This story is from a fellow fitness enthusiast, Mike. Mike has written for us in the past (Do You Workout Too Much?). but today comes to us to share his thoughts on stress – everyone has it. Some reader stories contain general advice about health and personal development. Others can be examples of how a YLB reader achieved success or failure. Want to submit your own reader story? You can do so here

Who has stress?

I guess you could say that everyone has stress in some form or another.

What can cause stress?

– Your health (chronic illness, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis).
– Emotional problems (anger, depression, grief, guilt, low self-esteem).
– Relationships (problems with relationships, lack of friendships, lack of support).
– Major life changes (death in the family, getting married, moving to a new city).
– Family (having a child teen, another family member is under stress, being a caregiver).
– Your Surroundings (Noisy, polluted, overcrowding, crime)
– Your Social Situation (Not having enough money, feeling lonely)
– Your Job (Unhappy with work, too demanding, conflicts with your boss)
– Unemployment (losing your job, not finding any work)

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t think of many situations in our daily life that don’t cause some kind of stress. Stress in itself seems to depend on the individual. One person can experience a stressful situation and the same experience can be a matter of fact occurrence for someone else. There are levels of stress too. (Great… If stress itself wasn’t bad enough, now there are different levels!?).

Here is an example:

How would you feel if you are asked to go in front of a large group of people and give a speech? Would you totally freak out? You might start to sweat, your heart starts to beat faster, and your hands may start to tremble. Your vocal chords tighten up. Finally you start to speak and what comes out sounds more like a wounded moose than your normal voice.

Someone else may experience this same situation and have no stress at all. This person could possibly speak to groups on a regular basis as part of their job function. They may never have had an issue speaking to groups since they were young. In this case they would not perceive any negative effects and have little to no stress involved.

It’s all in your head.

Potentially stressful situations like the example above affect us daily. Between 60 to 90 percent of visits to health care professionals are for stress related problems. Let’s see what all of this does to your body:

• Constant stress can affect your immune system. You are more likely to get sick more often. I remember several times just being “wiped out” when volunteering for overtime at work. You work your normal days plus overtime with no time off to recuperate and regenerate.
• Stress can really affect your heart. Links to high blood pressure, abnormal heart beat, blood clots, hardening of the arteries, coronary artery disease, heart attack and heart failure.
• Stress can cause neck, shoulder, and low back pain from tense muscles
• If you have stomach problems, stress can make your symptoms worse. This includes, peptic ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD).
• Low fertility, erection problems, problems during pregnancy and painful menstrual periods can be some of the reproductive organ issues linked to stress.
• Stress can make symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) worse.
• An extreme reaction to stress is a panic attack.

We have seen that stress is all around us on a daily basis. So what do we do about it? I vote to win the lottery and retire on my own tropical island. Well, until that time comes, I think we need to get a handle on our daily stress and start to manage it.

How to manage stress – Exercise!

What exercise can do for your stress and your body:
• Pumps up your brains feel good neurotransmitters (endorphins).
• Endorphins can diminish the perception of pain. They can also act as sedatives. Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
• Preliminary evidence suggests that physically active people have lower rates of anxiety and depression than sedentary people.
• The movement and physical activity helps shed your tensions and calm you.
• Increased self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Research has shown that exercise is an effective but often underused treatment for mild to moderate depression. It appears that any form of exercise can help depression.
• Improves sleep

Emotional benefits of exercise?

When your waistline shrinks and your strength and stamina increase, your self-image will improve. Yeah! I can fit into my favorite old jeans again!

I was reading this account of scientists running stress and exercise experiments on rats. Depriving exercise to certain groups, forcing exercise on other groups, and letting one group exercise at their own pace. The group that was forced to exercise and the group that exercised at their own pace were much more stress free and less anxious afterwards, (even if they didn’t have fun during the workout). The group that was sedentary was extremely anxious and ran for the cover of darkness whenever they could.

I can just hear it now… “I get stressed just going to the gym”. You don’t have to go to a gym to get some exercise. You can do this anywhere and you don’t need any special equipment.

Did you know that as little as 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects? (See Matt’s article on What Exactly Is Aerobic Exercise?).

Help lower your daily stress and get out there and get some exercise!

Reminder: This is a story from one of your fellow readers. Please be respectful!. It can be a bit nerve-wrecking to put your story out for others to read for the first time. Keep in mind that this guest isn’t a professional writer; just a person with a passion for healthy living like you. Negative comments on reader stories will be removed.