Tips offered to reduce, manage stress of daily life

| May 21, 2012 | 0 Comments

Jeffrey M. Soares
U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command Public Affairs

FORT DETRICK, Md. — Although the overall stress level for Americans continues to drop, stress levels remain high and exceed healthy levels. Add to that military life factors including deployment, re-deployment and combat.

The Army is currently developing and scientifically testing different stress reducing strategies, including mindfulness-based methods, yoga, and mind-body approaches.

“Stress is one of the leading contributors to preventable disease,” said Dr. Deborah Morrone, Chiropractic Wellness Center, Frederick, Md. “It doubles the rate of heart and cardiovascular problems, substance abuse, and infectious diseases, and it may increase the average rate of some cancers by up to five times.

“When you experience stress, your body responds by increasing the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, so that your body goes into a state of ‘fight or flight,’” Morrone added. “Too many people are stuck in this mode, and their stress response stays in high gear, which leads to chronic health problems.

“Most people don’t consider that these various symptoms might be all parts of the same problem,” Morrone concluded. “The body functions as a whole integrated unit. By focusing on treating just the symptoms, the big picture often gets overlooked.”

Morrone said that a little self-care can go a long way. And the mantra she advocates is simple: Eat well, move well, think well.

Eat well

As the saying goes, we are what we eat, and this is critical when trying to fend off the negative effects of stress on one’s body. A varied diet of whole, natural, unprocessed foods like 100-percent whole grains, fruits and vegetables, meats and fish, nuts and legumes, and dairy products is best.

Also be aware of undetected food sensitivities and allergies that keep the immune system and stress hormones running on “high,” leading to chronic fatigue, digestive problems, and depression.

Move well

“Physical activity works better than medication for depression,” Morrone said. “It increases endorphins, which are your body’s natural painkillers, improves lung capacity and heart function, and improves digestion by helping with movement of the digestive tract.”

As nerve and joint function improves, overall stress levels in the entire body begin to improve.

Think well

Morrone said there are basically two types of problems: those you can do something about, and those you cannot do anything about. She suggests making a list of all of the stressors in one’s life.

“When you see the list of items, one by one, in black and white,” Morrone said, “then you have to ask yourself, ‘What is really important? Will this problem matter 10 minutes from now, 10 days from now, 10 months from now, or 10 years from now?’ If not, let it go and move on to the next problem, and soon you’ll see that most of the things troubling you aren’t really major problems at all.”

Morrone recognizes some problems need to be faced and resolved to move forward. Her advice is to establish firm guidelines to address priority problems within a reasonable timeframe.

If problems can be addressed one at a time, the success rate should be high while the anxiety generated by each task should be lessened. This remains the primary goal of stress management: taking away, one at a time, each factor that increases one’s level of anxiety.

And when it comes to managing stress, “doing” is the most important part.

As Morrone said, no one is actually forced to be a “stress mess.” Stress is not what happens to you, it is how you choose to respond to what happens to you. Ultimately, you control the amount of stress in your life. This means that the stress and tension you feel each day is not everyone else’s fault —it’s your choice.



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Category: Army News Service, Community, Health

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