If we used the analogy of a car and gas, we might say we were the vehicle and stress the gas. Stress is the energy that drives the engines of our lives. But we are behind the wheel and in charge of how we use that energy.
Cars will run effectively and smoothly for a long time if they are taken care of and maintained. If we don’t take care of our car and its engine, it will soon break down. Just like our car, if we don’t take care of or maintain our mind and bodies we too begin to break down.
Stress Gradually Turns to Dis-stress
We were designed to deal with what life throws at us. Our internal “engines” were made to function in many different situations.
But when we become overloaded and fatigued for longer and longer periods of time, we begin to show signs of distress. Normal stress gradually becomes “dis-stress”.
It is estimated that around 75% of doctor’s visits are attributed to high and prolonged levels of stress. Consider the following:
• Tranquilizers, antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications account for one fourth of all prescriptions written in the United States each year
• Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses
• Stress contributes to the development of alcoholism, obesity, suicide, drug addiction, cigarette addiction and other harmful behaviors
• Prolonged stress exhausts the adrenal glands, depletes the nervous system and can cause symptoms such as ulcers, chest pains, headaches, depression and finally exhaustion. It also lowers the immune system which protects us from many serious diseases
• Recurring health problems of any type can be a signal that we are under high levels of stress that we need to pay attention to. When the body is highly stressed for too long, it gets out of balance and that imbalance is expressed with disease.
What signs and symptoms are you experiencing from stress? When do you feel stressed? When do you feel relaxed? Keep a stress log for a week and mark down those times when you are feeling relaxed and when you are feeling stressed.
Even when you feel completely stressed out, if you find some time each day for some kind of rest and relaxation, pleasure or fun, you can keep chronic stress away. Relaxing at the end of the day with a relaxation CD can return both the mind and body to a restful state.
Marlene Anderson, MA, LMHC, NCC