Stress is all around us, and we can’t escape it. But, at the same time, chronic, unrelenting, stress can wreak havoc on our bodies in ways that medical science is just now discovering. From depression to heart disease, high blood pressure to diabetes, the effects of stress can destroy your life. Here’s how to fight back and find peace.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a somewhat nebulous term, and has different definitions depending on who you ask. Physical stress is generally regarded as “damage” of some kind that is inflicted on the body. Now, damage doesn’t necessarily refer to a cut or a bruise or broken bone.
People stress their bodies physically at the gym, for example. That kind of stress is good, at least in moderation. But, even weight training and aerobics can be done in excess – called “overtraining.” When this happens, the body can’t keep up and the individual usually ends up either becoming injured or sick, possibly both.
Psychological stress is something like a psychic “attack” or “damage” to the psyche. It’s a feeling of worry, trouble, or tension. A little can be good – it can make you a mentally tougher person. Too much can cause problems though.
Negative Effects of Stress
Proof that what affects the mind can affect the body lies in new scientific research showing that excessive amounts of stress, even psychological stress, can eventually lead to health problems like depression or anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even cancer. Yikes!
If you’re under a lot of stress, and you know it, one of the easiest ways to monitor your health is to get a heart rate monitor. These are devices that wrap around your wrist or can be strapped to your chest. They monitor your heart rate and can tell you whether your heart is working too hard. An elevated heart rate suggests that your body is working hard to maintain blood circulation – generally not a good thing.
Blood pressure monitors can also help you keep tabs on your general health.
Finally, a simple blood glucose meter from LifeScan can monitor your blood sugar – helpful if you’re a little overweight and want to make sure it doesn’t degenerate into pre-diabetes or full blown diabetes.
Ways to Cope
There are a lot of ways to cope with stress, but all of them involve removing the stressor. You have to identify what’s stressing you out and then make changes to your behavior, diet, lifestyle or habits. It’s easier said than done, but absolutely necessary.
One of the quickest ways to reduce stress is to create a “quick escape” plan. These can be a trip to the day spa, a relaxing massage, a soak in a hot tub with some relaxing music, or something that is unusual or out of the ordinary for you (but still relaxing). The key is to break the routine you’re in with something that is inherently non-stressful.
Over time, small changes can affect your daily stress. The goal is to eventually rearrange your life so that stress is balanced with non-stressful activities.
Theresa Nelson is a health club worker and mom of three young children. When she has the time, she enjoys helping people get healthy by blogging on the Internet. You can read her articles on many of today’s top websites and blogs.