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Gender, Geography Factor Into Stress
Understand your sources of stress
Diagnose and Manage Your Stress Type
Stress Away Stress
Staying Healthy in Times of Stress: Stress Can Make You Sick, but It Doesn't Have To
Rumination And How It Affects Your Life
Issue - Related Happy
Note: Some of these symptoms can also be
caused by serious medical conditions. Consult your doctor if any of
these symptoms are intense or persistent.
Gender, Geography Factor Into Stress
"Before, it was like 'Big Brother will take care of me. My 401(k) with Lehman or my company will take care of me.' We could go out to dinner on a credit card. We could buy our groceries without thinking. We could fill the car up. We had choices," says Kathleen Hall, founder of The Stress Institute in Atlanta.
"What you're seeing this year especially in the last three months is the eroding of that security blanket."
It's all too familiar to Lizzette Anderson, 38, of Queens, N.Y. She and her husband and 12-year-old daughter had to move to a smaller two-bedroom apartment because they couldn't afford their larger one.
"We had been in the apartment 10 months, and then we spoke to the landlord and said we couldn't afford it anymore. He understood and let us out of the lease," says Anderson, an administrative assistant.
Her husband, Windel Anderson, works as a sales supervisor. They had been saving for a house the past three years, she says.
"We had almost $3,000, and we were just trying to put more money in to save it faster, but it turned out that it went backwards and we were taking money out," says Anderson.
The new survey also found that women appear to bear the brunt of the financial stress and report more physical symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. More women than men say they're stressed about the economy (84% vs. 75% of men); housing costs (66% vs. 58%); and health problems affecting their families (70% vs. 63%).
Also, 56% of women report headaches, compared with 36% of men; 53% of women report a lack of motivation or energy, vs. 45% of men.
To manage stress, 39% of women reported eating to cope, vs. 29% of men. Men were more likely to drink, with 22% of men drinking to deal with it, vs. 15% of women.
Colleen Bacckus, 43, of Dearborn Heights, Mich., says the economy has caused her to spend more cautiously, but her greater stress involves home and family. Bacckus' job as a project manager for a commercial interior design firm is key because her husband is a paraplegic who is unable to work; their children are grown.
"It's trying to strike that balance between working full-time and being the primary breadwinner and balancing the family time and the needs at home," she says.
Working in the garden, playing with their dogs and reading does help relieve stress, she says, but she has noticed changes as financial news has worsened.
"There will be sleepless nights, and I'll get a little snappish," Bacckus says. "I'm just like everybody else you go for that comfort food if you get too stressed."
Social psychologist Viktor Gecas of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., says the current economic downturn is the most serious since the Great Depression, but he doesn't expect the lengthy and massive unemployment of that period.
"In the short-term, it does have consequences," which he says "do add to more individual stress, which also spills over into marital problems, parent-child problems and family stress in general."
Rev. T. Michael Rock, a 40-year-old United Church of Christ pastor in the Minneapolis suburb of Robbinsdale, says he's been flooded with congregants seeking his ear to discuss financial concerns, which he says they don't often talk about openly.
"If I had 10 people in the last year, I had 10 people the past week, either for them or their children or their parents," he says. "They're coming to say 'I can't hold all this information by myself. I have to share it with somebody.' "
Gecas, head of Purdue's sociology department, suggests the economic downturn may have some hidden positives by forcing people to take stock of their lives and re-evaluate their lifestyles.
"It's easy to fall into habits of behavior that may not necessarily be good for you or the environment," he says. "If you do manage to cope successfully with the adversity, you might come out stronger and more resourceful in the end. This is not to minimize the pain of an economic downturn and the negative things, but it's not necessarily all bad."
Rumination And How It Affects Your
Have you ever been stressed all day because you cant stop thinking of something unfair that happened that morning? Or the previous week? This human tendency to obsess, trying to work things out in one's mind, is common. When these thoughts turn more negative and brooding, that's known as rumination.
Rumination is rather common--according to a poll on this site, roughly 95% of my readers find themselves in rumination mode either sometimes or often--but it can be harmful to physical and emotional wellbeing.
