Stress can make you sick: Feel better by reducing it

July 13, 2010

Meditation helps to relieve stress

Have you ever stood before a large crowd and forgotten part of your presentation, arrived at an event inappropriately dressed, or missed a final exam – only to be awakened by the loud beeping of your alarm clock?

Six myths about stress

Stress is the same for everybody. What is stressful for one person may not bother someone else.
Stress is always bad for you. Stress can motivate you into action; such as improving nutrition after hearing you are at risk for heart disease.
Stress is everywhere, so you can't do anything about it. You can plan your life so that stress is reduced.
The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones. Each person can tailor his or her own stress management program.
No symptoms, no stress. Alcohol and other drugs, medications, and other stress may cover the symptoms.
Only major symptoms of stress need attention. Minor symptoms can be an early sign that things are getting out of control.

There are three different types of stress: acute, episodic acute, and chronic. Acute stress is the most common form. Short-term stressors like rushing to meet a deadline, a child's occasional problems at school, or entertaining guests are examples of acute stress. Episodic acute stress can be experiencing frequent acute stressors or having an extreme type A personality. Individuals with extreme type A personality are much more likely to develop coronary heart disease. Chronic stress is the long-term stress that wears away at people. Poverty, living with lies or family secrets, unhealthy views of the world or belief systems, or being in a career you hate are all examples of chronic stress.

Stress statistics

75-90% of all doctor's office visits are from stress-related illnesses and complaints.
According to the CDC, 83% of all adult deaths between the ages of 21 and 65 are related to lifestyle.
Stress is linked to six leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and suicide.
In terms of lost hours due to absenteeism, reduced productivity, and workers' compensation benefits, stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually, or $7,500 per worker per year.

The effects of stress can lead to many medical concerns. Stress tends to

Lower the quality of life by reducing feelings of pleasure and accomplishment, leading to depression and anxiety
Cause blood to become stickier, increasing the chances of an artery-clogging blood clot, which can lead to heart disease
Reduce estrogen levels in women, which are important for heart health
Increase blood pressure, which is linked to thickening of carotid arteries, causing blockage or injury in the carotid arteries, a main cause of stroke
Weaken the immune system
Cause general gastrointestinal problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and ulcers
Lead to certain muscular and joint pains, as well as headaches

Dealing with stress

Identify sources of stress: Note the activities, or triggers, that put a strain on energy, or cause a negative physical response like sour stomach, headache, and so on. Question the sources of stress: Have you taken on tasks that you can reasonably do? Which tasks are in your control, and which ones are not? Adding stress - reducing activities: If the stress is at home, plan times away, even if only for an hour or two a week. Make time for recreation. Aerobics, yoga, tai chi, brisk walking, and swimming are great forms of exercise for stress. Acknowledge your feelings: We are better able to manage ourselves when we recognize how we feel instead of allowing our feelings to manage us. Keep perspective and look for the positive: Identify the worst possible thing that can happen. Rate the chances of these bad outcomes happening. If you can, make a plan to get a positive outcome. Use Humor: Laughter stimulates the immune system. It also increases T cells and natural killer cells that help fight off diseases. Laughter relaxes the skeletal muscles of arms and legs, exercises the heart by raising the heart rate, releases pent-up feelings, lessens pain, and aids in breathing. Peter Francisco once said, “If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always gotten.” The goal is not to avoid the challenges that come along but to learn new ways to respond and work through them.

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