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Art of health: Stress can be good for you

By: Ginger Klein Special to The Gazette
May 14, 2013
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Many tout the benefits of moderation, from how many times you indulge in desserts to how much television you allow your children to watch. You can add stress to this list.

In addition to preparing the body to run or to fight in response to a threat, stress activates brain cells, thereby playing a part to help counter memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer's disease. It also can boost immunity and aid in brief periods of increased performance or focus.

Fortunately, the average person doesn't have to be concerned with finding ample stress opportunities - they exist naturally! But it can be helpful to recognize that even if you could eliminate all stress, it would not be beneficial. Along those lines, it would be impossible to insert the right amount of stress to keep you healthy and yet stop short of its negative effects.

To reap the benefits of a moderate degree of stress, we have to recognize when stress gets out of control.

Headaches, body aches and illness are among some of the signs of excessive stress. Changes in mood, irritability and sleep patterns as well as the inability to concentrate or manage anger and anxiety can be other indicators of stress that has become unhealthy.

A wealth of material exists when it comes to advice on managing stress. The Relaxation Response popularized by Herbert Benson is a step-by-step method employing brain training and directed thinking. At the opposite end of the spectrum, putting meditation in motion through exercise is a proven way to reduce the symptoms of stress and use your body's natural chemicals (endorphins) to your benefit.

Lastly, some find success in scheduling a time (15 minutes) to air their stresses and then a time to stop, having found freedom in the exercise itself.

But remember, stress in moderation can be your ally.

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Klein is a 1st degree Black Belt in taekwondo and practices at the U.S. Taekwondo Center, serving the region for 26 years. For more information, call 488-4321.

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