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Stress has been called the spice of life, the common cold of the psyche, and even a socially acceptable form of mental illness. No doubt, stress can be beneficial but persistent or excessive stress can undermine performance and make us vulnerable to health problems, from cancer and heart disease to substance abuse and obesity. Stress is a physical and mental response to the difference between our expectations and our personal experience, real or imaginary.

Although occasional stress can be of benefit, too much stress is taxing on the body. Excessive levels of stress hormones can hinder growth, delay wound healing, and increase risk of infection.

Chronic stressors can make us believe that we must always be on guard, leading to anxiety.

Psychological distress can also lead to pain particularly in the head, neck and back. Stress may even be a more powerful pain generator than strenuous physical activity or repetitive motion. Research shows, for example, that pain in adolescents is associated with depression and stress, but not with computer use or physical activity.

The workplace has become a major stressor, contributing to the risk of hypertension and heart disease. Recent studies have shown, however, that what stresses us out is not so much the job demands, but our attitude toward them. For example, people who react with anger to their high job strain or who are worried about their chronic work overload have much higher morning stress hormone levels. Lack of a sense of control over a job is also associated with higher blood pressure.

Stress Relief Is Important

No matter what stresses you out, give yourself permission to take active steps to change your attitude toward stress and to reduce stress in your life.

Dr. Joseph Tansey is a Chiropractor in Groton, and lives with his wife and daughter in Pepperell. You can reach him at (978) 448-2800 or for more information.