Rumination is comprised of two separate variables -- reflection and brooding. The reflection part of rumination can actually be somewhat helpful -- reflecting on a problem can lead you to a solution. Also, reflecting on certain events can help you process strong emotions associated with the issue. However, rumination in general, and brooding in particular, are associated with less proactive behavior and more of a negative mood. Co-rumination, where you rehash a situation with friends until youve talked it to death, also brings more stress to both parties. In short, if you find yourself constantly replaying something in your mind and dwelling on the injustice of it all, thinking about what you should have said or done, without taking any corresponding action, youre likely making yourself feel more stressed. And you are also likely experiencing some of the negative effects of rumination.
The Toll of Rumination
Rumination can be oddly irresistible, and can steal an hour of your attention before you even realize that youre obsessing again.
In addition to dividing your attention, however, rumination has several negative effects.
For proven strategies on reducing rumination and effectively dealing with emotional stress, see this article on letting go of stress and anger, or scroll down for additional resources. If a strong tendency toward rumination persists, it could be indicative of a greater problem; a therapist may be helpful in helping you let go.
What situations seem to lead to rumination in you? How do you put the breaks on rumination once you find yourself in its holding pattern?
Byrd-Craven J, Geary DC, Rose AJ, Ponzi D. Co-ruminating increases stress hormone levels in women. Hormones and Behavior, March 2008.
Feldner MT, Leen-Feldner EW, Zvolensky MJ, Lejuez CW. Examining the association between rumination, negative affectivity, and negative affect induced by a paced auditory serial addition task. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, September 2006.
Key BL, Campbell TS, Bacon SL, Gerin W. The influence of trait and state rumination on cardiovascular recovery from a negative emotional stressor. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, March 2008.
Lo CS, Ho SM, Hollon SD. The effects of rumination and negative cognitive styles on depression: A mediation analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, April, 2008.
Selby EA, Anestis MD, Joiner TE. Understanding
the relationship between emotional and behavioral dysregulation:
Emotional cascades. Behaviour Research and Therapy, May 2008.
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Does Stress Really Cause Heart Disease?
Scottish Study Questions Link (5/23/02)
Researchers in Scotland followed a group of men for more than 20 years and found that those who reported the most stress actually died less often from heart attacks and had fewer objective signs of heart disease. Surprisingly, these men also tended to smoke more, drink more, and exercise less than other men in the study.
"We aren't saying that stress protects your heart, and we certainly aren't saying that smoking, drinking to excess, and taking no exercise are good for you," says lead author John Macleod, MD, of the University of Birmingham in England. "Of course, these things are bad for you. But we found that with regard to stress, other factors came into play."
Specifically, Macleod and colleagues found that men reporting more stress tended to be more socially and economically advantaged. These men reported more symptoms of heart disease, but they also experienced fewer heart attack deaths over the study period. This led the authors to conclude that the protective benefits of affluence, such as better access to medical care, help to offset an unhealthy lifestyle. The findings were reported in the May 25 issue of the British Medical Journal.
The researchers suggest that the link between stress and heart disease seen in past studies is largely due to reporting bias. In other words, the people most likely to report significant stress are also most likely to report symptoms of cardiovascular disease and seek treatment for it.
"There is no strong scientific evidence that stress is an independent risk factor for heart disease," Macleod tells WebMD. "I am sure that there will be people who disagree with our findings, and I hope this research prompts healthy debate."
Researcher Peter P. Vitaliano, PhD, of the University of Washington, contends that chronic stress is directly linked to heart disease risk, but that link is exacerbated by poor health habits.
Vitaliano and colleagues recently followed a group of older adults who were caring for spouses with Alzheimer's disease. At the start of the study, the caregivers had a prevalence of heart disease that was similar to that of age-matched adults who were not caring for spouses with Alzheimer's. But the incidence of heart disease among male caregivers was almost double that of non-caregivers two-and-a-half years later. The findings were reported in the May issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.
"We found that the association between stress and heart disease is not simple. It is very complicated," Vitaliano tells WebMD. "There are many factors that come into play, but poor health habits are among the most important."
The researcher says male caregivers reporting poor eating and exercise habits were at the highest risk of developing heart disease.
"Psychological distress tends to promote poor health habits, and
this sets you up for heart disease," Vitaliano says. "But the other
side of this is that even someone who is under tremendous and
unavoidable stress can limit their health risks by adopting a healthy
lifestyle and maintaining a strong social support system."
