Stress – The New Epidemic

Feeling stressed out?
The most influential anti-stress weapon you have at your disposal, is your mind..

These days stress seems to be the major reason why anybody gets ill, as well as being the universal excuse for bad behaviour. Now, everything in our lives is somehow, ‘stress related’.

Unfortunately, stress is real and comes in many forms. It’s often obvious, but other times, hard to recognize. Long term stress is sinister for everybody. New research links it with heart problems, ulcers, cancer, diabetic, arthritis, asthma, PMT and fertility difficulties. In almost all cases, stress is very damaging to your heart. It wreaks havoc by disrupting your body’s immune system, making you vulnerable to all sorts of illness and disease.

Stress is directly related to worrying. People with the highest amount of worry have two and a half times the risk of having a heart attack, compared to those with the lowest amount of worry. Stress is often work related. An over demanding job, an unrewarding job, or the loss of a job, can all contribute to stress. For women, stress frequently occurs when trying to juggle a career, look after a family and care for a spouse, all at the same time. Moving or traveling is stressful. Illnesses, whether physical or emotional are stressful for the body and so are certain medications, especially steroids.

However, usually it’s just the tedious, frustrating, day to day hassles and irritations that make up the bulk of stressful times. Things like late flights, traffic jams, engaged telephone lines, queues at supermarkets, internet failures, motorway driving, or simply not having enough hours in the day.

Too much stress leaves you depressed, bad tempered and physically exhausted. It can create numerous symptoms including insomnia, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, overeating, resentment and the inability to concentrate or perform at usual levels. Stress also makes you more likely to munch your way through a whole packet of biscuits, to light one cigarette after another, or to completely finish a bottle of wine when you only intended to have one glass.

Exactly the same hormones are released so you continually ‘wound up’ and prepared for an emergency. This response isn’t needed, yet you can’t relax. And having adrenaline and cortisone constantly sloshing around in your bloodstream is bad news for your long term health.

However, there is a solution. Happily, by becoming more stress resilient, you can reduce the risk of future illness and premature death.

A five pronged approach is best. Not surprisingly, good nutrition, getting enough sleep, taking regular exercise, stopping smoking and learning some coping skills slow down the damaging stress related processes.

The more you can control the stress response, the better. The fitter you are, the lower your rise of cortisol under stressful conditions. In fact, exercise helps the body use up excess stress-induced hormones. Meanwhile, stopping smoking reduces your stress load immediately.

Probably the most influential anti-stress weapon you have at your disposal, is your mind. How you react, and bounce back from stressful events is all important. Coping skills can be learned and fortunately, there are several proven strategies available.

Knowing a simple technique for relaxation and using it for ten minutes a day will work wonders. When you relax, your blood pressure is lowered and you slow down your heart beat, breathing rate and metabolism. These factors reduce stress and improve overall health.

There are many different relaxation options including yoga, meditation, mental imagery, massage, biofeedback, autogenic therapy or just plain deep breathing. Make some regular time for yourself every day and don’t spend it working or catching up on chores.

Try a hobby, reading a good book, listening to music or talking to a pet or plant. Use what works best for you but get smart and take time to manage your stress load. Avoid becoming just another ‘stress-related’ statistic in the new epidemic.