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Roopa and Deepak Chari: Freedom from Stress, Part I

Manage stress by understanding what it is and how it affects us

Do you feel overwhelmed? Do you eat, drink, smoke or take medications to cope with stress? Are you always exhausted because you have trouble sleeping? Have you been struggling with anxiety?

What Is Stress?

Stress is the emotional and physical response of each individual to his or her interpretation of pressure from the outside world. Common reactions to stress include worry, irritability, anxiety, depression, increased fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a variety of physical symptoms that include headache, palpitations, sweaty palms and digestive problems. It’s almost impossible to live without some stress. However, when stress gets out of control, it can harm your health, career, relationships and quality of life.

Facts About Stress

» Stress-related mental disorders have been called the fastest-growing occupational (work-related) disease in the United States.

» According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are for stress-related symptoms.

» A recent study indicated that stress-management programs may reduce the risk of heart problems, including heart attack, by up to 75 percent in people with heart disease.

» Women who work full time and have children younger than age 13 report the greatest stress worldwide.

» Stress levels also have risen dramatically in children, teenagers and the elderly.

» About 40 million U.S. adults in a given year have a type of anxiety disorder

Managing Stress

It is important to learn how to manage stress:

» How stress affects your body and mind.

» How to identify the warning signs of stress.

» Strategies for good stress-management techniques.

» Appropriate time to seek professional help.

Our reactions to stress, anxiety and panic attacks can be significantly reduced or even eliminated in simple, easy-to-follow steps. Nutrition, exercise and powerful proven mind-body techniques can reduce or eliminate the underlying cause of stress and anxiety.

Why Are We Stressed in the 21st Century?

We are living in times that are highly stressful because of several factors, including the financial crisis, loss of income, family stresses, illnesses, wars and natural calamities.

Most everyone has been feeling anxious and overwhelmed and is searching for a solution to deal with the stress.

How Does Stress Affect Us?

Stress affects us in three main steps:

» Step 1: fight or flight response. When we experience stress, the hypothalamus and different centers of the brain cause the adrenal glands (triangle shaped glands on top of each kidney) to release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline (epinephrine) into the bloodstream. Blood vessels expand to allow more blood to flow to the large muscle groups, our pupils dilate for better vision and our liver releases stored glucose (blood sugar). The body reacts with a “fight or flight response” because it has sensed danger. In emergency situations, the stress response can be lifesaving. However, problems arise when the stress response overreacts or fails to turn itself off.

Research has shown that cortisol is the major age-accelerating hormone. Prolonged stress causes elevations in these stress hormones to increase your blood pressure, pulse rate and rate of breathing to deal with a life-threatening situation. However, general stresses in our life such as traffic jams, a difficult boss or co-worker, or arguments at work or home can produce the same chemical and emotional reaction.

» Step 2: Continued state of anxiety. In our society, continued exposure to stress can keep us in a constant state of anxiety. This ultimately affects our adrenal glands and causes physical symptoms including fatigue and insomnia. To cope with the stress, people can become addicted to food, alcohol, cigarettes and/or drugs.

» Step 3: Exhaustion. Continuous stress over time then leads to exhaustion and feeling burned out. It is difficult to relax due to feeling overwhelmed, and this is the point where we suffer from physical, emotional and mental illnesses. This can manifest as anxiety, panic attacks, anger, inability to focus or concentrate, weight gain or loss, ulcers, indigestion, high blood pressure, headaches, chronic aches and pains, sadness and depression.

In Part II of our series “Freedom from Stress,” we will discuss seven practical steps to reduce stress and anxiety. Stay turned!

— Dr. Roopa Chari is a board-certified medical doctor in internal medicine. Deepak Chari is an engineer and certified biofeedback specialist. The Charis incorporate natural health programs and biofeedback technologies to enhance your physical and emotional health at The Chari Center of Health. For more information, click here or call 805.963.1111.

 
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