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DIAL DOWN STRESS W


How to Stay Calm and Cool by Lisa Marshall


hether from natural disas- ters, divisive politics, un- manageable workloads or a


smartphone culture that makes it tough to unplug, U.S. adults are feeling more strain now than they have at any other time in the past decade, according to the Ameri- can Psychological Association’s 2017 Stress in America Survey. One in three say their stress has increased in the past year and one in five rate the level at eight or more on a scale of one to 10. About three in five, or 59 percent, say they believe this is “the lowest point in the nation’s history” and nearly two-thirds say concerns about our nation’s future (including its health care, economy and international relations) are key sources of their stress. “We’re seeing significant stress


transcending party lines,” notes Arthur C. Evans Jr., Ph.D., the association’s CEO. All that stress is having a powerful


impact on health, with as many as 80 percent of visits to primary care physicians characterized as stress-related, according to


28 NA Triangle www.natriangle.com


Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.


~Hans Selye


the American Medical Association. Work- place stress accounts for 120,000 deaths a year—more than influenza, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease combined—according to a 2015 Stanford University study. Yet, empowering news has emerged


amid this epidemic of anxiety-related illness. Research shows that by eating right, exercising and changing our mindset about stress itself, we can buffer our bodies from many health hazards. “Unfortunately, you can’t always


avoid the things that stress you out. But you can control how you respond to stress before it takes over your life,” says Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D., a Mill Valley, California, psychologist and author of the recent book Te Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emo- tional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness


and Neuroplasticity.


Our Brain on Stress Whether it’s an urgent email from the boss or a rude motorist driving unsafely, tense situations elicit a physiological response remarkably similar to what might occur if we were chased by a lion. Deep inside an almond-shaped region


of the brain called the amygdala, an alarm goes off, signaling the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that boost heart rate, usher extra blood to muscles, hasten breathing and spike blood sugar to provide more fuel for the brain to react. Evolutionarily, this response was key to


early human survival, providing the energy boost needed to flee predators. Even today, it has its upside, says Greenberg. “In the short term, stress can be exciting and even beneficial, revving you up so you can put your passion and energy into something.” But chronic excess can lead to high


blood pressure and blood sugar, inflamma- tion, cognitive problems and a hair-trigger


ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com


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