WHAT SENIOR WOMEN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT STRESS
By Linda Wood Rondeau
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is our response to changes in our life. Each of us responds to situations in a different way. A nasty spider in the tub can be the cause of intense stress for someone and not an issue for someone else. Stress comes in many forms and is experienced in our environment, social life, our physical experience, or even in our thoughts and emotions.
Stress can be the result of both negative and positive events.
When we face a situation that we perceive is a threat, our body responds quickly preparing us for fight or flight.
*Our brain releases hormones that trigger emotional preparedness and alertness so that you can respond quickly and rationally.
*Our heart rate and blood pressure increases.
*Breathing becomes rapid and the lungs take in more oxygen.
*Blood flow increases to 300-400 percent.
*Our spleen discharges red and white blood cells allowing the blood to transport more oxygen.
*The immune system is dampened as white blood cells are redistributed.
*Fluids are diverted from nonessential locations including the mouth, causing dryness and difficulty in talking.
HOW CAN STRESS BE HARMFUL?
Stress left unmanaged, can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical problems, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, chest pains, or even irregular heartbeats. Chronic stress may also increase or decrease the appetite creating nutritional risk. If you smoke, you may react to stress by smoking more or reverting to smoking after you have stopped using tobacco. In addition, stress affects the way the blood clots.
Unmanaged stress can lead to heart disease.
Stress causes blood to become stickier increasing the likelihood of an artery-clogging blood clot. Stress may signal the body to release fat into the bloodstream, raising blood-cholesterol levels. In women, chronic stress can reduce estrogen levels. Sudden increases in blood pressure caused by mental stress may damage the inner lining of blood vessels contributing to atherosclerosis.
HOW TO RECOGNIZE IF YOU ARE OVERSTRESSED
Listen to your body: It will let you know when you’ve had enough. Listen to that queasy stomach, stiff neck or sleepless nights.
Listen to your feelings: When moments of peace are rare and your moods as unpredictable as the weather, you may have reached your stress limit.
Listen to your spirit: If you feel apathetic, cynical, and feel that life has lost its meaning, it is likely that stress has gotten the best of you.
Listen to your relationships: When you find yourself intolerant and easily irritated by other people, you may find it is time to deal with your stress overload.
HOW CAN I MANAGE STRESS?
“Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.” By Reinhold Niebuhr
In a nutshell:
Keep a positive attitude and accepting there are events that you cannot control.
Reduce your stressors.
Assert your feelings, opinions or beliefs, instead of becoming angry, combative or passive.
Learn to relax.
Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals.
Get enough rest and sleep.
Create a good network of social support.
Consult your doctor or a mental health counselor if there are any medical or psychological conditions accompanying stress.
Keep or develop a sense of humor during even the most trying times.
Do something for others
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