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Your Health

STRESS IS STRESSFUL

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“A highly important change has occurred in the incidence of disease in our country . . . serious infec- tions, formerly extensive and disastrous, have markedly decreased or almost disappeared, . . . mean- while conditions involving strain in the nervous system have been greatly augmented.”  —“The role of emotion in disease” Annals of Internal Medicine 5/36

Life in the new millennium is stressful for most. Changes are occurring rapidly in society, technology and in the world in general. These changes include: Life style changes, changing moral values, changes in career, family and finances. Stress involves changes in the body’s chemical, mental, emotional, and physiological reactions to accommodate a situation that is new or frightening. This response triggers changes within the autonomic nervous system to prepare for a ‘fight or flight’ response.

That natural ‘fight or flight’ response gives us the speed and endurance to escape physical dangers. This is a beneficial response to stress. However, when stress triggers the ‘fight or flight’ hormones in response to daily stressors, other hormones released into the blood stream may then contribute to: Accelerated aging, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, immune system, dysfunction, sleep disorders, obesity, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, increased menopausal symptoms, and decreased memory.

It has been shown in studies of women suffering from depression that the level of bone loss is surprisingly high and rapid. Studies of marital disagreement show release of ‘fight or flight’ hormones. The stress hormone levels among women showed that they were much more sensitive to negative behavior than their husbands. If hormone levels stay elevated for extended periods of time the susceptibility to disease and illness rises rapidly.

HOW STRESS AFFECTS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Research has proven that not only does stress diminish the body’s ability to defend against potential invaders such as germs and viruses, even the day-in-and-day-out effects of stress take their toll. The body’s ability to produce antibodies when under stress is extremely minimized. Without adequate remedies to reduce the negative effects of stress your body will not be able to be all that it could be.

In a stressful situation (acute physical stress, chronic physical stress, emotional or psychological stress) the adrenal glands shift from hormone production to primarily cortisol production. If you are in danger cortisol will help to save your life, but if you are under prolonged stress these same hormones can lead to the demise of your health. Prolonged stress eventually causes adrenal fatigue (malfunction). As the adrenals begin to wear out it is important to remove or at least reduce the stress and provide appropriate nutrition to minimize the negative influence on the adrenal glands.

The slow insidious wear and tear of daily stressors lowers the body’s ability to fight infections. Holmes and Rahe created the Social Readjustment Rating Scale to objectively measure the cumulative totality of stress and its effect upon the body. What it clearly demonstrates is that the more life change units an individual has been subjected to, the greater the probability that one is going to experience the negative effects of stress. Disease and illness do not just happen at random, they occur when an individual’s body is no longer able to resist the negative influences such as sickness and disease. Take the stress test and see where you are.

SOCIAL READJUSTMENT RATING SCALE

Record each event that has happened to you over the past twelve months by writing the number on the left in the right column.

100 Death of spouse ________
65 Marital separation ________
63 Jail term ________
53 Personal injury or illness ________
50 Marriage ________
47 Fired at work ________
45 Retirement ________
44 Change in health of a family member ________
40 Pegnancy ________
39 Sexual difficulties ________
39 Gain of a new family member ________
39 Business readjustment ________
38 Change in financial state ________
37 Death of a close friend ________
36 Change to a different line of work ________
35 Change in number of arguments with spouse ________
31 Taking out a mortgage or loan over $10,000 ________
30 Foreclosure of a mortgage or a loan ________
29 Change in your responsibilities at work ________
29 A son or daughter leaving home ________
29 Having trouble with your in-laws ________
28 An outstanding personal achievement ________
26 A spouse begins or stops work ________
25 You begin or end school ________
24 Change in your living conditions ________
23 A revision of your personal habits ________
20 Having trouble with your boss ________
20 A change in your work hours or conditions ________
20 A change in your residence ________
19 Changing schools ________
19 A change in your recreational activities ________
19 A change in your church activities ________
18 A change in your social activities ________
17 Taking out a mortgage or loan for less than $10,000 ________
16 A change in your sleeping habits ________
15 A change in the number of family get-togethers ________
13 Taking a vacation ________
12 Christmas or a major holiday ________
11 Minor violation of law including moving traffic tickets ________

Add the total number of points and compare with the following chart:

SCORE LIFE CRISIS LEVEL PROBABILITY OF ILLNESS
0 – 149 Normal 1%
150 – 199 Mild life crisis 33%
200 – 299 Moderate life crisis 50%
300+ Severe life crisis 80%