Monday, October 3, 2011

Manic Monday: Stress, the Big Killer

While hiking with my best friend this weekend, we were discussing the different factors that contribute to degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease.  Dozens of factors certainly contribute to life-threatening diseases, we agreed, but there is one that acts as a trigger for most people: stress.

Life is full of stressful situations.  We all have to deal with difficult people, concerns over finances, driving, family and marital challenges, stressful jobs, and the list goes on.  However, being in a stressful situation doesn't mean that stress is present.  The inability to adapt or adjust to the situation creates stress in the organism.

While there are different levels of adaptation and some people are better at it than others, the best way to tell how you are adapting to a stressful situation is to pay attention to your body.  Everything from slight agitation to rage affects your body's chemistry.  Depending on the level of stress, breathing speeds up or becomes restricted, muscles tighten, the heart rate increases, and some people even become dizzy or nauseous.  Consequently, the body releases cortisol and other stress hormones. Numerous studies have been conducted by public and private groups indicating that stress and stress hormones are a big factor in immune suppression and the onset of disease.

The key, of course, lies in coping with stress.  The easy way (and eventually deadly way) to deal with stress is to take a shortcut like drinking, drugs, overeating, oversleeping, escaping with television, etc.  But these only get the mind off of stressful things temporarily and create their own long list of health issues.  If we want to follow the path of health and vitality, we must learn to recognize our reactions to stressful circumstances while they are happening and determine how to control them.  In addition, we must learn healthy ways to release stress and tension from the body.

One thing I am learning about myself is that reacting negatively to situations I perceive as negative or stressful has become a habit, even an addiction.  If you look up "drama queen" in the dictionary, I'm sure you'll see a picture of me.  I love to turn something small into a big deal.  Fortunately for me, I am learning to recognize this in myself while it happens.  Over the last couple of years, I have become better at stopping myself from reacting, blaming, and mocking.  My life and health are too precious to let life's inevitable bumps damage them.  Also, the changes in my diet and exercise profoundly control my stress and tension levels.

My goals for managing my stress include becoming more aware of how I react to life's challenges, paying attention to my body when I am under pressure, breathing more, exercising daily, and taking time to still my mind each day.  This is important to my mental and physical health, and I'm important enough to meet the challenge.  May you have a stress-free day.

Mystic Merman

No comments:

Post a Comment