Source: By Salynn Boyles, WebMD Medical News, reviewed by Charlotte Grayson, MD my.webmd.com/condition_center_content/mhp/article/2950.1737
Stressed? Frazzled? Fried?
Stress: How does it affect by
Simple Ways You Can Reduce Job Stress
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better business person:
Source: The Fox News Story: www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,52784,00.html
Diagnose and Manage
Your Stress Type
In "So Stressed: The Ultimate Stress-Relief Plan for Women," practicing doctors Stephanie McClellan, M.D., and Beth Hamilton, M.D., have not only identified the four most common stress responses unique to women, they've also pored over the research to identify actionable solutions.
"This is what people recognize as the classic stress response," said McClellan. "The body goes into a state of vigilance -- the brain is on alert, the nervous system is on alert and all systems are go." People who find themselves feeling consistently anxious, nervous and have trouble sleeping tend to fall into this type, commonly known as fight-or-flight. What's happening is that stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are deviating additional energy resources toward the brain, heart and muscles in case you need to high-tail it away from danger. Over time, this can be incredibly taxing: The heart is working hard, immunity goes down and the body starts pumping ready-to-be-burned sugar and fat into the system, which if you're not working it off, turns into weight gain.
Hyperdrive Action Plan
Exercise is especially important to people who react to stress this way, and you'll essentially burn off some of the negative effects. To blunt the rapid release of sugar into your system, try for a low-glycemic index diet. To mitigate anxiety, be sure to eat some complex carbohydrates, which causes the brain to release calming serotonin, and tryptophan-rich foods, such as eggs, fish, poultry and nuts to help relax you. Meditation -- be it through yoga or simply calming the mind -- will do wonders for helping the brain quiet down.
Dash and Crash
"These are the women who go into hyperdrive when they're stressed," said Hamilton. "They actually function really well at the time, but once it's all over, they crash." Researchers believe this happens because they release an excess amount of the hormone norepinephrine.
Dash & Crash Action Plan
The key here is to focus on relaxing and rejuvenating behaviors. Strive for good nutrition and, during acute stress, a diet rich in soothing tryptophan and tyrosine -- both of which are found in fish, nuts, poultry and eggs. Calming rituals, such as using aromatherapy, getting a massage or practicing meditation will be especially helpful, as will exercises geared toward restoring balance, such as yoga and qigong, a form of tai chi geared toward building balance, strength and energy.
Fried and Frazzled
"Over time, fight-or-flight takes a toll on your system," said Hamilton. "Some people's long-term stress responses seem to compensate for that by starting to under-produce the stress hormone cortisol." The fried and frazzled group will feel and seem calm, but stress leaves them constantly drained and exhausted. On one hand, that's good because you're less anxious and your heart is working less hard, but you're also left without some key resources. Because cortisol is an anti-inflammatory, which is why we put it on wounds and rashes, your immune system is left vulnerable and unbalanced. This makes you prone to more allergies, autoimmune problems and even unexplained pain. Since you're not experiencing a typical fight-or-flight response, your energy is also very low.
Fried & Frazzled Action Plan
Because cortisol blunts appetite, women who are fried and frazzled tend to eat more, which makes pear-shaped body types more common in this group. To keep your immune system in check, aim for an anti-inflammatory diet and build up your energy reserves with low-impact exercise, such like walking, Pilates and yoga. Upbeat, positive thinking will help activate your brain's reward pathways and give your mood a much-needed lift.
Shut Down & Detached
"This is the rarest kind of response we found, but it's an important one," said McClellan. "Basically, these people's systems are so overprotective that they not only have a muted cortisol reaction, like the Fried and Frazzleds, but their other stress reactions seem to slow down, too." That means they're more prone to psychologically disengage. People who tend to check out when things feel out of control tend to fall into this group.
Shut Down & Detached Action Plan
Getting your mind going and engaging is by far the most important feat here. Rhythmic or patterned activities, like listening to music, a daily walk and crossword puzzles or suduko, can help snap your mind back into shape. As for diet, stomach sensitivity is common; focus on high-fiber food, such as fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, that are easy on the system.
You don't get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what's eating you. - Vicki Baum