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

Spring cleaning: Why more people are uncluttering the mind for better health

Meditating counters the body’s stress response by triggering the relaxation response—a physiological change that can help lower blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The health benefits of meditation are so potent that the practice is used as a treatment or complementary therapy for many conditions, such as high stress, high blood pressure, and chronic pain. There are many forms of meditation, such as mindfulness, transcendental meditation, guided imagery meditation, and tai chi and yoga. (Locked) More »

Grief can hurt — in more ways than one

The emotional side of grieving can affect the whole body and all organ systems, and maybe even the immune system. Grief is associated with stress; heart problems; depression; and depression-related symptoms such as insomnia, social withdrawal, and a loss of appetite. Though it may feel difficult, it’s important to maintain healthy habits during a period of grief, such as eating right and exercising. Social connections—seeing friends and family—are also crucial for good health, even when grieving. More »

Heart palpitations: Mostly harmless

Heart palpitations are common heart rhythm disturbances. Most often people experiencing them feel a sensation like the heart is flip-flopping, skipping beats, or racing. If someone experiences these symptoms alone it typically doesn’t signal a problem, but if they are persistent or are accompanied by dizziness, weakness, or fainting, they should be checked out by a doctor. (Locked) More »

Past trauma may haunt your future health

People who have experienced traumatic events are at higher risk for a number of chronic conditions, including heart disease. Risk is particularly high for those who experienced multiple adverse childhood events. Therapy can help people move past trauma and improve their health. More »

Soothing solutions for irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is most common in people in their 30s and 40s; however, it can occur at any age. The exact cause of IBS has yet to be discovered and it is impossible to prevent. The goal is to focus on managing the condition, which can be done by identifying specific triggers for IBS symptoms and then adopting strategies to make your symptoms less severe and less frequent. The most common treatment approaches are diet, stress management, and medication. (Locked) More »

A deeper look at psoriasis

Psoriasis, a common skin condition, affects more men than women. While it doesn’t affect everyone the same way, the approach to treatment and prevention is often similar. There is no cure yet for psoriasis. The optimal goal of treatment is to reduce affected areas to 1% or less of the body surface area within three months, and to manage triggers to help prevent future outbreaks. (Locked) More »

Your heart’s desire: A daily practice to relieve stress

Chronic stress has physical effects that can harm the heart. Frequent psychosocial stress raises blood pressure and heart rate. But it also stimulates the body’s production of infection-fighting white blood cells that contribute to inflammation, which over time can encourage the buildup of fatty plaque inside artery walls. Stress-easing practices that help people let go of everyday worries may counteract those negative effects. These include practicing mindfulness while engaged in an engrossing hobby (such as playing an instrument or gardening). Other techniques include focused breathing, body scans, guided imagery, yoga, and tai chi. (Locked) More »

Tips to cope when it’s time to downsize

Downsizing for a move to a smaller home may lead to feelings of sadness, grief, stress, or anxiety. To cope with those feelings, it helps to reach out to others and stay socially connected, hire a professional to assist with the downsizing process, and engage in a new community and find interesting activities or groups to join. If emotions interfere with the ability to get through each day, one should speak with a primary care doctor or a therapist. (Locked) More »