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Why Stress Is The Silent Killer

Aug 17, 2007
There's no doubt that twenty-first century living is filled with stress. Our jobs are demanding, our roads are crowded, and even our entertainment is fast paced. Stress comes in many packages, but the overall effect on our lives is easy to spot. There are so many physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress that it has been called the silent killer. What is it about stress that would make it a silent killer, and what can we do to counteract it?

Stress comes in several different types. There are exciting, good things that happen to us, such as getting married or getting a new job. While these things make us happy, they are also changes in our lives. In addition, we have sudden, bad types of stressors, such as a fight with our kids or losing our job. And then there are the day-in, day-out types of stressors, such as money problems, an unhappy marriage, or chronic illness. When we talk about the stress in our lives, we usually are referring to the sum total of the effect on us of all these types of stress.

People are wired to respond to emergency stress with a rush of adrenalin. For instance, if you had a vicious dog lunge at you, your heart would beat fast and you'd immediately either grab something to fight it off with or turn and run. This is called the "fight or flight" response. During this physiological response, your mind is probably not thinking very logically, but your body is ready to respond quickly.

While this flight or fight response is certainly appropriate and useful in some situations, it really doesn't have much value in helping us deal with the kind of stress we experience in the twenty-first century. It tends to leave us with digestive upsets, tense muscles, overwhelmed brains, and taxed cardiovascular systems. In short, stress might be killing you! You might not be aware of it, though, so stress is a silent, sneaky sort of killer.

Reducing stress, even in today's world, is a real possibility. In fact, it is a virtual necessity. Smart people take care of themselves physically and mentally. Adding stress management to your daily goals is a good idea if you are under a lot of pressure from various aspects of your life. And these days, who isn't?

Stress management consists of getting enough rest, eating a nutritious diet, and getting moderate gentle exercise. Specific nutrients that can nourish the nervous system from the ravages of stress include the B-complex of vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Some herbs that can help are skullcap, St. John's Wort, and chamomile. If getting to sleep is a problem, you might try melatonin or valerian.

Sleep is absolutely essential to good health and stress reduction, although not every person needs the recommended seven to eight hours. Most do, however. Over-the-counter sleep aids made from the drug, diphenhydramine, will help you get to sleep, but the sleep will probably not be as restful as natural sleep. Use it as a last resort.
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