Stress

Stress is bumper-to-bumper traffic when you're in a hurry. It's a worrisome illness, an argument with your partner, a job turning sour. It's the need to care for an ailing parent and a pile of unpaid bills.

Stress has many faces, and creeps into our lives from many directions. No matter what causes it, stress puts the body and the mind on edge. It floods the body with stress hormones. The heart pounds. Muscles tense. Breathing quickens. The stomach churns.

The body's response to stress was honed in our prehistory. Collectively called the "fight-or-flight" response, it has helped humans survive threats like animal attacks, fires, floods, and conflict with other humans. Today, obvious dangers like those aren't the main things that trigger the stress response. Any situation you perceive as threatening, or which requires you to adjust to a change, can set it off. And that can spell trouble.

Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. It can dampen the immune system, increasing susceptibility to colds and other common infections. It can contribute to asthma, digestive disorders, cancer, and other health problems. New research even supports the notion that high levels of stress somehow speed up the aging process.

Though stress is inevitable, you can help control your body's response to it. Exercise, meditation, invoking the relaxation response, and mindfulness are great stress busters.

Stress Articles

Don’t get upset about indigestion

It’s common for indigestion to become more frequent and severe with age, a condition called chronic dyspepsia or recurring indigestion. While most flare-ups can be treated with over-the-counter remedies, people can stop recurring problems by adopting lifestyle measures, such as reducing stress, avoiding excess alcohol, quitting smoking, losing extra weight, and eating smaller meals. (Locked) More »

Stop counting calories

Experts are learning that the old idea of calories in, calories out, isn’t necessarily accurate or the best way to lose weight. Even careful calorie calculations don’t always yield uniform results. How a person’s body burns calories depends on a number of factors, including the type of food eaten, metabolism, and even the presence of certain gut microorganisms. The truth is that two people can eat the exact same number of calories and have very different outcomes when it comes to weight. (Locked) More »

Worries on your mind

People who worried a lot about the future or repetitively thought about unchangeable past events were more likely to experience a significant decline in cognitive function and memory in a 2020 study. People with these negative thinking patterns also had more beta-amyloid and tau protein deposits in the brain, which can be a sign of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. It’s possible, study authors said, that these negative thinking patterns raise stress hormone levels, which may lead to changes in the brain. (Locked) More »

The mental side of cardiac rehab

Recovery from a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty, or heart surgery often involves cardiac rehabilitation. While it’s normal to have some anxiety and stress after a heart-related issue, dealing with these issues and treating even more significant problems such as depression can affect people’s recovery success and increase their risk of future problems. (Locked) More »

Tips to defuse a meltdown

There are several ways to escape a meltdown—an overwhelming feeling of stress or anger. One strategy is to calm the body with slow breathing. Another strategy is to shift one’s thought patterns. This can be done by paying attention to one’s inner dialogue, trying not to believe one’s thoughts automatically, asking if the thoughts are fact or opinion, thinking about the big picture, and realizing that these emotions will fade. Someone who is experiencing frequent meltdowns should consider speaking to a doctor. More »

Recognizing and easing the physical symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety can produce physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach upset, and tightness in the chest. Sometimes this sets up a vicious cycle, in which anxiety triggers physical symptoms, and the symptoms magnify anxiety, which makes them even worse. Doing distracting tasks or relaxation exercises can help break this cycle. People should seek professional help if symptoms can’t be controlled. More »

How stress can harm your heart

Emotional stress may raise heart attack risk as much as smoking and high blood pressure. Stress has been linked to heightened activity in the brain’s fear center (amygdala), which signals the bone marrow to release white blood cells. These cells contribute to chronic inflammation and atherosclerosis. Strategies such as yoga, tai chi, mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep may help mitigate the risk. But so far, the evidence is limited. (Locked) More »

Is your habit getting out of control?

Times of stress or trauma can trigger new substance use disorders or lead to relapse in people who are recovering. During these times, the brain seeks to find relief for the most pressing short-term problems, which takes the focus off long-term health. People shouldn’t wait until the problem is entrenched to seek help. Reaching out early brings benefits. (Locked) More »