What is your stress response? How do you handle events that bring stress to your life? Many define stress as: “a state of mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. In order to survive, some partake of a stress management class, others may have adopted “coping mechanisms” that involve alcohol, smoking or other. A stressor is something that causes a state of strain. The stressor can be positive or negative life events. The birth of a new baby or the planning of a wedding can be as much of a stressor as a job loss or death in the family.
So often we blame stress for strokes, heart attacks and other ailments when we should see that stressor is not the culprit. How we respond to stress is the real villain. Even when someone is in excellent physical condition, that doesn’t mean they handle stress appropriately.
For many years medical professionals believed that a “Type A Personality” was to blame for people becoming victims to stress. This was such a common belief that studies were done to try and retrain Type A people to not be a Type A Personality. In conducting these studies, it only added stress to the Type A folks - defeating the whole purpose!
Perhaps a better option would be to train ourselves – Type A and otherwise – to recognize clues our body tells us every day. When we are not paying attention to the physical indicators, we can fall prey to unhealthy habits. Ignoring those clues will trigger emotional chaos. Just being alert to the vast number of emotions that travel to us and through us will be an eye opener for some.
For decades doctors believed that type A personality behavior was the catalyst for heart disease. They have now discovered that hostility is truly the stimulant for heart disease. A study was done and revealed that lawyers who were known to possess hostile reactions in their day to day life were key candidates for heart disease. Sad to say that 20% of them died by age 50. I understand that there may be certain careers that can lend themselves to a bitter outlook on life, but we can mitigate contentious behavior with self-awareness. Life is meant to be a daily celebration not something that we dread.
How well do you handle stress?
A. Do you tend to be suspicious of others, distrusting them?
B. Do you possess an air of hostility that manifests more frequently than not?
C. Do you respond aggressively toward others?
For some it may be best to ask a close friend or family member to answer these for you! We may not see the forest through the trees. And if the answers are not what we wish to hear, then we should re-evaluate our desire for long life. Sometimes the truth can be difficult to face, but it’s better than being in denial. I bought a time share once in the land of denial and it was not worth the investment!
One remedy for handling stressful scenarios is to surround ourselves with loving relationships. If folks feel like others care for them, this will diminish the susceptibility towards heart disease. There was a test done on a set of patients who had heart disease. The test study required a nurse to call the patients for less than a minute once every 30 days. The only conversation that took place was that the nurse let the patient know they were thinking of them, expressed to them that they were important and if they ever needed anything to give a call. This simple act of kindness reduced the death rate by 50%!
Another form of research took place in Israel. The group being evaluated had just suffered a heart attack. When asked if they believed if their wife loved them, those who answered “yes” had an 80% increased survival rate! It’s amazing to think that feeling loved by someone could have the power to alleviate the symptoms of stress and grant us long life and happiness.