A well researched, informative article about
stress by Christine Gorman in Time Magazine brings some
important facts of its biological mechanism and effects on health.
Among its main points are:
importance of regular daily
(friends, family, exercise, meditation) in alleviating long-term
harmful health effects of stress,
relation between self-esteem
and the level of stressful response,
that often intensify stress by obscuring escape routes, or
realistically possible ways of handling potentially stressful
situations ("learned hopelessness"), and
● the longer
stress is neglected, the more difficult it becomes to bring it under
Exposure to stress profoundly changes body's
mode of function: it is switched by stress hormones to fight-or-flight state, at a price of
burdening cardiovascular system on one, and suppressing vital functions
like digestion, immune and
the other side. This is why longer-term
exposure to stress - or even a single intense psychological
trauma - can result in serious health problems, more
so if combined with genetic vulnerability, unhealthy lifestyle,
and/or nutritional deficiencies.
The subject of stress is rather complex, and something always can
be added. For instance, as stress-prevention tool, a bit of
planning and organizing
in both, professional and personal life, can significantly
reduce your daily stress level.
Another key factor which mainly depends on you is
It can greatly affect, positively or negatively, all of the above: your anxiety level, your
ability to relax, your self-esteem and, inevitably, how difficult it
is for you to manage stress.
On one hand, the body needs sufficient supply
of nutrients needed for proper function of the nervous system -
such as vitamin B complex - as well as those - like
vitamin C -
that are are used up by the body at a significantly higher rate when under
stress. If they are low, the body - and you - will suffer.
On the other, certain substances found in foods can directly
increase anxiety level and make you more vulnerable to stress and its harmful consequences
Among the most notorious,
bio-active amine, is well known for inducing anxiety
states, which can escalate to a panic attack. Individual sensitivity
vary significantly, but hardly anyone knows her or his personal
limit. Thus, moderation is advisable.
Another source of anxiety can be
blood sugar), which can many causes, including overuse of
refined carbohydrates, or plain skipping a meal. Contrary to
the popular belief, alcohol
is also shown to actually increase anxiety level.
If your main stress-regulating glands -
adrenals - are
exhausted (by long or frequent exposure to stress, undernourishment, or both),
they won't function well, and you may end up with chronic stress
due to "blunted cortisol levels". So
make sure the adrenals
get what they need
(particularly vitamin C,
and zinc). Maintaining proper
potassium-sodium ratio is also
critically important for the proper adrenals function7.
The worst offender is anything that habitually
raises your anxiety level. Such habit can be acquired as early as
at toddler's age,
carrying on to early childhood and adolescence. At this age, another potent
factor, food additives
(colors, flavors, preservatives), can and does change cause hyperactivity
and other perceptional/behavioral changes in sensitive
individuals. The consequences
stemming from negative self-esteem built
upon these early years' experiences (asocial behavior, rejection,
deficit, lower grades, development of bad habits - smoking,
drinking, drugs - in an attempt to cope with it, etc.)4.
Don't think that stress is something you
should be concerned about? Think again. It may not look like it,
but if you take a closer look, you may found out it is shaping
up your life. We may not acknowledge it to ourselves, but it is
the powerful modifier of a lifestyle, nevertheless. If you tend
overeat and/or eat constantly
develop addiction-like habits (gaming, drinking, smoking,
surfing the Net)
doing something at all times (workaholic)
passive, even when things need to be done, etc.
it all can be - and
often times is - your way of coping with stress that you are
facing. It can be relatively harmless, but can also very
negatively affect the quality of your life.
Stress levels you are exposed to are
definitely something to pay attention to, and try to minimize as much as
possible. Health consequences of
the excessive, or prolonged exposure to stress
can be very serious, not the least being it stealing from you the joy of life. Not seldom, we are not even aware of the degree of stress we're
exposed to. We simply accept it, as "normal" - but it
may not be not
A few simple, thoughtful changes in your lifestyle may be
all that you need to significantly reduce level of stress you
are exposed to, and keep it there.