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Health & Wellness Articles  ›  Stress Relief

Chronic Stress: Something to Worry About!

How to Stop Stress in Its Tracks

-- By Ellen G. Goldman, Health and Wellness Coach
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These heightened biological reactions work in our favor—for the short term.  For the caveman, once the danger was over, the system returned to normal levels of functioning, and experienced long periods of little or no stress at all.  Stress was short-lived and fleeting.  In modern times, for many of us, we are drowning in constant waves of these stress-induced biological changes, with little or no return to baseline levels in between.  That's when a normal stress response can begin to make us sick.
 
Too much ongoing stress (with little or no breaks in the cycle) can lead to a host of medical problems such as elevated blood pressure, heart attacks and compromised immune systems.  That can lead to a greater incidence of colds, flu, infections, and even cancer.  Long-term exposure to stress has been proven to contribute to infertility, and even speed up the aging process. The emotional effects of stress can cause overeating which might lead to obesity and the host of diseases that accompany it. 
 
So why is it that stress, which seems to be something only in our minds, can have such an impact on our bodies?  What is going on that causes almost every cell and organ to suffer from chronic stress?  To put it simply, the body doesn't recognize the difference between physical threats or psychological threats, and it responds to both as life or death situations.
 
When you are under stress, your brain produces a series of chemicals that travel through your blood, wreaking havoc on almost every system in our body.  Dr. Michael Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz described this stress circuit beautifully in their best-selling book, You: Staying Young.  They state:
 
"Your stress circuit is the interaction between your nervous system and your stress hormones.  This hormonal system is called the HPA axis.  The hormones cycle through three glands in a feedback loop.  When faced with a stressor, the hypothalamus at the base of our brain releases CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone), which then dances around the pituitary gland, stimulating another hormone called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) into our blood stream.  ACTH signals the adrenal gland to release cortisol and norepinephrine (also known as adrenaline, the fight or flight chemical).  Adrenaline increases your blood pressure and heart rate, while cortisol releases sugar in the form of glucose to fuel your muscles and mind.  Then, cortisol travels back to the hypothalamus to stop the production of CRH once the stress is over, and the body returns to normal.  But only if the stress stops as well."
 
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About The Author

Ellen Goldman Ellen Goldman
Ellen Goldman has bachelor's and master's degrees in health and physical education. An AFAA-certified personal trainer and certified wellness coach, she is also the founder EnerG Coaching, LLC. Through one-on-one and group sessions, Ellen helps individuals make positive lifestyle changes, lose weight, manage stress and attain work-life balance. Visit her at www.EnerGcoaching.com.

Member Comments

  • Good article. Thanks - 7/18/2014 5:58:40 AM
  • very informative and helpful article - 7/7/2014 1:49:30 PM
  • MICHELLEMAE1970
    Actually, watching Duck Dynasty helps reduce my stress!! LOL - 4/30/2014 11:46:25 AM
  • I see myself in so many of these instances. One of my biggest stressors is when I finally think I can settle down and work on a very important project that should have been done yesterday, the phone starts ringing and a customer has a more pressing issue that has to be dealt with right now. What do you do? I give up on the project and work on the problem and generally before I get that solved and back to the project; another issue comes up! I stay stressed all the time and it has made me angry, depressed and just generally frustrated. Being self employed there's no escape including vacation or sick days. - 9/9/2013 9:43:21 PM
  • Out of curiosity, when can we stop spreading one article out over six freaking pages? I know this site survives on ad revenue, but asking us to click through 6 pages is a bit much. - 9/9/2013 11:05:52 AM
  • great guidelines ! - 1/14/2013 9:57:57 AM
  • ONUTHIN125
    I read this last year and I am glad that I re-read it today! Great info! Spark On! - 1/2/2013 10:27:33 PM
  • You think a stress log would be kind of silly, but it's actually a great thing to do to learn more about yourself. - 1/2/2013 1:40:26 PM
  • WOW!!! I really liked the article! Very helpful! - 10/10/2012 1:14:33 PM
  • CARRIEPIN
    I was actually shocked to find out that stress also can damage our DNA. I'm taking lifespan psychology right now and this was discussed in my textbook. I'm one of those that let everything get to me and am proactively working on it. I know constant stress is very unhealthy. Sometimes it feels like I literally have poison running thru my body but when I read that it affects our DNA I was more convinced than ever to make changes. Great article! - 9/12/2012 9:26:47 AM
  • Excellent article! Thank you! - 9/12/2012 8:03:23 AM
  • I was impressed by the staying in the moment suggestion. A lot of the stress situations given don't apply to me, as I'm retired so don't have work stresses, and am on my own, so I don't have family stresses either. But I have others, which that comment will help. - 9/12/2012 5:46:24 AM
  • NESACAKES55
    Amazing article. A must read for everyone. - 9/12/2012 12:20:36 AM
  • Great Article! - 9/2/2012 7:07:10 PM
  • Very useful list of suggestions for a very important issue. - 7/29/2012 6:45:12 PM