According to David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness, “constant stress and aggravation is linked to a range of issues including overeating, insomnia and depression, and angry outbursts increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
The bad news is: Situations that can lead to stress and aggravation are unavoidable. Everyone will have some setbacks and stress in their lives. The good news is: There are research-based methods for handling and reducing stress. Before we take a look at how to manage stress, let’s first talk about what stress is and why it can be harmful to one’s health.
Here is what Pyschology Today has to say about stress:
“Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it's an omnipresent part of life. A stressful event can trigger the “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. A little bit of stress, known as “acute stress,” can be exciting—it keeps us active and alert. But long-term, or “chronic stress,” can have detrimental effects on health. You may not be able to control the stressors in your world, but you can alter your reaction to them.”
The “fight-or-flight” response mentioned in the definition is a term used to describe the changes our bodies automatically undergo when we are stressed. The “fight-or-flight” response evolved in humans in the distant past, when humans were often faced with physical danger, so the changes brought on by the “fight-or-flight” response were actually very helpful for an early human facing a situation where he might actually have to fight or run away. The “fight-or-flight” response causes our heart rate to rise; we may breathe more quickly; blood flows away from our stomachs and to our muscles; we may be more apt to do or say things impulsively.
While all of these responses were helpful for an early human fleeing a predator or trying to hunt down prey, they can be less useful, and sometimes even counterproductive for people living in the modern world. Nowadays, most people in the US are not often faced with mortal danger in the form of a saber-toothed tiger, and our stress responses are more likely to be triggered by things like a traffic jam or feeling overwhelmed with work or family tasks. So, we have a situation where stress is common, and people’s “fight-or-flight” responses can be triggered too often, and this can be bad for one’s health.
Now that we have taken a look at what stress is and where it comes from, we will take a look at how to manage it in Part 2 of this Blog Series.
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Greg Bing, M.Ed., A.C.E. Certified Trainer, Youth Fitness Specialist