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Stress / Why can stress make you ill?

A number of studies have produced consistent indicators. For example, when the brain perceives stress, reactions from the stress-reactive area produce an elevation of the stress hormones, cortisol and norepinephrine in the blood.

What happens next? The research indicates that individuals respond differently. One person will respond with panic attacks, another perhaps with headaches. Over fifty per cent of people have a lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.

Stress may also make it harder to control other medical conditions. In the case of diabetes, stress-related increases to blood glucose levels can be a problem. This reflects the well-researched ‘fight or flight’ response, which prompts the body to raise blood sugar levels to help boost energy in response to stress.

Most people sense that they’re stressed and recognise how it affects them. Many devise their own very effective ways of dealing with it, too.

For example, these are well known simple steps for breathing your way out of stress:

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair that helps keep your back straight with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands gently on your belly, right below the ribcage.
  3. Expand your belly, drawing breath in through your nose. When you do this correctly, you feel your hands move slightly.
  4. Don't hold your breath. Open your mouth a little. Slowly let your belly contract, gently breathing out through your mouth.
  5. Repeat this for a few minutes. Avoid thinking of anything in particular. Don't try to push the stress out of your body - just let it go.
  6. Try to do it once a day. If something is stressing you out, a few minutes of deep breathing like this can help restore calmness.
Other Self Help For Stress

Think about some of these proven techniques.

  1. Write. It may help to write about things that bother you. Write for a few minutes a day about stressful events and how they made you feel. Maybe start a stress diary. It could become your own little research study helping you link causes of stress with how they make you feel. Once you know more, you can be more confident about how to cope, who to talk to and what guidance to seek.
  2. Let your feelings out. Talk, laugh, cry, and express anger when you need to. Talking with friends, family, a counsellor, or other qualified person about your feelings is a healthy way to relieve stress.
  3. Do things you enjoy. A hobby, such as gardening. A creative activity, such as writing, crafts, or art. Playing with and caring for pets. Sport. Volunteer work.

You may feel that you're too busy to do these things. But making time to do something you enjoy can help you relax. You may amaze yourself at your additional capacity to get other things done, too.

Focus on the present. Meditation and guided imagery are two ways to focus and relax your mind. When you meditate, you focus your attention on things that are happening right now. With guided imagery, you imagine yourself in any setting that helps you feel calm and relaxed. You can use audiotapes, books, or a teacher to guide you.

Regular exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Walking is a great way to get started. Even everyday activities such as housework or light gardening can reduce stress. Stretching can also relieve muscle tension. Practices like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong combine exercise and meditation.

Most importantly, try to take ownership of the issue. Recognise when you’re affected and learn to identify the triggers. Conduct your own study to identify and select from the options that are available to restore calm.