Stress & Health

It seems like you hear it all the time from nearly every one you know – “I’m SO stressed out!” Pressures abound in this world today. Those pressures cause stress and anxiety, and often we are ill-equipped to deal with those stressors that trigger anxiety and other feelings that can make us sick. Literally, sick.

The statistics are staggering. One in every eight Americans age 18-54 suffers from an anxiety disorder. This totals over 19 million people! Research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health has shown that anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem among American women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse by men.

Women suffer from anxiety and stress almost twice as much as men. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America, surpassing even depression in numbers. Anxiety is the most common mental health issue facing adults over 65 years of age. Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. $46.6 billion annually. Anxiety sufferers see an average of five doctors before being successfully diagnosed.

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety go hand in hand. In fact, one of the major symptoms of stress is anxiety. And stress accounts for 80 percent of all illnesses either directly or indirectly.

In fact, stress is more dangerous than we thought. You’ve probably heard that it can raise your blood pressure, increasing the likelihood of a stroke in the distant future, but recently a health insurance brochure claimed that 90 percent of visits to a primary care physician were stress-related disorders.

Health Psychology magazine reports that chronic stress can interfere with the normal function of the body’s immune system. And studies have proven that stressed individuals have an increased vulnerability to catching an illness and are more susceptible to allergic, autoimmune, or cardiovascular diseases.

Doctors agree that during chronic stress, the functions of the body that are nonessential to survival, such as the digestive and immune systems, shut down. “This is why people get sick,” he says. “There are also many occurrences of psychosomatic illness, an illness with an emotional or psychological side to it.”

Furthermore, stress often prompts people to respond in unhealthy ways such as smoking, drinking alcohol, eating poorly, or becoming physically inactive. This damages the body in addition to the wear and tear of the stress itself.  Consider these accepted negative effects of stress:

  • Weakened immune system.
  • Increase or decrease of body weight.
  • Cardiovascular disease.
  • Muscle pain.
  • Stomach and intestinal problems.
  • Fertility problems.
  • and more, the list goes on and on.

Stress is a part of daily life. It’s how we manage it that makes all the difference in maintaining our health and wellbeing. Pressures occur throughout life and those pressures cause stress. You need to realize that you will never completely get rid of stress in your life, but you can learn techniques to turn that stress into a healthier situation.

Fortunately, you’re carrying around your most potent anti-stress tool, right between your ears.  In this society, we too often let our minds run amuck, by default, not realizing that through some simple techniques and a little dedication to a practice of meditation, our threshold to stress can be raised and the effects of stress in our lives managed and diminished considerably.

Consider these easy, beneficial practices that have been proven to reverse the effects of stress and improve your ability to handle stress day-to-day:

What works best for you, is best for you.  All of these practices work for stress reduction and management.  Consider that studies show that people with a regular meditation practice are 10 to 12 years younger, biologically, than those who don’t.  Choose something you enjoy, so that you’ll make it a part of your routine.  If you practice one of these 4 or 5 days a week, you’ll feel the benefits.  If not, you won’t–it really is as simple as that!

To your health,

Cindy Locher, BCH

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