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

Ramp up your resilience!

Coping with stress in a positive way is known as resilience, and it has many health benefits. It’s associated with longevity, lower rates of depression, and greater satisfaction with life. There are many ways to increase resilience. Practicing a meditation technique counters stress by eliciting the relaxation response, which helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, and stress hormones. Seeing the upside rather than the downside of a predicament can also help build resilience. So can leaning on friends and family. (Locked) More »

Stress relief tips for older adults

Stress in adults, especially older adults, has many causes. You may experience it as a result of managing chronic illness, losing a spouse, being a caregiver, or adjusting to changes due to finances, retirement, or separation from friends and family. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do for stress relief. The type of stress relief that works best depends on what someone is experiencing. For example, if insomnia is a considerable source of stress in adults, a special type of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to treat insomnia, called CBT-i, may help. It aims to correct ingrained patterns of self-defeating behavior and negative thoughts that can rob you of sufficient amounts of sleep. In fact, the American College of Physicians now recommends CBT-i over medications as the first-line treatment for insomnia. If disability is a source of stress, changes in your home may help you live more independently. Turn to your doctor, a geriatrician, an occupational therapist, or a staff member at your local council on aging for guidance. More »

Take steps to prevent or reverse stress-related health problems

The relaxation response helps to manage stress. It may also reduce the activity of genes that are harmful to health. For example, it may activate genes associated with dilating the blood vessels, and reduce activity of genes associated with blood vessel narrowing and inflammation. That may help lower blood pressure. Practicing this approach for 10 to 20 minutes daily brings positive physiological benefits. Techniques to evoke the relaxation response include focused breathing and guided imagery, among many others. More »

The healing power of touch

Men may think of massage as a once-in-a-while treat, but this type of therapy could be a natural way to treat chronic pain, such as low back pain, headache, cancer pain, and arthritis pain, by helping to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. Massage therapy also can help with recovery from injury or surgery as well as easing stress and anxiety.  (Locked) More »

4 things you can do to alleviate caregiver stress

Taking care of a loved one can take a physical and psychological toll. Getting help with caregiving and finding emotional support are crucial for caregivers. Government programs and nonprofit organizations offer helpful resources. More »

How stress affects seniors, and how to manage it

Coping with stress becomes more difficult in older age. This is because the body isn’t able to accommodate the physiological response to stress as well as it once did. Ways to cope with stress include addressing an underlying condition, eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, socializing, doing breathing exercises, meditating, and undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy. But stress management techniques take practice, and one may need medications to relieve stress over the short term. (Locked) More »

How to stay motivated

Want to make a change but wondering how to stay motivated? Dr. Srini Pillay talks about the things that can impact personal motivation and the power of a sense of meaning to help you stick with your goals. More »