Stressed Out!

My water heater’s broke and my car is too. That could be the opening line of a country song. As far as I know it isn’t but that statement describes the week I’ve been having. It would be nice if we didn’t have to face some of the challenges that life throws at us but we do. It would also be nice if they came one at a time in manageable packages. That doesn’t happen. Questioning “why” doesn’t help anything. The “woe is me” attitude doesn’t get the car to the mechanic nor does it get the water tank repair person in. Action does. Picking up the phone, punching in a number, then a few more numbers, waiting on hold eventually gets us to a remedy. Sadly, stress levels start to increase the moment the problem starts.

Stress can be dangerous. Our bodies were designed to handle the stress of being targeted as dinner for animals larger than ourselves. The response to the perceived threat is known as the fight or flight response. Adrenaline and cortisol are two of the hormones that are released to aid us in getting through the situation. The role of adrenaline is to increase the heart rate, elevate blood pressure and increase energy supply to the body. Cortisol increases sugars in the blood stream, enhances the brain’s use of the sugars and increases the availability of the body to do tissue repairs.

The body may be an incredible machine but it cannot distinguish the difference between a bear and a full email inbox. As a result, we are regularly getting through our days with an abundance of these hormones in our blood streams. This puts us at risk of several health problems including: anxiety, depression, headaches, heart disease and weight gain. Ending up with one of these health problems would stressful. Talk about a vicious circle!

Take a breath. Inhale deeply. Exhale completely. Do it again. Fill your lungs. Now, empty them completely. Repeat for a minute or more. That is a relaxation technique. It’s a wonderful method of managing stress. It won’t lessen the workload, but for a brief moment there was only you and your breathing.

The first step in managing stress is awareness. Get to know the changes (physical/emotional) that you experience when you feel your stress level increasing and recognize it for what it is. If you can train yourself to stop and take a breath it will provide you with an opportunity to put things into perspective. The payoff is peace of mind and a healthier life.

Of course, if there is a bear in your driveway don’t stop, run!

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