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April is Stress Awareness Month

Life can be full of deadlines, demands and busy schedules which can be stressful.   Many people are so used to the hustle and bustle of everyday life that being stressed has become "normal" for them and they aren't even aware that they are stressed and how it may affect them.   Stress Awareness Month has been held in April in the United States since 1992 to help alert people to the causes, effects and management of stress.  

According to Wikipedia, stress is an organism's response to a stressor such as an environmental condition or a stimulus.   According to the stressful event, the body's way to respond to stress is by the sympathetic nervous system which results in the Fight-or-Flight response.

The Fight-or-Flight response is a survival mechanism that's "hard wired" into our nervous systems. This automatic response is necessary for mobilizing quick reflexes when there is imminent danger, such as swerving to avoid a car crash.   When you perceive a threat, stress hormones rush into your bloodstream-increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Other hormones also suppress functions like digestion and the immune system, which is one of the reasons why chronic stress can leave you more vulnerable to illness.   ( U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)

The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors . We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you or forces you to adjust can be stressful.   This includes positive stressors events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.

What causes stress depends, at least in part, on your perception of it. Something that's stressful to you may not faze someone else; they may even enjoy it. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more than enough time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.   (

Whether the stressors are good or bad, too much stress over time is not healthy for your mental or physical well being.   The body was not meant to have a Fight-or-Flight response on a daily basis but rather for real danger.   Some people inappropriately respond to perceived danger the same as real danger.   For instance, if one is prone to constant worry, bad memories or anxiety, the response may be the same and can have a negative impact on one's well being.   Although one bad day won't compromise your health, weeks or months of stress can dampen your immune response and raise your risk for disease.    ( U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)   Stress can be linked to headaches, an upset stomach, back pain, and trouble sleeping. It can weaken your immune system, making it harder to fight off disease. If you already have a health problem, stress may make it worse. It can make you moody, tense, or depressed. Your relationships may suffer, and you may not do well at work or school.   (

If you exhibit some of the symptoms of stress, you may want to try these 10 healthy habits recommended by the American Heart Association

  1. Talk with family and friends - Call, write or email.
  2. Engage in daily physical activity - Exercise helps burn excess energy caused by stress and increases endorphins, which trigger positive feelings.
  3. Accept the things you cannot change - Choose to focus on what you can do.
  4. Remember to laugh - Laughter makes you feel good.
  5. Give up the bad habits - Too much alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine can increase stress.
  6. Slow down - Try to "pace" instead of "race."
  7. Get enough sleep - Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night.
  8. Get organized - Use "to do" lists to help you focus.
  9. Practice giving back - Volunteer or help others.
  10. Try not to worry - Things may need to get done, but not necessarily today.

While you can't avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it.   Remember, you have the ability to choose your response to stressors and implement strategies to combat them.   Setting aside just 10-15 minutes a day for yourself can help.   Try yoga, meditation, go for a walk, have a cup of tea or take a bath.   The ultimate reward for your efforts is a healthy, balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun.  

If you are stressed and can't manage all of life's demands on your own, seek help.   If you need help caring for elderly, infirm or disabled loved ones, Synergy HomeCare of North Orange County can help with personal care, housekeeping, transportation and companionship at affordable rates.   We service Fullerton , Sivlerado, Orange , Brea and most cities in North Orange County .   Contact us today regarding a free, no-obligation visit to your home to assess your personal care needs.

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