Stress and Fitness

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Stress. How Are You Coping with It?  Is it Killing You?

Life and stress – they go hand in hand. You will experience lots of stress in your life. There is no getting around it. I believe that the degree to which you effectively manage and cope with the stressors in your life will, to a very large extent, determine the degree to which you are healthy. When you turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with the stress, your physical and emotional health will suffer. As well, your body’s immediate reaction to stress can result in physical symptoms.

When you are unhealthy, or engaged in unhealthy habits, you are prevented from being your best!

There are many, many things and circumstances that can be stressors for a person. Inconveniences such as weather, traffic and unexpected emergencies are a category of stressors. Chronic issues like relationship conflicts, job insecurity, financial strain or uncertainty, work problems and long-term health issues can all be stressful. Life events and transitions can be a challenge for us.  Things like a death of a loved one, a job change, a divorce and a relocation to a new town can all be unsettling.

Early life trauma, and its associated memory, can be a unique source of stress for a person. Medical research shows that negative experiences from decades past can be underlying issues that impact on a person’s health-related behaviors in the present. Recurrent emotional, sexual or physical abuse, an alcoholic parent, a single parent home are examples of childhood trauma that might cause health problems in adulthood. (Read more about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study)

Stressors like those previously mentioned, and other challenging life circumstances, can impact on our behaviors. Many men turn to food as a way to cope with stress. Others turn to the use of drugs. Some turn to alcohol. Some turn to pornography or illicit sex. Still others light up a cigarette. Some burn the midnight oil surfing the Internet and pay for it the next day because they have had inadequate sleep. There are innumerable unhealthy ways in which a person might attempt to cope with the various stressors in their life.

Poorly managed stress, especially chronic stress, can also adversely impact your physical health in many, many ways. The hormones and chemicals that are released into the body and the associated inflammation that occurs can wreck havoc on the systems and organs of the body. Heart disease, intestinal issues, and muscular pain are examples. In fact, some research shows that up to 90% of physician office visits have stress-related components! (Read more details about how stress affects your health by visiting this link on the American Psychological Association’s website.)

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We view potential stressors of life and react to events in life through “lenses.” This diagram demonstrates how aspects of one’s life can impact on their beliefs and attitudes, which can have a corresponding impact on their choices and resulting lifestyle habits.  Our repeated behaviors will become our habits and it’s one’s habits that determine how they respond to potential stressors. This, in turn, will hugely impact on one’s health and quality of life.

I have a few questions for you. How do you cope with your stress?  Is it in a healthy way or an unhealthy way? Could poorly managed chronic stress be taking a toll on your mental, emotional or physical health?

At the link provided above to the American Psychological Association’s website you’ll find some techniques to better manage the stressors of your life. If you recognize that your life is spiraling out of control, due to excessive or chronic stress, you may also benefit from seeking and receiving help from a professional.

Your faith can also be a resource, an anchor, which keeps you steady in times of stress.  If embraced and practiced, there are many biblical principles that can be a cornerstone for your life and enable you to live a life that is less impacted by stressful circumstances. Read more about stress and health from a faith perspective at this link on my website – Stress, Health and Faith.

Stress can even kill you if you don’t manage or cope with it adequately. Many fatal heart attacks stem from a stressful event or series of stressful events.

Uncommen men make a regular habit of taking time to reflect on their life and evaluate how they’re managing their stress. And they also practice habits to effectively cope with their stressors. Because, when they do a good job managing their stressors, they are creating an environment within themselves to be healthier.

When Uncommen men are healthier, they’re better able to do what God put them on earth to do.

Dale Fletcher, M.S., is the Founder and Executive Director of Faith and Health Connection ministry where he shares biblical truths about health and wholeness. Connect with him at www.FaithandHealthConnection.org.


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