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How Stress Affects Your Body and What to Do About It

Aug 27, 2008
Stress affects your body in various ways, most of which are debilitating. When you are stressed out, your sympathetic nervous system is being over stimulated. Your body's production of key hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and neurotransmitters is out of balance.

When you are under stress your body responds by keeping blood sugar levels high for quick energy. Your body is providing you the energy to handle life threatening emergency situations such as a robbery. As a short-term solution to a perceived or real threat, this is not harmful. But when the stress becomes chronic due to job and family problems or your tendency to worry, the response is lasting too long. The consistently high blood sugar levels interfere with your body's ability to regulate glucose which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or obesity.

Chronic stress also puts you at risk for heart problems and pre-mature aging. It can cause a myriad of other health problems because it suppresses your immune system and leaves you vulnerable to any number of illnesses.

In addition, chronic stress can lead to the development of unhealthy habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and overeating.

Your brain is especially vulnerable to stress which can cause short-term memory loss and over a period of time, actual brain atrophy. Stress also is responsible for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. However, it is the mind which decides what is and is not stressful. Scientists have learned that it is the perception of stress rather than the duration or degree which ages cellular DNA.

This basically means that stress is a health problem that is under your control. Everyone has heard the phrase "mind over matter." While it is true that what happens to you is often beyond your control, you can always control how you react to what happens.

Remember the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the tings I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

For instance, you may not be able to stop your angry teenager from venting her frustrations at you, but you can decide not to buy into her anger.

Different people have different triggers. Everyone needs to figure out, when they are calm, and not under stress, just what their trigger points are and how they can deal with them. In other words, you know your seemingly ungrateful teenagers rouses your anger so how can you cope the next time it happens? What are some strategies you could use to solve your job problems?

Everyone has different methods to handle stress. What works for your neighbor, husband or co-worker may not help you. Some people use various yoga techniques. Others practice breathing and relaxation exercises. People have tried listening to music, aromatherapy, exercise, prayer, or engaging in a calming hobby such as gardening.

You also need to follow a healthy diet, get adequate sleep, and avoid toxic people - the ones who pull you down. While you want to avoid loneliness, you should spend your time with the friends who make you feel good.

Just the act of making a plan, which is called cognitive-behavioral therapy, will put you on the road to a calm, centered life which will keep you younger and most important, happier.
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