Dealing Effectively with Negative Stress
Then there's that other kind of stress. Like when you receive notice from Uncle Sam that your tax return is about to be audited, or your spouse calls to tell you that the car's just been towed to Larry's Car Barn because something under the hood caught on fire, or your child decides that it's time to paint his room with a magic marker. These kinds of stressors, which no doubt most of us would consider negative, have a way of keeping our lives from becoming a sea of tranquility.
Finally, some of us suffer under long-term negative stress, sometimes referred to as chronic stress. This kind of stress is characterized day in and day out by circumstances we perceive as unpleasant. For example, many consider the constant pressure they're under in their jobs a form of chronic negative stress.
Why Deal With Stress?
Whether we like it or not, stress, both positive and negative, is a part of human existence. Health professionals are warning us, however, that if we want to live long and healthy lives, we must learn how to deal effectively and constructively with negative stress. Some reasons follow.
Studies done by researchers at the University of Texas point to the conclusion that when our brains are under negative stress, they manufacture an excess amount of a hormone called ACTH. This hormone inhibits our body's production of white blood cells, which make up our immune system and are vital for warding off disease.1 Cancer is a disease of a weakened immune system.
Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Nervous Breakdowns
It all starts as the body's stores of vitamins and minerals are drained. Vitamin C reserves are the first to come under attack during stressful periods. Huge amounts of B vitamins, A, E, and pantothenic acid are used up as well. As the stores of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium are also depleted, your body draws replacement minerals from bones, teeth, hair, organs, and other tissues to meet the demands. Under stress the stomach also slows down its production of hydrochloric acid. When this happens protein metabolism becomes impaired. Bottom line, you're losing more nutrients than you're able to replace. You're on your way to a complete health breakdown of some kind.
In his book Lazy Person's Guide to Better Nutrition, Gordon S. Tessler, Ph.D., observes: "As the body becomes deficient in essential nutrients, its ability to resist the stressors diminishes. If a stress is prolonged for weeks, months or years, the body is unable to convert cholesterol into needed hormones. Such continued stress results in complete exhaustion and total collapse."2 Heart attacks, strokes, and "nervous breakdowns" are examples of what happens to a body completely drained by stress.
Other Health Problems
In his book Coronary? Cancer? God's Answer: Prevent It!, author and medical doctor Richard Brennan points out that "emotional stress causes or aggravates disorders of the digestive system, the circulatory system, the genito-urinary system, the nervous system, and the glands of internal secretion, as well as causing allergic disorders, muscle-joint disorders, infections, and eye and skin disease."3
More specifically, these system disorders include things like high blood pressure, migraine headaches, neckaches, ulcers, diarrhea, colitis, irritable bowels, constipation, dizziness, depression, respiratory infections, and allergies.
How to Deal With Stress
Obviously, eliminating all forms of negative stress from our lives is simply not possible. Life just doesn't work that way. However, you and I can do some very practical things to help ourselves deal more effectively and constructively with life's not-so-positive circumstances. We don't need to play helpless victim, letting negative situations have their way with our health. Dr. Nancy Appleton points out that "it's not life's situations, but how we deal with them, which determines whether we let stress become distress."4
What follows are ten ways to keep stress from becoming distress.
From HEALTHY HABITS: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health by David J. Frahm as used by arrangement with Jeremy P. Tarcher, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2003 by David and Anne Frahm. All rights reserved.
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