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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cope With Stress Before It Is Too Late

by Linda Allen


Each of us encounters stress in one form or another on a daily basis; we encounter stress multiple times during our every day lives. Even more important, however, than the actual things that cause us to experience stress is our bodies ability to cope with stress. Anxiety conditions appear as a result of cumulative stress over time. For most anxiety related conditions, the best that medicine can do is keep some of your stress symptoms at bay, and even that claim is questionable. The more that the health care professionals learn about the medications used to treat your problems, the more they learn that these drugs often have unwanted side effects that are worse than the stress itself. The root cause of stress is rarely if ever addressed in a medical model, only the symptoms are treated. Doctors rush through dozens of patients a day, prescribing drugs and monitoring their effects. They simple do not have the time, and sometimes do not have the know-how, to delve into the complicated and connected conditions stress evokes.

Human beings were simply not meant to carry around constant disturbances in our stress response, we were built to respond to stress quickly and then to have those stress hormones dissipate immediately. When our bodies are exposed to wave after wave of stress, they begin to break down. Anxiety disorders have physical, emotional, mental, and even spiritual effects. Physical effects include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, trembling or shaking, sweating, choking, nausea or abdominal distress, hot flashes or chills, dizziness or unsteadiness. Emotional effects include feelings such as worry, anger, panic, and terror. Mental effects including thinking you are going to die, or that you are going crazy or are out of control. Spiritual effects include alienation and feeling detached and out of touch with yourself and others.

This probably as good a place as any to introduce the concept that cortisol is not a purely toxic substance, although in most cases too much of it certainly wreaks bodily havoc. In many ways, cortisol can be thought of as functioning like cholesterol or insulin. A small amount of each of these substances is needed for proper functioning. Cholesterol is needed for the steroid metabolism. Insulin is necessary for blood-sugar control. And cortisol is needed for the restoration of energy following stress. However, if levels of any of these vital compounds exceed a certain small amount for any significant amount of time, you can run into health problems. The whole point here is balance, keeping cortisol levels from falling too low or rising too high. How you cope with stress is a choice. The easiest choice of all is to do nothing and let chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels slowly break down your bodily defenses and increase your risk for disease. The more difficult choices are to do something about your stress level, the way you handle it, or how to cope with stress.

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