Stress, a cascade of physical reactions to an overload of the hormone cortisol, can wreak all manner of damage on the human body. Your best defense? Understanding what causes it (and there are many triggers) so you can take steps to prevent those negative effects.

Perhaps the most well-known type of stress, the true "big guns" when it comes to negative effects, is your mindset. This is the one most people think of when they hear the word "stress," that nagging feeling that follows you throughout a high-pressure or high-expectation situation, often leaving you feeling jumpy or defensive even after the situation cools. We'll look at that major cause, of course, then move on to a lesser known group that, over the long term, can have silent but equally frightening effects.

Roll up your sleeves and join me as we identify the things that make our stress levels rise--and then put them back in their places to reclaim good health!

Stress #1: Your Thinking
The body/mind connection is strong. What you are thinking and the emotions you are feeling can actually manifest in your body physically. When stress and pressure build, the load they place on your body causes constriction, resulting in a whole cascade of events and symptoms. These range from the relatively minor, such as achiness and fatigue, to the serious, including recurring headaches, debilitating pain, immune issues, and hormonal imbalances.

Our mindsets--perceptions and beliefs--are often influenced by past responses that helped preserve us in dangerous situations throughout human history. Even if the original circumstances (think saber-tooth tigers) are no longer present in our lives, our ingrained response determines how we react to other stresses, sometimes even harmless ones. This "flight or fight" pattern becomes entrenched in our everyday lives, affecting how we behave under ordinary, more minor stress from finances, work, family, and health issues. The result: overproduction of the stress hormone cortisol--a life-saving biochemical during an actual threat, but one that causes unwanted effects when it builds up in the body unnecessarily.

Your Stress-Buster: Look realistically at every situation that makes your stress response rise. First, gain perspective as to whether or not it is really "threatening." (Example: Canceled flights and traffic delays are inconveniences, not threats.) Next, take control by considering your own responsibility. If something is beyond your control--a stressor such as a poor work situation or inconvenient weather clearly is not your fault--don't own them. Instead, make the conscious choice to seize the thing you CAN control: How you think about what's happening. Consider your many options for approaching the challenge. For example, can you come up with an alternate route, reschedule, or call on someone who's able to support you? You don't have to remain helpless. Mobilize! This keeps you calm within while seeking strategies that will get you through the stress in your life.

Stress #2: Heavy Metals and Other Toxins
Food processing, industry, and agriculture are just some of the ways that we become exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in our air, food supply, and water. Their effects on the body are far-reaching, from hormonal and immune issues to neurological and allergy problems, and the list continues to grow. Compounds that seep from plastic bottles and wraps are just one category of products recently to come under intense scrutiny for their negative effects on the human body.

Your Stress-Buster: Become a committed label reader! Fill your grocery basket with foods that are hormone-free and organic to reduce your consumption of harmful pesticides, growth-boosters, or other additives that are sprayed on or ingested by the food source. Remember to pay attention to non-food packages, too, because many synthetic fragrances in detergents, room sprays, and dryer sheets are also stress-triggering culprits. Whenever possible, choose unscented or naturally scented products. At home, have your water tested to be sure what you're drinking is safe. Finally, consider beginning to undo any existing toxin damage to your body by using a quality liver cleanse product.

Now, a homework assignment: Take a good look at your personal and professional world, and identify your possible sources of mindset and toxin stress. Look at each individually and realistically: Can you avoid these stressors? If so, how? Be prepared: Map your plan before you need it! And remember, you have not failed in the stress-reduction task if you are not able to completely avoid a trigger. Change your approach with this empowering question: What steps can I take to minimize the negative effect on my wellness?

Author's Bio: 

Roberta Roberts Mittman, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., M.S., is a nutritional and lifestyle consultant, holistic mindset mentor, and nationally board-certified acupuncturist. Using natural, drug-free techniques, Roberta opens the door to complete mind-body health. Roberta's goal is not only to relieve patients' illness and discomfort, but to help them set realistic goals for physical and mental preventative care and overall wellness. Roberta believes in empowering individuals to be their own best healers.