Quickly answer these stress questions:
- You always know it when you’re stressed out.
AnswerCorrect Answer : False Seems obvious, right? But some people, especially if they’ve been under stress for a long time, don’t realize that a range of symptoms — head, back or neck pain, a racing heart, even maddening forgetfulness — isn’t normal. They think it is just part of life. If this describes you, try to spot patterns by keeping a stress diary for a week or two. Write down any symptoms you feel, as well as what’s happening in your life when you notice them.
- Someone who’s sad and withdrawn may also be stressed.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True Thanks to a mix of genetics, hormones and cultural factors, stress affects everyone in different ways. Many people become agitated, irritable, anxious or fretful — the stress symptoms that most of us know about. But some people shut down, space out, pull inward or even freeze up.
- All continuous stress — whether short-term or long-term — is bad for you.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True Some stress is normal and necessary. The stress hormones — adrenaline, cortisol — released by the brain sharpen our attention and can spur us on to take much-needed action. But our bodies weren’t designed to handle high levels of stress hormones day after day, year after year. When these hormones continuously flood the brain, they weaken blood vessels, kill off neurons and even shrink the hippocampus, a known risk factor for late-life Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stress causes many health problems — and makes others worse.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True When you’re under prolonged stress, you may get sick more and you’re at greater risk for a whole host of health issues — including hypertension, stroke, heart attack, diabetes and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). You’re also more likely to become obese and depressed — two major risk factors for dementia.
- If you’ve been a high-anxiety person your whole life, there’s not a lot you can do about it now.
AnswerCorrect Answer : False Stress may be unavoidable, but stress-reduction techniques, coupled with increased exercise and dietary changes, may slow or even reverse the damage caused by the stress of everyday life. A large retrospective study of over 13,000 men and women 40 to 55 years old published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that those who were depressed at midlife were much more likely to develop dementia in late life. But here’s the good news: Those who took steps to reduce their stress had no increased risk for dementia.
- To get the stress-reducing benefit of exercise, you need to make major lifestyle changes.
AnswerCorrect Answer : False Exercise short-circuits the stress response by triggering the release of the protein BDNF (brain-derived neuropathic factor), which nourishes cell growth, as well as endorphins, brain chemicals that boost feelings of well-being, ease muscle tension and improve sleep. But you don’t have to train for a marathon to reap those benefits. Studies have shown that only 150 minutes a week (that’s 30 to 45 minutes, five times a week) of moderate aerobic exercise will do it. Walking briskly qualifies, so does jogging, swimming, biking, playing with your grandkids or even gardening. (But couch potatoes should start slowly, 10-15 minutes every other day, and check with their doctor first.)
- Meditation can help you reduce stress.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True Practiced regularly, meditation can reduce your stress level. It can also boost feelings of joy and serenity and increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure. There are many different types of meditation, so try several until you find one that feels right for you.
- If you’re rested, you’ll feel less stressed.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True People don’t give sleep the credit it deserves. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sticking to a regular schedule of 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night is essential for easing tension and boosting the emotional stamina needed to deal with stressful situations. Promise yourself you’ll go to bed and wake up about the same time every day. If sleep eludes you, don’t toss and turn. Get up, read a book or listen to music until you start to feel sleepy. Avoid smoking, caffeine or highly acidic foods two to three hours before bedtime, and unplug from all technology — TV, computers and mobile phones — at least 30 minutes before lights out.
- Worrying a lot about little things also wreaks havoc on your mind and body.
AnswerCorrect Answer : True Researchers at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, found that dwelling on upsetting events ratchets up levels of inflammation throughout the body, leaving you more susceptible to age-related diseases, including dementia. If this sounds like you, schedule a worry break: Set aside 15 minutes a day to dwell on problems and concerns. When that time is up, though, tell yourself to STOP (or picture a large red stop sign). Or try keeping a “worry” journal for one week. You may be surprised by week’s end.
(Reproduced from AARP)