Everyone hears about it.  It’s talked about on the news, talk shows, at work, etc.  But, what is it?  How is it defined?  What are the signs of stress?  Do you have it? 

You may be thinking that this is all common knowledge, but you may be surprised to learn that stress is not something that is easily defined. 

Stress is a natural condition that we humans have – you know, it is the fight and flight syndrome – your body immediately gears up with various hormones, etc. to help you deal with the perceived danger that you are encountering at the time.  Of course, you are not confronting a saber-tooth tiger or dinosaur, but you do encounter stress everyday.  Watching ten minutes of the daily news, for instance, can cause stress. 

The fact is though; you must have some stress in your life.  It revives up your adrenalin and excitement that makes life interesting.  Unfortunately, too much of a good thing is not healthy – seems to be a universal law here. 

Currently, there is a lot of research suggesting that too much stress can do your body harm.  Although stress may not be directly related to high blood pressure, for instance, it certainly does cause weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses that are directly related to high blood pressure.  Kind of the chicken and the egg question, what came first?  And remember, high blood pressure is called the silent killer for a reason. 

Stress for you may not be the same for me.  Genetically we each have our own stress factors – hot-wired so to speak.  You may not get worked up over having to work late one night while someone else may become highly agitated or stressed over it. 

Causes of stress are varied and may be caused by physical or emotional change.  Change – in your environment, relationships, work, etc. 

Some signs that you are stressed are: 

Physical signs: Headache, ringing in the ears, tiredness, exhaustion, weight gain or loss, difficulty sleeping, dizziness 

Mental signs: Forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, lack of creativity, poor memory, constant worry 

Emotional signs: Anger, anxiety, crying, sadness, loneliness, negative thinking 

You can take control of your stress levels by slowing down.  Sounds too simple doesn’t it?  But just stop and think for a moment.  It was not that long ago when we did not have cell phones, e-mails, beepers, faxes, etc. to keep pushing us to move faster, do more, hurry, hurry…. And we actually walked to the store!So, how do you combat this thing called stress? 

Learning how to relax probably could save your life – in more ways than one.  The old saying, stop and smell the flowers is not that far off.  Our bodies need time to repair itself and taking time to rest and relax can do wonders not only for you physically but mentally as well. 

It seems that we have the lost the art of relaxing – you know, no cell phones, t.v., radio, mp3 player, etc. etc.   You know, actually sleeping in one morning a week! 

A fifteen minute walk, three or four times a week, can do wonders to help relieve the daily stressors of life.  The amazing thing is that you don’t have to spend any money, drive anywhere or need any special equipment, and it can be done at anytime!  (Sorry, but there really are no excuses here – even if the weather is bad, you still can walk around in your house for 15 minutes – boring, yes, but it gets the job done.) 

Lack of sleep is another factor.  In our fast paced, hectic lives and schedules, we need to make time for more sleep – yes, 8 – 9 hours a night.  If you cannot sleep that long all at once, try taking a nap in the afternoon.  Your body will thank you and your mind too, it needs rest from all that worrying. 

Having regular physicals and blood pressure readings will help you keep a handle on your blood pressure and other health related illnesses. 

So, learn what your stressors are and learn how to cope with them before you develop high blood pressure – which can develop into hearth disease, which can…….