The world is full of stress – driving in heavy traffic on the freeway, working long demanding hours at a job, family demands, dealing with the negativity in the world, etc. Stress seems to comes at us from every angle.  In recent years, researchers have begun evaluating the affect of stress on our bodies.   The results indicate stress may often be a cause or contributor to physical aliments. I would venture to say that eventually research will show that stress has far greater implications on health than medical professionals realize.


A connection between stress and nearly every major chronic disease may one day be found. Perhaps, stress will be determined to be the primary cause or trigger for some ailments.  Genetic and environmental factors also play a part, but not everyone who has the same genetic markers or are in a given environment become ill with the same disease.  One reason may be the amount of stress and the manner the person handles stress.


Fountain of Youth


Therefore, when someone lives to be one hundred years old, we should consider if stress is the key to their longevity. Instead, doctors and researchers often focus on the diet and exercise.  However, we already know that diet and exercise are not the keys to the Fountain of Youth because centenarians have a variety of lifestyles.  Some of them ate super healthy and exercised all their life.  Meanwhile, others drank soda and ate cheeseburgers daily.


Similarly, people have a variety of levels of tolerance for stress. Everyone has some level of stress and it seems to be part of what makes people tick.  The amount of stress that makes some people thrive would overwhelm others. So, it is not a matter of a simple measure of stress.  Instead, it is important to understand if the person “felt” stressed.


Dealing With Stress


The stress in the average American’s life today, however, is excessive.  Some people may thrive at this level, but it is greater than most people’s stress tolerance level. Since stress is correlated to ailments, stress reduction and stress management are important to maintain health.


Reducing Stress


Stress cannot be completely avoided.  However, we can turn off the news, stop focusing on the drama around us, and change patterns in our lives to limit stress.  The things that need to change to reduce stress in each person’s life depends on the type of things that causes that particular person stress.  These factors vary greatly so each person must make their own decisions with regards to things to eliminate or reduce in their life.  For example, one person may be greatly stress when they watch the news. However, someone else may not be bothered by the news, but may be stressed by driving is rush-hour traffic or dealing with the issues of home ownership.


Eliminating or reducing the things that stress us out can greatly improve our quality of life. We will still have stress in our lives, but eliminating and reducing those things that contribute to our stress level will make other stress more tolerable.


Stress Management


The other aspect to consider is stress management. Some people do not manage stress at all. Matter of fact, they let stress take over their life. In the more extreme cases, people make their own drama from the smallest of incidents to create even more stress for themselves and the people around them.


Those who attempt to manage stress do so through a variety of means. It is again, dependent on the person. Hobbies, meditation, prayer, exercise, reading, and socializing are typical activities used to reduce stress.  However, not all stress coping mechanisms are positive. Binge eating, drinking alcohol, smoking, and drug use are also stress coping mechanisms.


It is important to understand the connection between what causes you stress and how you react.  You should remove or reduce stress when possible (e.g. if driving stresses you, take the bus/rail or move close to work).  Also, evaluate how you cope with stress and focus on utilizing positive coping strategies to reduce the stress.  Your life may depend on it!