Monday, July 7, 2008

Managing stress.

All stress isn't the same. Positive stress - "eustress" - is energizing, motivating and can be fun. It's healthy and allows us to be more productive. Eustress adds spice to life.

Negative stress - chronic, unrelenting stress - depletes our reserves. When little stresses build up over time and never get resolved, they can become a big problem. These cause depletion of the system, eventual disease, including heart disease, and other dysfunctions.

"If people weren't stressed, they wouldn't do any work today," says Dr. Jerry Kornfeld, an expert on this topic. "It's how you cope with your stress that counts. If you don't cope with your stress, you get 'distress.' That's the enemy. That's what causes disease."

To check if your current stress level is dangerous, Dr. Kornfeld recommends the following simple self-test:

1 Would you describe your health as anything less than good?

2 Do you have high blood pressure?

3 Do you have skin rashes?

4 Do you have anxiety?

5 Are you often angry?

6 Would the people around you say you're not coping well?

The more you answer "yes" to these questions, the more distress you're feeling.

Worst Stress Scenarios.

The worst kind of stress leads to anger, hostility or the feeling of being in a constant rush because of time. Of more than 1,000 attorneys studied in a recent survey, those who fit this profile were three- to five-times more likely to have a heart attack. Those who were in the category of most hostile or most angry had the greatest chance of dying within the next five years. The study was also conducted with physicians. It found that doctors in the most stressed category had five times the risk of dying compared to those in the least stressed category.

Being Type A, in and of itself, isn't necessarily associated with a greater risk of heart attack. But being in the "hostile and angry" subset correlates with "high risk." So do regular intervals of "polyphasic" behavior - the kind of multi-tasking behavior that correlates to being in a chronic time crunch.

Tomorrow we'll review some ways to reduce stress.

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