 2013). Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/SR00001
  • How stress affects the body. 2010. Infographic. Institute of HeartmathWeb. 3 Dec 2013. http://www.heartmath.com/infographics/how-stress-effects-the-body.html
  • Nordqvist, C. (2013, August 27). What is stress? how to deal with stress. Medical News Today, Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/145855.php
 
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