America’s #1 Health Problem

time-magazine1

Time magazine’s June 6, 1983 cover story called stress “The Epidemic of the Eighties” and referred to it as our leading health problem; there can be little doubt that the situation has progressively worsened since then. Numerous surveys confirm that adult Americans perceive they are under much more stress than a decade or two ago. A 1996 Prevention magazine survey found that almost 75% feel they have “great stress” one day a week with one out of three indicating they feel this way more than twice a week. In the same 1983 survey only 55% said they felt under great stress on a weekly basis. It has been estimated that 75 – 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems.* Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including: increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; the erosion of family and religious values and ties; the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters.

Contemporary stress

It's a more recent term that tends to be more pervasive and persistent because it stems primarily from psychological than physical threats. It is associated with ingrained and immediate reactions over which we have no control that were originally designed to be beneficial such as:
•heart rate and blood pressure soar to increase the flow of blood to the brain to improve decision making
•blood sugar rises to furnish more fuel for energy as the result of the breakdown of glycogen, fat and protein stores
•blood is shunted away from the gut, where it is not immediately needed for purposes of digestion, to the large muscles of the arms and legs to provide more strength in combat, or greater speed in getting away from a scene of potential peril
•clotting occurs more quickly to prevent blood loss from lacerations or internal hemorrhage
These and many other immediate and automatic responses have been happening over the lengthy course of human evolution as life saving measures to assist the primitive man’s ability to deal with physical challenges. However, the nature of stress for modern man is not an occasional confrontation with a tiger or a hostile warrior but rather a host of emotional threats like getting stuck in traffic and fights with customers, co-workers, or family members, that often occur several times a day. Unfortunately, our bodies still react with these same, archaic fight or flight responses that are now not only not useful but potentially damaging and deadly and can contribute to hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, ulcers, neck or low back pain and many others.

*Job Stress:
America’s Leading Adult Health Problem, by Paul J. Rosch, M.D., F.A.C.P., in USA Magazine, May 1991.
American Academy of Family Physicians Survey, 1988,U.S. News & World Report, December 11, 1995.
also, Research by Perkins (1994) cited in the Harvard Business Review showed that 60% to 90% of doctor visits were stress-related.

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According to WebMD
Stress is any change in the environment that requires your body to react and adjust in response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses.
Stress is a normal part of life. Many events that happen to you and around you -- and many things that you do yourself -- put stress on your body. You can experience good or bad forms of stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts.
The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it. Stress can be positive such as a getting a job promotion or being given greater responsibilities -- keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger.
Stress is any change in the environment that requires your body to react and adjust in response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional response.
Stress becomes negative ("distress") when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.

Distress

It can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems.

Consider the following:
• Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
• Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
• Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
• The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
• The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

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‘Relaxation Response’

The term, was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. The response is defined as your personal ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. In his book The Relaxation Response, Dr. Benson describes the scientific benefits of relaxation, explaining that regular practice of the Relaxation Response can be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. The Relaxation Response is essentially the opposite reaction to the “fight or flight” response. According to Dr. Benson, using the Relaxation Response is beneficial as it counteracts the physiological effects of stress and the fight or flight response.
The fight or flight stress response occurs naturally when we perceive that we are under excessive pressure, and it is designed to protect us from bodily harm. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes immediately engaged in creating a number of physiological changes, including increased metabolism, blood pressure, heart and breathing rate, dilation of pupils, constriction of our blood vessels, all that work to enable us to fight or flee from a stressful or dangerous situation.
It is common for individuals experiencing the fight or flight response to describe uncomfortable physiological changes like muscle tension, headache, upset stomach, racing heartbeat, and shallow breathing. The fight or flight response can become harmful when elicited frequently. When high levels of stress hormones are secreted often, they can contribute to a number of stress-related medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, GI diseases, adrenal fatigue, and more.

A helpful way to turn off fight or flight response

The Relaxation Response is a helpful way to turn off fight or flight response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. Dr. Benson describes the Relaxation Response as a physical state of deep relaxation which engages the other part of our nervous system—the parasympathetic nervous system. Research has shown that regular use of the Relaxation Response can help any health problem that is caused or exacerbated by chronic stress such as fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal ailments, insomnia, hypertension, anxiety disorders, and others.
There are many methods to elicit the Relaxation Response including visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, energy healing, acupuncture, massage, breathing techniques, prayer, meditation, tai chi, qi gong, and yoga.

Deep Relaxation

According to Dr. Benson, one of the most valuable things we can do in life is to learn deep relaxation- making an effort to spend some time every day quieting our minds in order to create inner peace and better health. This is also true with healing. During the energy healing process, the patient is able to relax, quiet their mind and experience calming effects while the healer does his or her work. Energy healing patients have experienced profound results not unlike the results seen in Dr. Benson’s studies.

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