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How Stress is Killing Us… And 10 Things You Can Do About It

February 23, 2010 by  

How Stress is Killing Us… And 10 Things You Can Do About It

Stress is one of the leading causes of illness in the United States. Indeed, nearly 66 percent of all signs and symptoms presented in doctors’ offices in the U.S. are stress induced.

The effects of stress include nail biting, anxiety, a racing mind, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, unending worry, muscle tension and spasm, poor appetite or too great an appetite, digestive disorders, constipation, insomnia, poor blood flow, belabored breathing, neck pain, shoulder tension and the possible onset or continuation of bad habits such as dependence on alcohol, drugs, painkillers, food and caffeine.

Any one of these things by itself can trigger any number of different types of illnesses. But when these forces of antagonism are combined (as they generally are when triggered by stress), the health problems often become chronic and insufferable.

The Psychology of Stress

Stress is an interesting phenomenon. It means different things to different people. What we each individually consider to be stressful is largely a matter of our perception. Indeed, our perceptions are our realities and so what we think is posing a threat is actually doing so by virtue of our established belief system. Moreover, there are many kinds of stressors—physical (the response to being frightened), emotional (loss of a loved one), psychological (obsessive thoughts), spiritual (loss of faith) and psychosomatic (the need for attention).

Physiologically, stress is responsible for initiating the fight or flight response in the face of perceived danger. This means that when we are confronted with a danger, our body automatically prepares us to deal with the coming stressful situation by focusing our attention, pumping more blood into our muscles and sending adrenaline through our system to ready it for action. It is precisely this response that helps protect the body and return it again to homeostasis. However, too much stress, or stress left unresolved for too long a time, can lead to biological damage.

You see, at the onset of perceived danger the body is quickly jolted into fight or flight mode, which means stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the bloodstream. However, at the conclusion of the danger episode, the body does not as automatically calm down and return to homeostasis. In fact, it takes a great deal of time for the body to return to so-called normal conditions. But often this cannot happen because another stressor may present itself (e.g., sitting in traffic, standing in line at the bank, missing a deadline) and this will send our body into “code red” mode all over again.

The effects of such prolonged or recurring stress is that it keeps the autonomic nervous system from balancing, which can lead to problems with the gastrointestinal tract, the digestive system, the respiratory system and the neuronendocrine system. Stress can also lead to depression, anxiety, muscle tension and insomnia. All of these are known triggers of various mental and physical (mind/body) illnesses and diseases.

A Stressful Example

The vicious cause and effect cycle of stress is readily seen in our workforce, wherein productivity and the meeting of deadlines and bottom-line expectations lead us down a harrowing headache path. Consider the average day in the life of a corporate worker: Wakes up early, skips breakfast and rushes to the office; begins harboring stress and anxiety while watching the clock sitting in traffic; sits all day at the computer and talking on the phone; takes breaks not to stretch and take deep breaths of fresh air, but to artificially stimulate the body to work harder through taking a cigarette and coffee break. After that it’s back to work pushing productivity in an attempt to meet expectations wherein stress and tensions rise and take hold of the body; after work, to relax—office co-workers are joined for happy hour—wherein the body is nourished with more caffeine, cigarettes and now alcohol. Round and round, day after day, until the body rebels and “tells” you something is very wrong by way of an ulcer, gastrointestinal disorder or chronic pain in some manifestation.

Stress is killing us!

Ten Stress Busters

The idea behind living a stress-free life is to remove the things in your life that are causing you to be stressed. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is truly the only way to not have stress. Here are 10 simple things you can do on a daily basis to reduce the symptoms of stress.

  • Walk outside for at least 20 continuous minutes every day.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Take 10 deep belly breaths every hour.
  • Drink plenty of pure water—at least 10 glasses a day.
  • Avoid sugar and caffeine in all forms.
  • Regulate sleep and wake cycles to a consistent daily routine.
  • Prioritize your life, work, family and personal time and activities.
  • Do six shoulder shrugs whenever you are tense.
  • Realize that when people criticize and judge they are labeling an “image” of you and not you personally.
  • Realize that you are worth so much more than the sum of your titles, money and belongings.

A good stress-relief program should be sought and followed. Good programs generally include various forms of meditation, visualization, qigong, yoga, acupressure and bio-feedback. Not all programs contain everything, but engaging in any or some of these will go a long way to reclaiming years for your life.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. The Wiley Method provides a revolutionary way of providing recovery and prevention of chronic pain, illness and disease. Grab your FREE COPY of Dr. Mark Wiley's "The 3 Secrets to Optimal Health" HERE.

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  • BABUSHSKA

    I would add THE most important stress reliever is prayer and a spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28-31 states, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” This means that God is always standing with us, and His power is exerted on our behalf (according to His purpose). Knowing this will sustain us through all of life’s stresses, misfortunes and difficulties that we’ll all go through. Jeremiah 29:11-13 also supports this. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” Knowing this is the greatest stress reliever in the world!

    • TIME

      You have a point, to pray is a form of meditation.

      I can agree 100% that a good long walk is so good for you, and hey the benifits are super positive. As in you may just loose a few pounds, it helps your heart, your lungs get a work out as to all major mussel groups.

      Watch what you eat, if you can cut our all processed sugars you can’t fathom how good you will feel.
      Don’t drink soft drinks, drink green tea you make, not the canned stuff etc.

      Great Blog Doc, always good info within. Thanks

    • http://mail Damian

      amen

    • Janet Greene

      I was raised in an evangelical christian home and was a christian until my 30′s. But I was stressed out, unhappy; full of guilt & fear. I became obsessive in my search for answers…13 years later, I am an atheist, and much more healthy physically and mentally. What I needed was a healthy relationship with ME and those around me. I left the guilt & fear of religion behind me, and it has served me well. I wish for others a journey of renewal as well.

