Stress: How It Can Help, Disable, or Kill Us!

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Living to 100 Series

By Mike DuBose with Blake DuBose and Dr. Surb Guram, MD

Stress: a new epidemic

“I’m so busy.” “I’m exhausted.” “I hate my job.” “I’ve got so much to do.” “I feel overwhelmed.”Phrases like these pop up with alarming frequency in conversations today. America is the land of the free, the brave….and some of the most stress-ridden humans on the planet. For some, it even seems to be a point of pride, as Edward Hallowell, MD, author of CrazyBusy: Overbooked, Overstretched, and About to Snap reported. He wrote, “People joke about being crazy busy. Sometimes they brag about it, like busy is a status symbol. But they don’t realize that it is harmful for them as obesity or cigarette smoking.” Between our jobs, volunteerism, relationships, marriages, family lives, parenting, care-giving, and other sources of stress, our lives are busier than ever, and our anxiety levels are at an all-time high—which can put our health in danger. Although some stress can actually improve your life, prolonged, intense stress causes physical, mental, and emotional problems and increases the likelihood of disease and death. Fortunately, however, there are some actions we can take to reduce stress and regain control over our lives.

Can stress be good for you?

To a certain degree, anxiety and stress are a normal part of our lives. Reasonable amounts can actually keep us healthier and happier, according to experts like Richard Shelton, MD, of the University of Alabama’s Department of Psychiatry, who spoke to Amanda MacMillan for an ABC News article. “We hear over and over again that stress is unhealthy. And all that talk makes us, well, stressed. But getting worked up isn’t always a bad thing…after all, the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response is meant to be protective, not harmful,” MacMillan paraphrased. Research shows that stress, when harnessed, can have numerous positive results:

  1. Stress can increase brain power and memory. Low levels of stress cause the brain to generate chemicals called neurotrophins, which strengthen neuron connections. This creates a state of focus and strengthens memory and learning ability.
  2. Stress can stimulate creativity. Great artists, leaders, and writers throughout history have produced some of their best work after periods of increased stress. When the brain undergoes stress, it is pushed out of its relaxed state and forced to see things differently, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
  3. In its early stages, stress can be good for your immune system. When the body needs short bursts of energy to cope with stress, it produces the hormone cortisol and extra interleukins (immune system-regulating chemicals). Both of these give a temporary bonus to the body’s immune system, which can help protect it from disease or injury.
  4. Dealing with stress boosts resilience. Learning to cope with stressful situations helps us address future situations more calmly and rationally. According to Shelton, the stressful trainings undergone by Navy SEALS build a sense of mental, emotional, and physical power. The SEALs are then prepared to approach actual combat with their enhanced control.
  5. Physical stress can make you feel better. Stress experienced during fitness training or workouts releases endorphins, known as the brain’s “feel good” chemicals.
  6. Stress pushes us to solve problems. Small amounts of worry help us concentrate on finding solutions to issues. In addition to drawing on our experiences and values, our subconscious will also sometimes step up to help solve the problem and relieve the stress.
  7. Stress can help us protect our families. When parents and grandparents experience elevated stress levels, they are more alert and can act quickly and definitively to care for their children and grandchildren. 
  8. Moderate levels of workplace stress increase productivity. A little sense of urgency helps keep people focused on getting things done. (Scientists call this positive type of stress “eustress.”) According to Shelton, “The key is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, impassable roadblock.” Successful employees and leaders turn stress into positive, motivational energy instead of allowing the stressful situations to consume their thoughts in negative and unproductive ways.
  9. Stress can make your life exciting. We sometimes take on projects that stress us out, but the end result is very worthwhile. For example, every year, I work with others to coordinate a classic car and arts show at my church that draws more than 1,000 attendees. It’s stressful every step of the way, but is also a welcome challenge that provides me with great satisfaction in the end. Stress also enters the picture when we try to learn something new, conquer fears, or begin a new relationship—but that bit of anxiety in the beginning allows us to reap rewards in the end!

What causes stress? Who is most likely to be stressed?

Stress and its effects are becoming an increasingly popular subject of research. In fact, the AARP devoted its November 2014 newsletter to the topic. In one of the articles, author Elizabeth Agnvall noted that everyone experiences some amount of stress; in fact, in a recent poll jointly conducted by Harvard University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 25% of participants said they experienced “a great deal of stress” in the past month. Thirty-seven percent of adults aged 50+ said in a separate AARP poll that they had experienced a major stressful life event (like job loss, severe job dissatisfaction, serious illness, or the death of a family member) in the past year. The severity and duration of stress varies from person to person, but there is a clear trend toward heightened stress levels across the American population.

