by Chris Woolston
The Lowdown on Stress
You can't get far in life without a little stress. The shaky feeling you get before a job interview? That's stress. Those jangly nerves that make you stammer when asking for a date? That's stress talking. And the feeling of elation you get when you actually land that job or that date despite yourself? Welcome to Stress City.
Any shift away from ordinary, everyday life -- whether the change is positive or negative -- may cause stress. When there's a break in your routine, your brain often sounds an alarm by releasing "stress hormones" such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are more than just alarm bells; they're potent chemicals that have a striking impact on the entire body. They make your heart pound faster and speed up your breathing, a one-two combination that primes your muscles for action. (In a real emergency, your blood flow can increase up to 400 percent.) The hormones also slow down the digestive system and parts of the immune system. In a crisis, the body has more important things to do than digest lunch or fight a few germs.
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