  • Warrior

    Real stress is having your wive find out you have about a dozen girlfriends.

    • TIME

      LOL!!!!!!!!!

    • FRED LARSON

      YOUR NOT ONLY STUPID YOUR A PERVERT… I HOPE YOUR “WIFE” KICKS
      YOUR DUMB ARS OUT FOR GOOD

    • Wolfman

      May-be we should send this to Tiger Wood

    • http://www.leftbehindlie.com Bob Hamrick

      Stress is a manifestation of fear. Faith is the antithesis of fear. My Lord Yeshuah of Nazareth (“Jesus Christ”) said, “Fear not. Believe ONLY.” (Luke 8:50) This is as concise a statement of the Christian experience as could be imagined. FOUR words!
      The central problem for all mankind therefore is to discover an object of your faith which is BOTH (a) true; and (b) capable of protecting you from the things you would otherwise fear. Yeshuah of Nazareth claimed to BE that object, that he fulfilled in the flesh ALL of the prophecies in the Hebrew Tanakh (“Old Testament”) concerning the Messiah who would be sent (the Shaliach of the Father YHVH), and then by resurrecting from the dead exactly as he prophesied that he would.
      He also PROMISED that he would “manifest” to anyone who would place their faith in his words (John 14:21).
      My testimony to you is that he kept this promise to me, on May 1, 1987, and he (via the Holy Spirit of YHVH) is with me yet.
      I have no “stress”, and neither need you.

    • http://freelibertydigest sherry

      Why be married moron!

  • Mark

    Stress is inevitable. This world of greed amplyfies the daily stress in our lives. I drink coffee because it has many benefits, much unlike in the past they told us it was bad and would stunt growth. BS My personal stress belief is simple, eliminate the source. I kill everyday, something, anything, but I kill. When I kill I place a face on that death, whether a rodent or pest bird or whatever, there is always a face related to the stress, and I eliminate it. Another good stress relief is long range target shooting. I get my targets in the mall. Hillary calendars, obama calendars, etc. Stress relief, oh yea.

  • DaveH

    I see people rushing all over the place these days unlike when I was young (40 years ago). I believe it is a result of our Government draining so much of our productivity that the people with jobs have to work much harder to make a living.
    My solution for a lot of the stress would be to cut the size of Government by at least a third. More would be better.
    Vote Libertarian:
    http://libertarianparty.org/platform

  • Torch

    I think the one thing that has saved me, although I have at times worked around the clock on some project, is that I was working as an engineer which is what loved to do, so it never seemed like ‘work’.
    For what it’s worth,
    Torch

    • DaveH

      That is very good advice for those lucky enough to achieve that.

      I would like to add that a majority of our stress comes from worrying about what people think of us. If that is the case for somebody, I would suggest to just do your best and quit worrying about it. There will always be those who don’t like you no matter how you perform, so just do what you think is best and don’t worry about the rest.

  • s c

    Living with stress is a daily challenge. I’ve lived long enough to know that certain things have to be eliminated from life, or they will shorten my life and make life easy for those who have no functional place in society.
    To me, we are obligated to make career politicans feel stressed-out daily. Why make it easy for people who are proven to be as common as house flies and as useful as teats on a brick?
    “Et tu” is a most practical way to view such people. How many people can say that ANY politican ever made life better? To put it another way, America suffers at the hands of those who put themselves before us. Ergo, anyone who wants to be a career politicans is fair game, and I will do what I can to make life miserable for those useful idiot yahoos. Fair is fair, and turnabout should be America’s new national sport.

  • Dark1rep

    As Torch said, if you love your work (as I do), you eliminate most sources of stress. I am also an engineer (electrical controls) and I could not think of anything I would rather do. Additionally, I avoid “obligations” like the plague and I intentionally schedule at least one “veg-weekend” per month. Amazing stress reducer.

  • http://gmail Lone Rider

    Another sourcd of stress isthe Bull that is promoted in society, that you are just so stressed if you have to experience work or anything in life that isn’t screw off time. It is taght you must be enertained and coddled. We have a bunch of girlly men or mama’s boys. If they don’t have every Sat. and Sun. off and have to work to make ends meet and pay their bills, everyone wigs out. I know over the last 20 years as a supervisor and business owner, every year it get worse to find employees that really give a shit about their jobs. When I move a newer worker over workers that have been on the job longer, show no interest in getting a job done or working over 8 hrs, I hear about unions and senority. I also have several college grads. that think their damn cat gut degree means, they are past getting their fingers dirty or doing grunt work. We have created our own problems from the 50′s on. Professors in our colleges turn out dinks like most our unions meatball workers. They have to need a leader, to damn lazy to speak up of take a position unless they are given an OK by higher ups.

    • Sharon

      I would not want to work for you. You have a bad attitude and my perception is that you would be a very unforgiving, critical and cruel boss, a source of great stress for many working people today. The boss is the leader. If this is how you lead, with this attitude, no wonder you think your employees suck. They probably feel the same way about you!

      • Fed Up Gal in NM

        Sharon,

        Maybe….but I’ve been on both sides (management and union)…and Lone Rider does have a point. Would be nice if human nature allowed for a more perfect balance, but humans being what they typically are (flawed)….I can understand LR’s frustration. Having said that…I think Babushka’s advice is probably spot on!

        Fed Up Gal

  • http://www.anti-aginggenius.com Freelancelot

    An excellent and much-needed article.

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