Stress can eat away at us like termites chew through wood.
The pressures of daily life pile up, and before you know it, you feel buried underneath that rising stack of work papers, bills, and revised to-do lists.
All that comes with a price to your health and general well-being. You lose sleep and lack energy. You don’t eat properly. You’re moody and irritable.
It can get worse: stress causes headaches, ulcers, heart disease, heart attacks, and numerous other illnesses. It attacks the areas of your body that are weak due to previous injury or where you are genetically predisposed.
Our bodies go into a “fight or flight” mode when confronted with stress. Our nervous systems are activated. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Muscles contract and are put on alert, and pupils dilate to improve vision. Also during this process, the liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase the body’s energy, and sweat is produced to cool the body.
Long-time chronic stress comes from coping with draining situations like divorce or work pressures. This can result in immune system exhaustion and causes illness. And when this happens, the nervous system senses continued stress and pressure and pumps out extra stress hormones over an extended period of time. The top reason for adrenal gland malfunction and exhaustion comes from too much stress, as well as from too much coffee.
So given all the bad things stress can do to us in the short term and long term, it’s essential to combat it on a daily and long-run basis. How? I call it the DREAM sequence – a five-pronged list of stress-reducing life habits.
The first part is diet. Bad food contributes significantly to stress. I see this every day with my two kids. Grandma will feed them tons of sugar and then I come home to find the girls either bouncing off the walls or miserably cranky after crashing from their sugar high. Good, wholesome food foods that are not processed or refined and are free from trans fats prevent our energy levels from peaking and crashing throughout the day.
Next is rest. Getting enough sleep helps you keep your body and mind in top shape, making you better equipped to deal with any negative stressors. Most of your healing and repair takes place when you are sleeping. This is when the body recharges its battery. If you continue to deprive your body of sleep, your immune system breaks down and you get sick. It’s recommended that individuals get six to eight hours of sleep per night.
Next is exercise. This is the greatest stress-buster. Regular exercise can change your life. A study conducted at Harvard University concluded that brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day could reduce the incidence of breast cancer by as much as 70 percent. Further, a California State University study found that a 10-minute walk is enough to increase energy, alter mood, and provide a positive outlook on life for up to two hours. Exercise also helps regulate your mood, helps you sleep more soundly, and helps erase the little mistakes in our diet.
The fourth prong is chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractors locate and remove the pressure put on your nerves. The immune system fixes problems throughout the body using the spinal cord as a telephone system between your brain and the rest of your body. Chiropractic adjustments to the spinal column relieve the pressure of choked or pinched nerves caused by rotated vertebra. Essentially, chiropractic adjustments provide an increase in vitality.
No. 5 is mental attitude. Stress is like a snowball: If you let it roll, it will gain speed, momentum and weight, and soon you will be over-reacting, making even small difficulties seem like major crises. Counter a stressful situation with a calming action. Example: when rush-hour traffic is irritating, listen to a self-improvement audio. Some things we can’t control, but we can control our response to them.
In sum, stress can cause all sorts of health problems. It affects all ages, but it can be dealt with, and doing so consistently can help us pass any kind of stress test.