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Stress Busters: The Stress Cycle

We need a certain amount of stress to keep us motivated. But when it takes over our lives, it can hurt us. How did you score on the stress questionnaire? If you didn't take it yet, now is your chance.

Why do we have such a strong reaction to stress? Our particular stressors may be modern, but the stress response is ancient. It mobilizes the body's "fight or flight" response, our built-in mode for coping with emergencies. It increases breathing and heart rate, elevates blood pressure, and raises blood-sugar levels, preparing the body for either self-defense or escape. It worked fine when we were running from fierce predators at the dawn of human existence. However, as much as we'd like to, we can't run from our boss, our stalled car, or the ringing telephone. So, unlike our ancestors, we have no way of burning off this excess energy. In fact, animals in the wild will actually go through a series of movements that disperse the energy and complete the stress cycle right away. We don't, so it stays inside us. Psychologist Peter Levine does an excellent job of exploring this concept in his book Waking the Tiger.
On top of this physical burden, we store mental images of traumatic events for years later. These can pop up in our memories at any time in response to similar events, or even at random moments. Then, our minds and bodies react exactly as if the incident were occurring right then – yielding the stress response and anxiety all over again. Some of our problems really are in our minds!


From NATURAL HIGHS: Supplements, Nutrition, and Mind/Body Techniques to Help You Feel Good by Hyla Cass and Patrick Holford. Copyright Hyla Cass, M.D., and Patrick Holford. Used by arrangement with Avery, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit www.penguin.com. Get a 15% discount with the coupon code FENPARENT.


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