Test Your Stress IQ!

Monday, March 15, 2010 | 0 comments »

By Monica Gomez

Feeling a bit stressed lately? With words like "financial meltdown," "recession," and "mortgage crisis" being heard a lot in the media lately, it's natural to feel stressed and worried. How much do you know about this all-too-familiar, and sometimes debilitating, feeling?
  1. What is eustress? Not all types of stress are considered negative or harmful. In fact, eustress, as outlined in Dr. Richard Lazarus' stress model in 1974, is a positive type of stress related to fun and excitement. Examples of eustress include the thrill experienced on a roller coaster, the excitement felt after winning a race, the thrill experienced while watching a scary movie, and the happiness felt toward the birth of a child. And exercise is also stress—and that's definitely good for you. However, any type of stress can still prove taxing after a while on your mental and physical well-being, so it's important to allow for downtime to recover.
  2. What are some effects of having high and prolonged levels of cortisol? Cortisol, commonly referred to as the "stress hormone" because it's excreted in higher numbers during the body's "fight or flight" response to stress, has both positive and negative effects on your body. Cortisol is necessary for several important bodily functions: proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, and immune function. While small increases of cortisol have positive effects, including heightened memory functions and lower sensitivity to pain, high and prolonged levels can impair cognitive performance, decrease bone density, raise blood pressure, and lower immunity, among other negative effects. To maintain healthy cortisol levels, several activites are recommended: yoga, breathing exercises, and, of course, exercise! A healthy diet can also help maintain cortisol levels. If your diet is out of sorts, a fish oil supplement, like Core Omega-3, can help your cortisol levels, too.
  3. What are leading sources of high and significant stress in the U.S., according to a 2007 American Psychological Association survey? According to the American Psychological Association's (APA's) 2007 survey, "Stress in America," survey respondents listed work (74 percent), money (73 percent), and workload (66 percent) as the most significant sources of stress in their lives. Other factors were ranked as follows: children (64 percent); family responsibilities (60 percent); health concerns (55 percent); health problems affecting spouse, partner, or children (55 percent); health problems affecting respondents' parents or other family members (53 percent); housing costs, i.e., mortgage or rent (51 percent); and intimate relationships (47 percent). And 79 percent of respondents stated that stress is a natural part of life—with 32 percent experiencing extreme levels of stress. We at Beachbody® are familiar with the impact of stress on eating habits. The APA asked the following of study participants: "During the last month, on the days you ate too much or ate unhealthy foods because you were feeling stressed, what kind of foods did you eat?" And the top three answers: Candy/chocolate (candy bars, chocolate, hard candy, gum, mints, etc.) ranked number one at 65 percent; ice cream ranked second at 56 percent; and potato chips (Cheetos, tortilla chips, potato chips, Terra chips, etc.) ranked third at 53 percent—not surprisingly, perhaps, fruit and vegetables ranked at 14 percent and 8 percent, respectively.
  4. What is PTSD? Mayo Clinic defines PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, as "a type of anxiety disorder that's triggered by an extremely traumatic event. You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when a traumatic event happens to you or when you see a traumatic event happen to someone else." Myriad symptoms are associated with PTSD and may include flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days; irritability or anger; trouble sleeping; and memory problems, among other symptoms. People of any age can have PTSD, though it's more common among adults—according to Mayo Clinic, about 7 to 8 percent have PTSD at some point in their lives. About 5 million U.S. adults have PTSD in a given year, and it is especially common among people who have served in combat.
  5. What "feel-good" hormone is released during exercise? Endorphin—which we at Beachbody write about often. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce pain perception. They act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. As Mayo Clinic states, "Physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner's high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling." So whether it's a round of 10-Minute Trainer®, Turbo Jam®, or Yoga Booty Ballet®, or a walk, hike, or game of football, you can reap the benefits of the "feel-good" hormone.