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Managing Stress

What is Stress?

Stress is any disturbance that may cause a stress response in the body.  These disturbances could be anything from deadlines, worry about family, crossing a busy intersection, experiencing great joy or even room temperatures too hot or cold.  Most often the stress response is so mild it is not noticed.  But extreme, unusual or long lasting stress responses may be overwhelming and has the ability to harm all of the systems in the body.  Stress that could cause one person to get sick may be very invigorating to another.  The difference between the two reactions to stress is how prepared the body is to respond to stress.  It is important to great health to understand your stress levels and learn effective strategies to manage stress.

Not all stress is bad.  It can help us to get through a difficult day keeping our mind sharp and clear.  It can help us avoid accidents or help us present at our best to get a new job.     To manage stress you must learn what causes the most problems or uses up the most energy and learn ways to diffuse the negative reactions they cause.

How Does the Body Respond to Stress?

There are three distinct stages the body goes through in response to extreme, unusual or long lasting  stress; alarm, resistance and exhaustion.

The first stage is the alarm reaction, often called the “fight or flight” reaction, which is a set of responses designed to prepare the body to physically fight or flee from danger.  The heart beats faster and harder, raising the blood pressure, so that plenty of blood carrying oxygen and glucose is provided for the brain and the muscles.  Blood is directed away from the skin and internal organs with the exception of the heart and lungs.  Breathing becomes faster.  More sweat is produced to eliminate toxins produced while in this state and to cool the body.  Digestion and elimination is drastically reduced.  Glucose levels are dramatically increased as the liver produces large amounts of glucose to feed the working muscles.

The second stage is the resistance stage.  This stage kicks in when the stress is prolonged.  The adrenal gland produces hormones to start the conversion or protein to energy when glucose is depleted.  It also helps to keep the blood pressure up by retaining sodium.    This stage helps when faced with strenuous tasks or infectious diseases. 

While these responses are great when faced with a physical challenge they are not so good when the stress is not physical.  Today stressors are all too often mental or emotional and this response is not so helpful.  In fact,

The exhaustion phase is often seen as a total collapse of an organ or body function.  Prolonged stress puts a tremendous load on many of the organs and systems of the body, especially the heart, blood vessels, adrenal glands and the immune system.  These responses can be directly related to many chronic diseases that are very common in modern society.  It is easy to see how high blood pressure, diabetes, and digestion problems can be tied to stress but there are other diseases closely related to stress.  Other conditions related to stress include:

·         Physical

o   Angina

o   Asthma

o   Autoimmune disease

o   Cancer

o   Cardiovascular disease

o   Common cold

o   Headache

o   Heartburn

o   Immune suppression

o   Insomnia

o   Irritable bowel syndrome

o   Menstrual irregularities

o   Nausea

o   Neck Pain

o    Rheumatoid arthritis

o   Ulcers, ulcerative colitis

o   Upset stomach

o   Weight problems

·         Mental and Emotional Symptoms

o   Depression

o   Decreased libido

o   Burn out

o   Lac of focus

o   Sadness

o   Anger

o   Irritability

o   Worrying

o   Restlessness

o   Feeling out of control

o   Memory issues

o   Feeling insecure

o   Spending too much time with the TV or electronic devises

o   Overspending

o   Excessive behavior

·         Behavioral Symptoms

o   Crying

o   Angry outbursts

o   Social withdrawal

o   Drug or alcohol abuse

o   Relationship conflicts

o   Over eating

o   Under eating

o   Increased smoking