Stressing Out About Small Stuff Could Kill You

Just reading that title made me stressed because I know how much I stress on a daily basis - about everything. For most of my adult life I thought I handled stress better than most. With my fancy schmancy Masters in Psychology I knew how to objectively look at situations and, usually, realize that most of the things I'm stressing over in life are unrealistic and not ever going to happen. So, I'd stop thinking about them. Or so I thought. stress1

In the last few years I've dealt with numerous stress-induced issues. Immediately after high school I was diagnosed with IBS. I manage to control that fairly well with limiting the amount of gluten & dairy I eat, but stress is a huge trigger for flare-ups. In more recent years I've dealt with debilitating jaw pain from clenching my teeth at night. It was so bad last year I was taking 8-12 advil a day and eventually landed myself at a gastroenterology office. The doctor basically looked at me and said, "quit taking advil and your symptoms will go away." She was right.

All this time I think I handle stress well, but I'm becoming more and more aware now that I don't. I often catch myself breathing and realize I'm taking very short, shallow breaths. If I'm not actively thinking about something in specific my mind usually wanders off to worrying about some non-specific event in the future. While driving to Alabama last weekend I heard about the latest study to find that stress can literally kill you.

People who always perceived their daily life to be over-the-top stressful were three times more likely to die over the period of study than people who rolled with the punches and didn't find daily life very stressful. Some people get frantic sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, worried about being late or not being able to do what they hoped in a timely manner. Others simply take the time to sit back, listen to music and appreciate the break as some quiet time.

How can stress actually kill you? Cortisol! Elevated cortisol levels interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density, and increase blood pressure, cholesterol and heart disease.

So, what did this lovely, stress-inducing study suggest as a 'cure'? Exercise! 30 minutes a day, most days a week. Throw in some meditation and your virtually guaranteed lower stress and cortisol levels.

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Now - I just need to commit to taking better care of myself. I have a hundred reasons why I don't have time, but one really, really good one to take 10 minutes a day to just breathe & relax. I don't want to die. I want to live 60 more years. I want to see my grand-kids get married, I want to be mommy to a dozen more FIV cats, and I really like this whole 'being alive' thing.

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What's your biggest daily hassle? 

Do you think your stress levels are so high they are damaging your health?