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Stress Awareness

Managing stress is key to long-term health and happiness, and the best way to start is by identifying the stressors in your own life.  A death in the family, divorce, and financial concerns are all well-known for causing stress, but many everyday habits could be contributing to an unhealthy level of stress.  From continual reliance on smartphones and technology to never saying “no” or striving for perfection in ever aspect of life, we’re making stress a regular habit.

Stress can come from many different areas of your life, but the way your body reacts isn’t as diverse. If you’ve been dealing with viruses or colds more frequently, having digestive issues, or suffering from frequent headaches, you may be feeling the physiological effects of stress.

The effects of stress can go beyond causing a cold or stomach ache. Studies have shown that people dealing with chronic stress have a higher mortality rate than people who identify themselves as leading a low-stress life. Our body is trained to ignite the “fight or flight” response when faced with a stressful situation. Although this response can be life-saving in the event of a short-term emergency, long-term activation of the critical mechanism interrupts the normal functions of many of the body’s systems. Heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety are just a few of the outcomes that can come about from long-term stress.

There is good news, however. A recent study from Psychological Science shows that our long-term health is affected more by how we react to stress than it is by stress itself. People who have constant negative reactions to stress are more likely to suffer mentally and physically than those who take a more optimistic approach to handling day-to-day stress. Of course, the ultimate goal is to take steps to reduce stress in your life, but learning how to deal with it in a healthy and proactive way is a great step.

El Camino Hospital offers a number of mindfulness-based programs that are aimed at combating stress and changing how we deal with it. Your doctor can also talk to you about how to cope with stress in a healthy way. No matter which route you take, the important thing is to take the steps today that will positively affect your life tomorrow.

Learn more about El Camino Hospital’s stress reduction program.

This article first appeared in the May 2016 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.