Stress— Once a Life Saver, Now a Serious Threat to Our Health

Stress is what we feel when we have to handle more than we are used to. When we are stressed, our body responds as though we are in danger.

It makes hormones that speed up our heart, make us breathe faster and give us a burst of energy. But when it happens too often or lasts too long it takes a toll on our body, both physically and mentally.

As explained by the American Institute of Stress:

“The nature of stress for us today is not an occasional confrontation with a sabertoothed tiger or a hostile warrior but rather a host of emotional threats like getting stuck in traffic and fights with customers, co-workers, or family members, that often occur several times a day. Unfortunately, our bodies still react with these same, archaic fight-or-flight responses that are now not only not useful but potentially damaging and deadly.”

Once a life saver, stress has now become the threat itself: Short-term stress can keep us awake at night and make us feel irritable, moody, tense and edgy. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, cause high blood pressure and digestive problems, and is linked to health conditions such as depression, heart disease and asthma.

Here are three tips for reducing stress that will take less than five minutes:

Laugh out loud.

Every time you laugh, increased oxygen flows to your organs, blood flow increases and stress evaporates. In fact, just thinking about having a good laugh is enough to lower your stress hormone levels. Another way to increase oxygen flow is to breathe deeply, exercise or to take a short walk.

Sniff a lemon.

The act of deep breathing sends oxygen surging through your blood, helping calm your body. Combined with aromatherapy it is a quick stress buster. Japanese researchers found that linalool, a substance found in lemons, has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the flight-or-fight stress response. You can also try basil, juniper and lavender scents for relief.

Prioritize.

Make a list and be realistic by assigning how much time each task will take. If the list will take more time than you have, prioritize. Check off each task as you complete it. A key strategy is to finish your most dreaded duties first! If stress has become the norm rather than the exception it might just be time to consider a long-term lifestyle change. Identify your sources of stress and make a plan to address them. This may require significant changes in your daily routine, lifestyle and expectations. As a starting point, try the Mayo Clinic’s stress assessment. (Visit www.mayoclinic.com and search for stress assessment.) For more information about stress and tips visit: www.mentalhealthamerica.net, www.webmd.com, and www.stress.org.

Information courtesy of the American Institute of Stress and webmd.com