How to Deal With Stress

Stress is a fact of life.  This article is designed to help you deal with stress in a healthy manner.

Americans are feeling the effects of chronic stress.  Our busy, modern lifestyle keeps us on the go and it is not healthy.  The results of a recent UK study, which compared the health of middle-aged Caucasians in the UK to the US, were revealed.  The results showed that Americans are sicker and suffer from more chronic disease than our UK counterparts.  The study demonstrated that Americans are more stressed, over-weight and driven by work.  People in the UK value a more leisure lifestyle and are driven by vacation and time off of work.  The conclusion is that our way of living is not the healthiest lifestyle and results in chronic diseases such as, cancer, obesity, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent study in America was broadcast on PBS in February.  The study had fifty people in each of two separate groups.  One group of participants was in the stressed group.  This group had the highly demanding job of caring for senile elderly clients.  The other group of participants shared the same socio-economic status, but was in the non-stressed group.  Each of the one hundred members of the study received an identical injury, a puncture wound made by a medical instrument, to the right upper arm.  The wounds were photographed as they healed.  The results were astonishing.  The wounds of the stressed group frequently got infected, scarred and took much longer to heal than their unstressed counterparts.

Stress, when not managed properly, will manifest itself in our biologic systems.  Some of us have weaker immune systems and get viral or bacterial infections when stressed.  Others people have weak digestive systems and get ulcers or an irritable bowel.  Many of my patients develop back pain because of unmanaged stress.

The stress hormone, cortisol, will help to protect us when injured.  However, long-term exposure of cortisol is damaging.  Cortisol can become toxic to the brain and result in depression.  Cortisol will also break the body down and accelerate the aging process.

What to do?  Genetics provide our potential and our lifestyle dictates the outcome.  This is empowering because we can change our lifestyles to improve our lives.  A strong family and/or social network is essential.  Eating well, proper exercise and positive thinking provide a fertile medium for our bodies and spirits to flourish.  Yoga and meditation bring awareness to the mind and body.  Do not allow stress to influence your life, be proactive and evaluate what is important and what you can do without.  Simplify your life to reduce your level of stress.  Less is more and happiness is more of a letting go process than a process of accumulation.

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