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Archive for the ‘Stress’ Category

Stress Can Cause Poor Health

Holiday stress free

As wonderful as the holiday season can be, social events, shopping, home decorations and many other holiday activities can really stress us out.

Could this cause health issues? You bet.

Stress not only makes us feel awful emotionally, but it can actually make us ill.

When we feel stressed, our bodies respond by releasing energy-producing hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This causes the “flight or fight” response that physically prepares us to respond to a stressful situation.

Have you ever had your heart pound quickly with rapid breathing when you’ve been suddenly startled by something or when you’ve been in a very emotional argument? These reactions are caused by the flight-or-fight response.

Usually, when the stress is over, the stress hormones revert back to normal levels, we feel better and no harm is done.

If stress persists, though, and we are constantly bombarded by the stress hormones, many of our bodily functions can be disrupted, leading to significant health problems.

Chronic stress can cause some troubling health problems:

– Heart disease, especially high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes

– Insomnia and depression

– Obesity and digestive problems

– Asthma and diabetes

– Alzheimer’s disease and accelerated aging

Although we may not be able to eliminate all of our stresses, we can change how we respond to them.

Stress management is a recognized method of dealing with stress by using these strategies while in the throes of a stressful situation:

Take some deep slow breaths and try to relax tensed-up muscles, such as those in the jaw and the shoulders.

Reframe your stressful situation by finding something positive about what is going on at the time.

Focus on the present moment, as much of our stress comes from something in the past or in the immediate future.

Keep things in perspective — does the stressful event really have any long-term consequences?

Think about all the good things in your life.

Consider more long-term techniques for dealing with life’s stresses, too, such as regular exercise (that’s one reason I ride my bicycle as often as I can).

It also helps to maintain a healthy diet, get adequate rest, foster enjoyable friendships and have a good sense of humor.

Try practicing yoga or other known relaxation techniques, or rely on your own personal religious beliefs to find peace and comfort.

Managing stress will not only improve our piece of mind but will promote a healthier and longer life.

Have a very relaxing and peaceful holiday.

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Stress, Anxiety

We live in anxious times. Media reports bring us news of a poor economy, joblessness, people losing homes, international problems, high crime rates and more.

In addition, there are our own personal issues to deal with, such as poor health, relationship difficulties, financial problems and high-pressure jobs.

Even everyday annoyances stress us out, such as being stuck in traffic, computer problems and too many appointments and obligations.

More than 40 million people suffer from anxiety. Anxiety can begin in childhood, but it most commonly affects the middle-aged and even the elderly. Twice as many women as men have anxiety. Other similar disorders include social phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Some of the more common manifestations of anxiety are:

– Constant worrying and obsessing over big or small problems.

– Feelings of impending doom or worthlessness.

– Fatigue or trouble sleeping.

– Restlessness and feeling uptight.

– Difficulty concentrating and irritability.

– Sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and rapid heart rate.

When a patient is evaluated by a doctor for anxiety, physical causes — thyroid problems, heart or lung disease, even dietary problems — need to be ruled out. Once that is done, there are several options for treatment.

Psychotherapy

By working with a trained therapist, patients can focus on working out underlying life stresses and concerns and making behavior changes.

This may be done through cognitive behavioral therapy, which is one of the more common types of psychotherapy. It involves learning to identify unhealthy negative beliefs and behaviors that contribute to anxiety and then teaches how to replace them with positive, healthy beliefs.

These treatments can give a person the tools necessary to deal with responses to life’s many problems and can help one gain control, especially by changing the way one responds to situations.

Medications

For the short term, anxiety can be treated with benzodiazepines, such as Xanax and Ativan. These can work quickly and effectively, but they can be habit forming. For the longer term, antidepressants, such as Zoloft or Celexa, can be used.

Close medical supervision is important for drug therapy.

Lifestyle remedies

People who feel anxious can also treat themselves with exercise; healthy diet; avoidance of alcohol; relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation; and adequate sleep.

If you think you suffer from anxiety, see your doctor. With evaluation and a personalized treatment plan, your anxiety can be brought under control.

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