Stress is a killer. The devastating effects from stress will creep up on you like a thief in the night and rob you of your life. If you're not careful, you won't be around to enjoy life's golden years or dote on your grandchildren. I hate to be this blunt, but this is a wakeup call.
What is stress? Your body is a unique construction of bones, muscles, blood vessels and an intricate nervous system that responds to interior and exterior threats. If a threat is perceived, your nervous system will release a stream of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. You become aroused and your body is now ready for action.
Here's what generally happens: Your heart revs, beating much faster than normal. Your blood pressure rises, muscles become tensed and breathing quickens. Your senses even become sharper, acute. Your body increases in stamina and is now prepared to meet any physical challenges or danger.
Essentially, your body has a defense mechanism that sounds an alarm when you're upset, feel threatened, or experience impending danger. Stress can save your life in an emergency situation by keeping you focused, alert and energetic. But then there's a downside to stress: It can cause major damage to your health, reduce your quality of life and cause death.
One out of 10 people is affected by stress in some way at any given moment. Stress can overtake you as well when there is change in your routine or environment. Nowadays, stress is more prevalent on jobs due to the uncertainty of the economy. The nation's unemployment rate hovers around 9 percent and jobs are scarce. There are many stressors, however, that can trigger ill health.
I can tell, in some cases, when people are struggling with stress. They tend to wear a contorted facial expression, smile less frequently, anger easily and wallow in a sad funk. Some people are naturally stressed over any little change in their lives. But then you may wonder: Is it possible for mankind to be stress-free? I think so – even if we're faced with the unexpected.
Why can't we just be happy and avoid the dangers of stress? Kind of reminds me of musician Bobby McFerrin's 1988 a cappella hit song, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." One verse of the lyrics goes like this: "Ain't got no place to lay your head/ Somebody came and took your bed/ But don't worry, be happy/ The land lord say your rent is late/ He may have to litigate but don't worry, be happy/ Look at me I am happy/ Don't worry, be happy."
Sounds like a 21st century problem to me. However, it's easier to sing about it than to actually eradicate the problem. McFerrin was on point in 1988, but the stressors of today can be too much of a burden for the shoulders of men and women who believe they have little reason to be happy.
Too many people are unhappy for any number of reasons and need a stress reliever. Stress, as I've mentioned earlier, can cause ill health and a number of catastrophic diseases, such as diabetes, strokes, cancer, obesity, lupus, high blood pressure and more.
I'm convinced that a lot of life's problems can be fixed if we tackle them when they arise. I know it's hard to do. But nothing beats a failure but a try, the old folks would say. It is not possible to eliminate stress altogether, but we should at least try to control, if you will, the unnecessary stressors.
So how do I respond to stress? I eat a daily portion of fresh fruits and vegetables and try to squeeze in time for exercise and relaxation despite having a busy schedule. Stress may not affect you the same as it does me. But it'll get better if you change your diet, exercise, drink plenty of water, and learn to relax. It might even help if you laugh a little.
Stress creates unbalanced emotions and instability. Many people have paid the ultimate price for not taking stress seriously. I cannot be any more forthright than I've been. Just eat right, exercise and find a way to relax. But most importantly, be happy and don't worry.