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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Scoop on Stress

 By: Deborah Caruana RN, MES, CPT

Stress is defined as a response by your body to any demand made
upon it and a 'demand' means a change. Did you know different
stress levels have names? For example “Neutral” stress is the
amount of work it takes to maintain normal body function. If we
give stress a scale of 1- 10 where Neutral stress would be 1.
Lets take a look at Success and what it implies. Believe it or
not success is a stressor, called “Eustress”, which stems from
the word euphoria. We can give eustress a quantitative number
like 5 because it is a high intensity feeling and brings many
ramifications and changes. Now we'll take a brief peak at
failure. Failure means challenge, or worst of all defeat. So
failure can generate what is called “Distress”, which, we’ll
give a number of 5 because it’s implications for change are
compound and also intense. I’m relinquishing the good and bad
judgements on stressors and trying to quantify them based on the
change from homeostasis-the norm perspective. If our highest
stress level is 10 this is when we experience all of the classic
“fight and flight” signs of our body preparing for action.
Hormones, like adrenaline, surge. 6 Your heartbeat and blood
pressure soar. Your palms sweat. 7 Your short of breath. Your
hair stands on end. 8 You’ve got a flock of geese flapping in
your belly. Your blood sugar rises and your muscles tense. 9
Your mind is focused on fighting or flighting. If you get to 10
you’ll probably mess your knickers because your system has gone
berserk from over stimulation and your body will surrender.
Though the odors may stop your adversary from taking that first
bite. These effects, up to 9.9 unchanged for thousands of years,
helped prehistoric humans survive! The problem here is that the
physical and emotional manifestations of the stress response are
designed to dissipate when the immediate physical threat is
over. But when they don't, over time, these over used hormones
cause heart disease, hypertension, suppressed immunity, colitis,
irritable bowel syndrome and even depression. The greatest
defense against these physical manifestations is to realize they
are caused by your hard wired prehistoric emotions. For
instance, if you're late for work and you've just missed the
last subway. What do you do? You can either panic, or you can
just accept the situation. Relax, take a deep breath and wait
for the next one. If you can change a situation, do it, if you
can't, then you adapt. Understanding stress and its effects can
help you use it to your own advantage, and turn potential
"stressors" into positive challenges. Something I have always
believed and now seems to be coming to light with scientific
evidence is the fact that stress can actually be good for you!
The Latest Study on Stress This is a study done recently with
mice in a stressful situation. What the researchers did was they
take a bunch of mice that were bullied repeatedly by a nasty
mouse for a couple of hours for six consecutive days. At the end
of that period the researchers infected the picked on mice with
a strain of influenza that also infects humans. Other mice, not
subjected to the bullying, were also infected so the scientists
could measure the effects of the stress. The bullied mice were
actually better able to ward off the virus than the ones that
had not had to deal with an aggressive foe. So the scientists
changed the name of the stress test to “repeated defeat.". By
whatever name, the stress apparently improved the memory of the
special "T cells," that run the immune system. Low levels of
stress produce hormones that help us meet various challenges, so
a little of a bad thing can be good. Of course, there's still
some question about whether humans will react the same as mice,
but the mouse immune response is comparable to that of the
humans and that's why they chose the mice.

Did we need this experiment to prove our point? Hardly. But the
scientists do and here we are with more proof of what we already
knew. Since the fight-or-flight response is designed for
physical action, regular exercise is the best way of dissipating
the physical manifestations of stress hormones in the body.
Exercise, even stretching, can relieve tension in the muscles.
While fight-or-flight taxes the immune system moderate physical
activity can bolster the immune response. Exercise can also
counteract the anxiety adrenaline and cortisol may cause when
they flood the bloodstream for prolonged periods. Most
obviously, exercise is an outlet for excess adrenaline, and has
been shown to blunt cortisol production. But another way it
achieves this is by releasing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that
stimulates the brain's "happy centers." This occurs most
dramatically within the first 30 minutes of physical activity,
then tapers off. Exercise also induces the release of
endorphins, which block pain messages and can enhance mood.

There are peripheral benefits to physical activity as well. The
sense of self-control that comes with overcoming the anxiety
provoking stress, of course the weight loss that comes with the
exercise and the improved body image affects our outlook, and so
our interactions with others, which in turn improve our mood. So
empower yourself and make friends with stress. What Stress Can
Do For YOU! New research is telling us that stress should be
welcomed. Increasing evidence is pointing to how stress can:
·Prevent cancer from returning ·Reduce the chance of heart
attack ·Increase life expectancy ·Boost the immune system
·Increase brain power Well, do you feel any better now?

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