What Is Stress

 By Hans Diehl, M.D. www.chiphealth.com

"Burned out." "Overloaded." "Exhausted." "Overwhelmed." These are some of the words we use to describe the impact of stress on our lives. In our time-pressured society, few escape without feeling—at least some of the time—that they are battling stress.

Stress has been linked with almost every medical problem we have—heart attacks, strokes, hypertension, ulcers, colitis, asthma, arthritis, even cancer. Yet too little stress can invite problems as well—fatigue, boredom, restlessness, low job performance, and depression. The challenge is to find a middle road between two extremes.

What Is Stress?

Stress occurs in any situation that requires making a change. Most people define stress by problems that confront them and concerns they have to deal with.

Some stress, often defined as "eustress," can improve our awareness, promote alertness, and result in superior performances. Some examples might be sports competition, theatrical performances, skiing down a smooth slope, winning a race, and receiving a job promotion. The stress involved in these situation can produce feelings of extreme pressure.

Other stresses may not be quite so exciting yet cause strong feelings of satisfaction: a romantic evening, praise from a coworker, a child's good report card. Still other stress may make us weary although they are good in themselves: a wedding or a family reunion. Then there are stresses that exhaust and depress: a job loss, legal problems, rebellious children, divorce, the death of a loved one.

Health has been called the ability to adapt to life's stresses. If so, healthy people must find ways to pace themselves by keeping their stress in a positive balance.

Are Stress Problems Getting Worse?

As the pace of modern life has picked up, it has thrown us into a kind of time warp. We are constantly urged to go now, see now, buy now, enjoy now. After all, as the ads tell us, we have only one chance in life, and we'd better grab it while we can.

But after a few years of grabbing, getting, going, seeing, buying, many begin to feel battered and disappointed. The inevitable pay later comes along: burnout, debts, poor health, depression, and loss of interest in life. It's a vicious cycle that has trapped many well-meaning men and women.

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