Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Coping with Stress: Distress, Eustress, and Destress

This is a topic we're all getting very familiar with: stress. Biologically speaking, stress refers to the failure of an organism to respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats, whether those threats are real or imagined. Short term effects of stress on human beings result in a physiological state of alarm creating elevated levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters associated with blood pressure, heart rate, and insomnia. Stress can also lead to a decrease in serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter which keeps epinephrine and norepinephrine levels in check. This vicious circle can lead to anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, and other physiological maladies including decreased production of dopamine, which controls the human body's way of inducing states of relaxation and mental focus. In fact, it is estimated that between 60% and 90% of all doctors' visits are directly correlated to high stress levels.

Dealing with stress can take a negative and turn it into a positive. In fact, the term "eustress" (derived from the Greek "eu," meaning well, or good) denotes a physiological response to stress which leads to a positive adaptation. One example of eustress is found in the training principle of sports periodization whereby judiciously applied intense intervals of physiological stress (training) produce the adaptive benefit of strength and improved performance.

Another form of eustress comes in the form of regular exercise. Working exercise into your daily routine is the single best way to deal with stress. Exercise can dramatically counter the short term effects of stress by increasing endorphin levels, which in cause disinhibits the brain's production of dopamine and serotonin. Increased levels of endorphins cause the euphoric feeling known as "runners' high," improve mental clarity and focus, reduce insomnia, decrease the desire for fatty and high carbohydrate foods, and generally impart a feeling of control and overall well being.

At Cadence, exercise is the core of our existence. Using our expertise in the fields of cycling, running, swimming, and multisport we are here to help you take control of your life by turning your stress into a positive. Stop by Cadence NY or Cadence Philadelphia and we'll suggest events, services, products, and other ways you can turn distress into eustress so you can feel better about yourself, sleep better at night, improve your relationships, and focus better to take control of your life!

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