Humans like other vertebrates respond to stress by releasing hormones such as adrenaline and glucocorticoids. There is probably an evolutionary advantage to this when we are faced with great danger and have to respond quickly; however, it can be more harmful if it is continuously triggered at a low level by the demands in our lives. Many of us are constantly multi-processing as we are trying to balance our work and home responsibilities. When demands increase beyond our abilities to manage them we trigger our stress response. Too often, we underestimate the effects of chronic stress, which can increase our risks for obesity, heart disease and depression. Our habits deteriorate when we are under stress, and based on our personal coping mechanisms, we may eat poorly, exercise less, and sleep less.
There are many ways to handle stress, and I have found that returning to the ancient wisdom of yoga, tai-chi, and meditation to be useful for me. Practicing mindfulness is another way that is gaining popularity. This can be done anywhere, and in fact some organizations provide their employees with training on this. Physical exercise can also be used to reduce stress.
I will be adding more information on these sub-topics in the following posts as we build this site.