schedules and heavy traffic. Missed deadlines and sudden illness. Sooner
or later, everyone experiences stress -- for some of us, dozens of times
a day. Acute or short-term stress is the reaction to anything perceived
as an immediate threat. It touches off the "fight or flight"
response and sends the body into overdrive. The heart, blood vessels,
brain and digestive systems all adjust to meet the danger of the unexpected.
The immune system is suppressed. Adrenaline is pumped into our blood
stream, but then levels off when the crisis ends. Modern life, however,
offers on-going stressful situations such as complex work or personal
issues against which the urge to fight or flee must be suppressed. This
can lead to the more dangerous chronic, or long-term stress.
surprising symptoms of chronic stress include: fatigue, impatience,
dry mouth, overspending, inability to concentrate, exhaustion at the
end of the day, skin rashes, over-sleeping and anger.
with stress is a major part of any wellness plan. It is important to
keep in mind that no one plan is completely foolproof, and it's best
to try a variety of approaches.
- Try keeping a
diary of both stressful and enjoyable events over a two-week period.
If you can identify what sets you off, perhaps you can also find alternatives.
You can also try to schedule more of the things that bring you joy.
- Make time for
yourself every day. Even twenty minutes spent reading, gardening or
working on a favorite project can significantly lower stress levels.
- Get out of your
head and into your body. Studies show that both physical exercise
and relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation can be very effective
in reducing stress. Sometimes it helps to enlist a partner, or share
your goals with family and friends. Find anyone who can help keep
you motivated. Even better, get a dog -- studies show that having
a pet helps reduce medical problems aggravated by stress.
- Avoid drug and
alcohol use, abnormal eating patterns and passive activities such
as watching television. These habits can compound the psychological
effects of stress. Even worse, they interfere with sleep patterns.
- Laugh every day.
Research suggests that laughter increases the body's level of endorphins.
These are only a
few ways to give your heart a break, and keep your spirits up.
Body & Soul is currently airing Monday-Friday at 7:00pm and 8:30pm on PBS YOU.
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