Health & Wellness Articles

Chronic Stress: Something to Worry About!

How to Stop Stress in Its Tracks

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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 founded EnerG Coaching, LLC to help individuals struggling with health issues that can be impacted by positive lifestyle change, such as weight loss, stress management, exercise, and life/work balance. As a professional wellness coach and certified personal trainer, Ellen holds a BS and Masters in Physical Education and is certified by ACSM, AFAA, and Wellcoaches Corporation. Visit her at www.EnerGcoaching.com. Get her complimentary report, 52 Tips, Tools & Tricks to Permanent Weight Loss Without Going on a Diet, at www.endtheweightlossbattle.com.

Member Comments

  • Excellent article. My doctor told me years ago it would be stress that eventually kills me. I have worked on reducing some of the stress in my life and now watch my adult daughter behaving in similar unhealthy ways of not dealing with the stresses in her life. I am going to suggest we both start a stress journal for a few weeks and then tackle this "silent killer" from a better informed standpoint. Thank you for the helpful suggestions. - 2/6/2016 11:45:15 AM
  • I appreciate this article. I think I need to read some time management books. I'm sure there are a few things I can do to relieve stress. - 11/15/2015 10:43:48 AM
  • I had to chuckle: Steps 1 through 11 are all stress-inducing suggestions, but Step 12 said it all: Try to find the humor in life's ironies. How ironic is That!
    Further, I find it very stressful to be around people who are always positive -- most of whom are being unrealistic, unthinking, and/or uncaring -- finding that truly positive person is a blessing, and truly rare.
    For me, the big stressor was finding that Our family members NO LONGER need us and want us.
    Fidelidee-dee, tomorrow is another day. 8-)
    - 10/15/2015 1:50:27 PM
  • A great point--- Spend time with positive people, not the negative ones who are full of gloom and pull you down!---- Life is short so spread cheer -- not crap! - 9/29/2015 2:33:08 PM
  • NURSIE67
    Thank you for this article...needing this advice right about now! - 9/23/2015 1:45:56 PM
  • Maybe this article just hit at the right time, but it seems to have practical answers to some of my stress inducing incidents.
    Right now I'm dealing with a bunch of different medical issues. - 9/23/2015 10:37:10 AM
  • SPIDEGIRL

    A journal about stress might be helpful. I think I know what causes me stress, and that is deciding which thing needs to be done next. If I cannot decide, I do nothing until most things are over due. I shall try making out an hourly schedule of tasks for a day and see if I can just follow it. - 9/23/2015 8:37:51 AM
  • great article! Good suggestions. - 9/10/2015 10:42:50 AM
  • it' a great reminder since there was nothing new in the article but sometimes you need a reminder to take a break and take care of yourself. - 8/21/2015 4:46:20 AM
  • Excellent article! Information I need to apply to my life now. Thank you. - 5/29/2015 4:42:24 AM
  • The most important line in that article is the one saying to take exceptional care of yourself. We must put ourselves first sometimes in order to help others. - 5/20/2015 8:47:37 AM
  • This is a great article with lots of information that is helpful for me and my son and came to me at the perfect time - 1/15/2015 10:16:21 AM
  • ETHELMERZ
    If I had to stand and look like those women in the photo, I'd really be stressed out, who has time for that kind of nonsense? I don't know anyone who does. - 11/23/2014 2:25:47 PM
  • Good article. Thanks - 7/18/2014 5:58:40 AM
  • very informative and helpful article - 7/7/2014 1:49:30 PM

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