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The Lowdown On Stress

Aug 17, 2007
Stress can be an insidious disease that robs you of peace, and even good health. Stress is meant as a response mechanism to help your body recognize danger and muster the courage to try something new. It's what helps your body focus, face tough situations, and gives you strength, heightened alertness to danger and even stamina when you need it most.

When the human body is provoked by stressors, (anything from a simple argument with a co-worker, to waiting in line at the grocery store, to something as serious as being involved in a car crash, or even mugged), it responds by activating the nervous system. The hypothalamus then tells the adrenal glands to release more adrenaline into the bloodstream.

These hormones are what cause the heart to race, palms to sweat and blood pressure to rise. Pupils in the eyes suddenly dilate to improve vision. Blood vessels throughout the body widen to allow more blood to flow to important organs. The liver even releases glucose to give the body a sudden energy boost. This natural stress response can be very beneficial, helping to prepare a person to act quickly, and more effectively handle the situation at hand.

When Stress Goes Bad.
This stress response is necessary in an emergency, but when normal everyday stressors build over time, with little or no relief, this normal (and healthy) stress response can turn on the human body, causing a multitude of physical ailments. When the nervous system remains "on," do to continuous stress, the body can begin to wear down, leaving the person feeling overwhelmed, and the immune system overworked. Most people have experienced the physical signs of stress from time to time including: stomach pains; chronic diarrhea; fatigue; headaches; insomnia; shortness of breath; weight loss (or gain); and even shortness of breathe. But, many fail to realize that severe stress overload can also lead to much more serious ailments such as: high blood pressure; angina (chest pains); Type 2 diabetes; increased asthma attacks; and even heart attack and stroke! Too much stress can be very bad for the human body.

Signs of Stress Overload.
Stress is an epidemic these days, with nearly 80 percent of the American population reporting feelings of extreme stress at work every ingle day, not to mention home and family stressors, it's no wonder doctor's offices are packed with patients exhibiting anxiety and stress-related symptoms. Stress overload is becoming more and more serious, as modern society continues to cram more into their schedules, achieve more at work, and fail to recognize the symptoms of overload. Physicians recommend heading stress off before it becomes so severe that it takes a physical toll on your body. Watch for these signs of stress overload and learn to deal with them before it's too late:

-Emotional Upheaval, such as mood swings, anxiety, difficulty falling or staying asleep, sadness, anger, trouble concentrating, excess worry and overwhelming feelings of not being good enough or sadness are all signs that stress is taking its toll on your body!

-Physical Signs such as tiredness, sweaty palms, throbbing headaches, trouble eating (stomach upset), or overeating, as well as muscle tightness can all be a sign of stress overload.

-Behavior Changes, such as overreacting, acting on impulse, using alcohol or drugs, withdrawing from relationships and changing jobs often can also signal trouble.

Once the signs of overload are recognized, it's important to deal with them right away. Most stress experts agree that once stress overload has manifested itself into physical, emotional and behavioral ways, it may be necessary to seek professional help. In the meantime, here are a few simple things anyone can try to help alleviate some of the stressors in their lives:

Learn to Relax.
Easier said than done, but learning how to relax can help most people alleviate much of the stress in their lives. Learn yoga or deep breathing exercises. Take time to go for a walk, read a book or do something that you really enjoy. Take time alone every day to just sit peacefully.

Stay Healthy.
Eat right. Exercise. Sleep at least 6-8 hours every night. Get help from your doctor when the stress becomes too much to handle alone. A healthy body is better equipped to handle daily stressors.

Avoid Over Scheduling.
Today's hectic lifestyle, both a home and at work, is a leading cause of stress in modern society. Stop trying to fill every minute of every day with activities and projects. Take time to simply rest. Do nothing for an entire weekend. Help your body and mind rejuvenate itself, by giving it plenty of peaceful moments.

Stress was designed to help our body, not hinder it. Unfortunately, our inability to handle the ongoing stressors of modern life has created an epidemic of overworked and overstressed people who must learn how to better deal with their stress in order to have a happier, and healthier life.
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