There are many types of stressors we encounter in our daily lives.  A stressor is a type of threat to our mind, body, or emotional state.  A stressor can be the environment we are (or will be) in such as work, being in a dentist’s office, or dinner with your mother-in-law.  A stressor can also be a type of larger life event or occurrence such as the death of a loved one, or the losing of a job.  There can also be smaller threats, or micro-stressors, that could include the day-to-day occurrences, such as traffic or spilling food on oneself.  Whenever I spill coffee in the morning, I feel so much stress because it just tells me what kind of day it is going to be.  Now, whether a person is exposed to large or micro stressors, the body is being weighed down with the amount of hormones being released into the body, causing a decline in the immune system.  This can make the body more susceptible to illnesses and disease.

When we encounter any kind of stress, our body releases hormones such as cortisol.  We have heard over the past years that high levels of cortisol result in weight gain or the inability to lose weight.  There are all sorts of over-the-counter drugs that are supposed to bring down the levels of cortisol so that you can lose weight.  The problem here is that you have to take drugs that have other side effects, in addition to the side effects you already have with the stress of simply trying to lose weight.  The release of high levels of cortisol caused by stress can bring on fatigue and illness.  Our immune system releases certain hormones as a way of protecting itself.  Cortisol is released to actually reduce inflammation caused by viruses and bacteria.  However, when we feel those high levels of stress or have a constant level of stress, the body simply becomes insensitive to cortisol and other hormones that are supposed to help keep us well.  We, in turn, get sick.  I don’t know about you, but I like to find ways to let my body do what it is supposed to do, which is to fight viruses and bacteria so that I don’t get sick.  And there are so many ways for us to naturally minimize high levels of stress hormones. 

As discussed before, safeguards are one way to handle or manage stress.  Other strategies are problem-focused coping and emotion-focused coping.  Problem-focused coping is dealing directly with the problem, making changes as necessary, such as taking a different route to avoid traffic, or avoiding the supermarket at its busiest time (my husband will not go to the market on Sundays). Emotion-focused coping is dealing with our own internal feelings when we are unable to change those things that cause us stress, such as sending email correspondence to a co-worker rather than talking to them face-to-face when you know they cause you stress.  Today, I am very grateful for text messaging so I do not have to call people that cause me stress, I just need to simply text people that annoy me (I mean, people who cause me stress).

I will continue to write about stress and our health. It is one of those things that we can help to reduce without the use of anything unnatural.  People talk about herbal tea and yoga.  I believe these types of things do reduce and manage stress.  I, however, am not a person to do either of those things.  I exercise daily (running, weights, throwing things), eat lots of greens and fish (I am a pescatarian), take a long route home with the windows down and the music up, and, as I said before, long baths with music and a nice bottle of Chianti (but no fava beans).

Professor Mercy