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Stress, Health, and Stress Reduction Training
by Drevis Hager, EdD, LP on August 19th, 2010

The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that 60% of the health problems brought to physicians are actually related to stress in one way or another. In some instances an illness is the direct result of the body’s sustained stress response, while in other instances the stress response makes pre-existing illness worse. The list of stress-related maladies includes (but is not limited to) psychological disorders, insomnia, tics, headaches, diabetic instability, sexual dysfunction, impaired immunity, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal problems, elevated cholesterol, and impaired wound healing.

The Importance of Coping Skills

Technically speaking, environmental events aren’t the most potent “stressors;” our thoughts are. On the individual level, there is a tremendous range of reactivity to environmental events, and each person’s unique cognitive processing style has a lot to do with it. Stress-hardy individuals view stressors as challenges, are optimistic problem-solvers, and maintain good perspective on the relative importance of each stressor. Those who meditate regularly and who maintain healthy lifestyles also demonstrate far greater coping abilities. It is no surprise that these individuals demonstrate fewer health complications.

In contrast, stress-impaired individuals tend to view problems as direct threats, ruminate pessimistically, over react, and have difficulty distinguishing between big and small problems. They have significantly higher catecholamine and glucocorticoid levels and, consequently, far greater health complications.

Stress Reduction Tips

1. Learn and practice the habits of stress-hardy individuals. Practice optimistic problem solving, view problems as challenges, and maintain proper perspective on the relative importance of each problem.
2. Develop a healthy lifestyle of exercise, proper diet, time with friends, rest, recreation, sleep, minimizing or eliminating use of alcohol and other substances, and realistic scheduling.
3. Learn a relaxation/meditation technique, and practice it daily. The body of research on meditation and health is impressive, with hundreds of studies demonstrating a array of benefits such as fewer infections, faster surgical wound healing, lowered cholesterol, reduced arterial occlusion, and of course reduced anxious reactivity.
4. Read self-help books such as Joan Borysenko’s Minding the Body, Mending the Mind or Herbert Benson’s The Relaxation Response.
5. If you need more extensive help, seek mental health treatment such as individual psychotherapy or participation in a stress reduction group.


Posted in not categorized    Tagged with Stress, stress management, health, meditation coping skills, stress hardy, illness, stress impaired