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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beating the effects of stress - Part 2

 By: Lorne Peasland

The Chinese symbols for 'crisis' are identical to those for the word 'opportunity'. Literally translated it reads, "Crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind". The best way to adapt to change and lead a successful life, according to Dr. Waitley, is to view crises as opportunities, to view those stresses as normal. Research has proven that if we adapt to adversities and failures in our lives, and view them as normal corrective feedback, not only do they help us to develop an immunity against anxiety, depression, and the adverse responses to stress, but they actually help us to get back on target.

According to Dr. Hanson, there are twelve natural responses to stress. Here's how each one affects us (hopefully by reading about them you will become less stressed, not more stressed due to their many and varied natures):

#Cortisone - released from the adrenal glands, cortisone was originally a protection from an instant allergy reaction, such as asthma or closing of the eyes, from a dust-up with an attacking foe. If chronically elevated, it destroys resistance to the stresses of cancer, infection, surgery, and illness, as it weakens the immune response. Bones are made more brittle by cortisone, and it causes the retention of sodium which can elevate blood pressure.

#Thyroid - thyroid hormones speed up the body's metabolism, so the body can burn its fuel faster, to provide extra energy, but it also causes an intolerance to heat, shaky nerves tothe point of jumpiness, weight loss (if food intake remains constant), insomnia, and ultimately exhaustion or burnout.

#Endorphin - this is the body's 'feel good' hormone, regarded by physicians to be equal to, if not more potent than, morphine. It causes a body under acute stress to feel no pain. Chronic and continuous stresses can deplete the levels of endorphin, which has been shown to cause migraines, backaches, and to exacerbate the pains of arthritis.

#Sex hormones - a reduction in sex hormones accompanies even moderate levels of stress, leading to enxieties and failures when intercourse is attempted. And since most couples are not aware that their sexual downturns are a physical result of stress, they often turn to nit-picking at each other, develop obsessive-compulsive behavior, or even seek other partners. Think about the last travel ad you saw that featured sexy holidays in the sun, and that encouraged you to leave your inhibitions and stresses behind.

#Digestive tract - under high levels of stress, the human digestive tract shuts down so that blood can be diverted to the muscles, the heart and lungs. The mouth goes dry and the stomach and intestines virtually stop action and movement. Have you ever wondered why they place a glass of water on the lecturn for a public speaker? Or why you seem to always have to visit the loo before speaking? And you can do yourself a lot of harm if you eat on the run under stress, by forcing food at high speed into an inactive stomach, which commonly results in bloating, nausea, discomfort, cramps, and even diarrhea.

#Sugar and insulin - originally, a release of sugar into the blood, along with an increase in insulin levels to metabolize it, was meant as a 'short distance' energy supply - fuel for the sprint, so to speak. Excessive demands on the pancreas for insulin, often caused by high stress, can aggravate, or even start, diabetes. The stress response of eating an excess of foods high in sugar is thus even more damaging, as the bloodstream already has high levels of sugar as part of its natural response to stress.

#Cholesterol - an increase of cholesterol in the blood, mainly from the liver, provides a 'long-distance' fuel, and takes over where blood sugar leaves off in supplying energy to the muscles. Under excessive stress, a body's elevated cholesterol can tend to deposit in the blood vessels, causing hardening of the arteries or even a fatal heart attack. Clearly, the last thing you need to add to your blood supply in times of stress is excessive cholesterol.

#Racing heartbeat - more blood to the muscles and lungs, more fuel and oxygen to and from the battlefront, must be a good thing, right? Wrong. A racing heartbeat dramatically increases blood pressure, and if unchecked can lead to strokes, bursting of an aneurysm, or 'the big one' - a fatal heart attack - in anyone over the age of fifteen. Your heart may be barely keeping up with routine demands, especially if you smoke, are overweight, or are in the wrong job, and any additional push from excess stress, such as an argument, too much exercise, or heat prostration, could be the last straw. Apparent fitness doesn't guarantee immunity, either. If you're under excessive stress, get a thorough checkup.

#Air supply - stress places a demand on the body for more oxygen, causing the nostrils to flare, the throat and air passages in the lung to dilate, and breathing to become deeper and more rapid. If you're a smoker, or live with one, this can be disastrous. Even if you do not increase the number of cigarettes smoked when under stress (most smokers do), the penetration and damage wreaked by inhaling smoke is greatly amplified during stress.

#Blood - when a body is under stress, bone marrow increases its production of red and white blood cells, and the spleen injects into the bloodstream its stored thick paste of blood cells and clotting factors, ostensibly to increase the blood's capacity to carry oxygen, fight infection, and stop bleeding from a wound. Of course, a stroke, heart attack, or embolus can be encouraged by having your blood turn to sludge under stress, so do as doctors recommend - drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

#Skin - your skin 'crawls' when you're under stress because of a natural reaction that causes the hairs to stand on end, bristling to heighten our sense of touch. It pales due to the diversion of blood away from the skin to the muscles, heart, and lungs, and sweats to cool off the underlying muscles. Together, their reactions to stress cause clammy hands, a pasty face, and stained armpits - hardly social assets.

#Senses - all five senses become acute under stress, bringing the body to its peak function. However, high levels of

excessive stress causes a high error rate in the senses, which seem to 'burn out' after unrelenting stress, becoming less efficient and causing a person to be less observant of details, less capable of determining tastes or smells, less aware of conversations, and less stimulated by touch.

Now that you know it's causes and effects, how do you beat stress? You don't. You can't actually beat it, because it's a part of everyday life, but you can use it to your advantage if you:

*have a sense of humour (that means an ability to laugh at yourself)

*eat the right diet (and remember a meal is not a race - eat slowly)

*provide yourself with alternate stresses (regular exercise, challenging continuing education)

*outline realistic goals for yourself (it's better to underestimate rather than to overestimate)

*understand stress and its effects (get a good book on it - three have been mentioned here)

*improve your relaxation skills and get efficient sleep

*prepare thoroughly for any job at hand

*write down a living budget that allows for stress defense and provides some measure of financial security

*invest enough time and energy in a stable home (maintain a good relationship with family and friends)

Remember, above all, we reap what we sow.

Lorne Peasland is a former advertising agency owner and national media consultant, the founder and past-president

of the Canadian Home & Micro Business Federation, and author of "Influencing Public Opinion - A Communications

Primer For Political Candidates, Community Activists, and Special Interest Group Spokespeople" (ISBN 0-9697364-0-1).

He is a home-based marketing consultant, writer and speaker, and publisher of HomeBizNews, a syndicated Web-based weekly for entrepreneurs. He can be contacted through either of his web pages at or, via e-mail at, or by phone at 250-708-0250.

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