Best stress


IT'S THE 11TH HOUR — as I write this editor's letter, I mean. I've put it off, worried about it, turned it around and around in my mind, and generally let it become a really big deal. That's because, as I've come to understand myself, I thrive on stress.

Actually, we all do. We need stress to get us fired up in the morning, to help us plow through to-do lists, to perform well at work and at play. Stress is what keeps us engaged in the world and helps us define what's important. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Bulletin found that short bursts of stress — the kind we might experience prior to giving a speech, returning a killer tennis serve, or running away from the proverbial saber-toothed tiger — may even strengthen the immune system.

But if stress is so good for us, why does it usually feel so bad? Because we don't shut it off, that's why. When we experience extended stress due to life's circumstances — or because our mindset requires us to be "stressed out" to feel that we're fully participating in this messy modern world — it diminishes our natural defenses and has corrosive emotional and physical repercussions.

The key to benefiting from stress, according to the Bulletin, is to stay focused on its end — and to make sure it has one! To become healthy, we have to be as willing to release our stress as to embrace it. Easier said than done? Not necessarily.

This issue of NATURAL HEALTH is dedicated to helping you make the most (the least?) of stress. In our Stress Workbook, beginning on page 66, you'll find plenty of mental strategies and a wealth of fitness, nutrition and lifestyle tips for keeping stress in check. Did you know, for example, that you can reduce your tension based on what you eat? (And we're not talking about Doritos, Ding Dongs and Jack Daniel's.) You'll also discover blissfully simple self-massage techniques to eliminate stress reactions in the lymphatic and digestive systems. But my favorite stress solution appears on page 75 — and now that this letter is done, there's a healing bath in my very near future.



By Hillari Dowdle

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