The answer to that question can guide you toward relief. Although some stress can help us stay alert, most of us are subjected to too much of it without relief, and it eventually takes its toll on our bodies. See how you fare on HeartMath’s stress indicators test below and link to their recommendations for improvement.
What Is Stress?
Until fairly recently, the definition of the word stress did not include applications to the human body. It was and is, as Webster’s notes, “a strain or straining force exerted upon a body that tends to strain or deform its shape”—a meaning that pretty much hits the mark when applied to people. When needed, some stress keeps us alert and prepared for the challenges in our lives. Excessive or adverse stress, however—the kind first described in 1936 by Canadian physician and researcher Hans Selye—can put great strain on us and threaten our well-being. Stress can cause irritability, muscle tension, depression, sleeplessness, loss of memory or other cognitive function, and far more serious problems, including increased heart rate and blood pressure, palpitations, and ultimately cardiac arrest.
Take the Stress Test
See if any of the following symptoms apply to you or someone you know:
- Irritability: Shorter fuse these days? The little things make you angrier?
- Sense of humor: Laughing less, too serious?
- Worry: Reliving or projecting future anxious emotional experiences? Depressed, resigned over the way things are?
- Excessiveness: Eating and/or drinking too much? Too many mood-altering stimulants?
- Forgetfulness: Can’t remember little things lately? Have mental gridlock?
- Aches and pains: Recurring headaches, frequent gastrointestinal distress, tension in face, jaw, shoulders, back or chest?
- Nervousness: Talking faster, more than in the past?
- Fatigue: Feeling rundown a lot? Tired but can’t get restful sleep?
- Illness: Suffering allergies, colds, flu, and other ailments more often?
- Time pressure: Often feel as if there is not enough time and/or too much to do?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, there’s a good chance you are experiencing some degree of chronic stress, but take heart: You can control your stress and HeartMath will help.
One tip: Take five minutes several times a day, whether or not you’re feeling especially stressed, to try these simple steps adapted from the HeartMath Attitude Breathing® tool.
- Focus on your heart as you breathe in.
- Concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude as you breathe out.
- Lock in this new feeling as you continue to breathe it in and out through your heart.
- As you become adept at using this HeartMath tool, select new feelings that help you “de-stress” as needed.
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