Stress
Patricia Zifferblatt | January 2008

According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, October 10, 2007, “Emotional and physical stresses can have a negative impact on the heart and the vascular system.” This statement is most apropos since we at Better Life just finished a CD on Progressive Relaxation, a very necessary exercise for people who are stressed--and who isn’t in today’s busy world?

Let’s define stress:

Acute Stress is the stress one experiences all at one time. For example, you’re driving down the street and you see another car coming at you in your lane from the opposite direction. You quickly assess the situation and veer away just in time to avoid an accident. This is called acute stress and occurs when the fight-or-flight hormones flood your body. It’s nature’s way of helping you gear up for occasional impending danger. After the danger has passed, your body gradually calms down and all systems begin to operate in normal fashion.

Chronic Stress, on the other hand, is stress that occurs over a longer period of time, which doesn’t allow your body’s nervous system to signal you to relax. Common examples include a person caring for an elderly parent while holding a job, a wife living in fear of an abusive husband, a student who’s in over his head and can’t meet school requirements, or the ultimate chronic stress: living in a war zone.

Common Reasons for Chronic Stress
  • Family difficulties with spouses, children, or parents
  • Money problems
  • Difficulties with co-workers and bosses
  • Irregular work hours (shift work)
  • Physical illness or chronic pain
  • Substance abuse
  • The care of sick or elderly family members
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
  • Increased or abnormal heart rate
  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Digestive problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings, both high and low
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Reliance on drugs or alcohol
Different types of stress can affect the entire body in different ways. The stress hormones that God gave every person in order to act, react, and survive are catecholamine and adrenaline; they’re a positive reaction to temporary stress. However, when these hormones are turned on over a persistent period of time, as with chronic stress, a damaging effect can occur to the heart, raising the body’s heart rate and blood pressure, and making it more difficult for the heart to operate at optimum levels.

Ways to Manage Stress Better
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Reduce the amount of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol in your diet
  • Don’t smoke--you may think it helps, but it adds to the problem
  • Ask for and get support from family and friends, or seek professional help
  • Learn how to do deep-breathing exercises and to meditate
  • Try yoga--I’m not kidding! Yoga!
The only person in the world who doesn’t have any stress is in the cemetery. Everyone experiences stress of one kind or another almost every single day. The trick to a good, long life is to learn how to not let stress get the best of you. And we at Better Life know that it can be done!
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