The Top 5 Most Stressful Life Events

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It might feel like stress is an emotional issue – something that lives strictly inside your head. But stress can be a physical issue as well.

Your body instinctively responds to changes and perceived threats, says Francoise Adan, MD, ABIHM, Medical Director, Connor Integrative Health Network. Your body reacts by releasing stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol to switch you into fight-or-flight mode.

Dr. Adan says stored-up stress can contribute to symptoms such as:

  • Inflammation
  • A compromised immune system
  • Digestion issues
  • Lower bone density in women
  • Loss of libido and sleep
  • Stronger emotional reactions from weariness to anxiety and agitation

“Day-to-day stress takes its toll on everyone,” she says. “We’re constantly bombarded by threats and changes, but because we don’t usually literally fight or run, we stay reactive. We’re bathed and flooded in stress hormones.”

The top five most stressful life events include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce
  • Moving
  • Major illness or injury
  • Job loss

How to Best Manage Stress

When stress strikes, you can take steps to alleviate the reaction that your body is undergoing. To alleviate symptoms and manage stress, Dr. Adan recommends these three steps:

1. Take action. Your body is primed to act, so go ahead and physically move.

“Contract your muscles, release and shake it out. You can march in place or wring a towel – 30 to 60 seconds will reboot your body and return you to physical stability,” Dr. Adan says.

2. Breathe. Hit the pause button and tune into yourself. Consider using guided imagery and mindfulness to engage in the moment. Being present will realign the body.

“Think: ‘I am here; it is what it is.’ It’s about acceptance, not control,” she says.

3. Feel good. Take 30 seconds to feel good. It’ll release the same endorphins you get when you exercise.

“Think about what you’re grateful for,” Dr. Adan says. “Tap or sing along to a song. I tell my clients to keep Play-Doh at their desks and take a minute to play.”

Research shows that using this type of framework for even five to 10 minutes a day will improve your health, longevity and productivity.

"Not one of us can’t spare five minutes a day,” Dr. Adan says. “It’s a choice for health.”

University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network’s S.M.A.R.T.™ (Stress Management and Resilience Training) Program can provide additional tips and practices for managing stress. It’s an eight-week series led by experts on stress resilience.

“If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others. Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish – it’s a responsibility,” Dr. Adan says.

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