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We do not live in calm, serene times. In actuality, such a time has probably never existed. Lately, though, I must admit that my stress level has been running consistently high. The recession, the war, the housing market, massive layoffs, gas prices, the economy-it all seems rather overwhelming. And those are just the headlines. Sometimes I find myself staring into space with my fists clenched, and I have no idea why.
According to the Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com), “Physical threats aren’t the only events that trigger the stress response. Psychological ‘threats’-such as the stress associated with work, interpersonal relationships, major life changes, illness or the death of a loved one-can set off the same alarm system. The less control you have over these potentially stress-inducing events and the more uncertainty they create, the more likely you are to feel stressed. Even the typical day-to-day demands of living can contribute to your body's stress response. Also, many of our modern stressful circumstances, unlike most physical threats, tend to be prolonged. Consequently, you may be running on the fight-or-flight reaction longer than it’s intended to operate. What’s good for your body in a short-term crisis can be very harmful over long periods. The long-term activation of the stress-response system-and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones-can disrupt almost all your body’s processes, increasing your risk of obesity, insomnia, digestive problems, heart disease, depression, memory impairment, physical illnesses and other complications.”
Most people suggest exercise and relaxation to help alleviate stress. One thing I try to do is take my dogs for a walk every day. It’s nice to get out, enjoy the outdoors, work up a sweat and try to relax a little. However, last week, someone stopped to ask me what breed one of my dogs is, and both dogs reacted like the Huns were invading. I was mortified, naturally, and I realized that the dogs must have picked up on the fact that my first reaction upon this lady stopping me had been, “Ugh, I can’t stop and chat; I’ve got too much to do when I get back home.” I didn’t want to talk to her, and they knew it. The bottom line is, I’m apparently stressed even when I don’t think I am.
On the other hand, Socrates said, “If all our misfortunes were laid in one common heap, whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart.” When times get especially hectic or difficult, I try to pause a minute and take stock of all of the positives in my life. Putting everything in perspective does often help my blood pressure go down a tick or two.
What do you do to relieve stress? Please share your stress management techniques by posting a comment below.