Life presents many stressors, some avoidable and some not. Most people can deal with limited amounts of stress for short periods of time without experiencing problems; however, when faced with a number of extremely stressful life events at once, people are often overwhelmed and are more likely to become ill. Two psychiatrists, Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, developed a stress scale to estimate the impact of different events on a person’s health. To create the scale, they studied the records of more than 5,000 medical patients and thousands of sailors in the Navy to determine if they had experienced stressful events that could have contributed to their sickness. The results were published as what is now known as the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, where each stressful life event is assigned a “Life Change Unit” score. People are asked to note which events they have experienced over the past year, then add the scores together for a number that will help predict how likely they are to get sick. The top twenty most stressful events for adults and the corresponding “Life Change Unit” scores on the scale are as follows:

  1. Death of a spouse: 100
  2. Divorce: 73
  3. Marital separation: 65
  4. Imprisonment: 63
  5. Death of a close family member: 63
  6. Personal injury or illness: 53
  7. Marriage: 50
  8. Dismissal from work: 47
  9. Marital reconciliation: 45
  10. Retirement: 45
  11. Change in the health of a family member: 44
  12. Pregnancy: 40
  13. Sexual difficulties: 39
  14. Business adjustment: 39
  15. Change in a financial state: 38
  16. Death of a close friend: 37
  17. Change to a different line of work: 36
  18. Change in frequency of arguments with others: 35
  19. Major home mortgage: 32
  20. Change in work responsibilities: 29

A score of 300 or higher indicates an increased risk of illness; 150-299, a moderate risk of illness; and less than 150, a slight risk. (There are additional items on the scale, so view the full list at if you’d like to take an accurate self-assessment.)

Your profession may even be linked to how stressed you are, according to a 2014 Huffington Post article by Chad Brooks and other research. Brooks cited a CareerCast survey revealing the jobs that typically produce the most stress: member of the military, firefighter, airline pilot, event coordinator, public relations executive, senior corporate executive, police officer, and taxi driver. Of course, there are variations within every field, and some people are better equipped than others to manage stress from their jobs!

Why is stress bad for you?

Prolonged stress has serious health consequences—even death. In 2012, the British Medical Journal published a study of nearly 70,000 participants indicating that psychological distress “is associated with increased risk of mortality from several major causes…even at lower levels of distress.” As Sue Shellenbarger explained in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “In a healthy stress response, the heart pumps faster and the brain goes on high alert as stress hormones flow into the bloodstream, temporarily shutting down the digestive and immune systems to devote more resources to the challenge at hand. Stress becomes harmful when these indicators stay chronically elevated, raising blood pressure, damaging the cardiovascular system, compromising immunity and causing aches, pains, digestive upsets and insomnia.”  Adding to the danger, when people are stressed to the limit, they often eat unhealthily, drink excessively, take harmful drugs, or use tobacco products, all while sleeping and exercising less.

The body’s natural stress responses can also turn against us. Bruce McEwen, a neuroscientist at Rockefeller University in New York, reported that humans are wired for survival—in stressful situations, the body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to “focus the mind and body for immediate action.” In the short term, these hormones are helpful; cortisol can stop inflammation, which is a contributor to several serious health problems. However, when chronic stress pushes cortisol into the bloodstream relentlessly, cells become desensitized to the hormone and can no longer stop inflammation. As a result, the inflammation damages brain cells and blood vessels; fuels joint diseases like arthritis; and promotes insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes. Stress researcher and psychology professor Sheldon Cohen noted in Agnvall’s article, “When under continuous stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond properly, and consequently produce levels of inflammation that lead to disease.” Inflammation in the bloodstream can be detected with C-reactive protein and cortisol blood tests, but these are not a typical blood test that physicians administer. (Patients can request to have these tests performed every few years).

Research from Cohen and other scientists has revealed sobering facts about people who live highly stressful lives, including:

  1. Because of their weakened immune systems, they are more likely to catch a cold, the flu, or pneumonia. They also have higher white blood cell counts, and the cortisol encourages the cells to stick to blood vessel walls, forming plaque, a key marker of heart disease.
  2. They burn fewer calories as compared to people with less stress, which could add up to 11 extra pounds per year, according to one study. (There is also a link between cortisol and excess abdominal fat.)
  3. Their wounds take longer to heal due to their elevated cortisol levels.
  4. They sleep less, wake up more often during the night, and find it more difficult to get back to sleep; without a good night’s sleep, people find it harder to manage stress, continuing the cycle.
  5. Stress exacerbates back, neck, and shoulder pain.
  6. Stressful episodes can trigger depression, which then “takes on a life of its own,” according to Dr. Huda Akil, professor of neuroscience at the University of Michigan. Key brain neurotransmitter systems, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, can become imbalanced due to stress, negatively impacting mood, appetite, and libido.

For years, I have studied stress and how it affects our lives. To learn more, I recently reviewed the 2013 course “Mind-Body Medicine” by Professor Jason Satterfield at the University of California. Some key points that Satterfield made over 36 lectures were:

  • Our brains contain 100 billion neurons, each of which has 7,000 connectors. Thus, we have about 700 trillion connectors that operate our brains. The brain experiences a miraculous 60,000 thoughts each day!
  • While heredity can put us at risk for disease, the brain plays an important role in whether we get sick or stay well.
  • Our health is multi-dimensional and is influenced by each person’s genetic material, mind, spirituality, relationships, community, and society.
  • America is ranked 38th in the world for life expectancy. Studies have shown that our behavior is 40% accountable for premature death; genetics, 30%; social factors, 15%; environment, 5%; and healthcare only 10%.
  • Humans are unique in that we can become stressed about something that has not happened yet or may never happen.
  • The human body contains about 50 different types of hormones. Once harmful hormones (such as cortisol) are released into the body, they are very difficult to turn off. Cortisol projects lipids into the bloodstream, which can increase the likelihood of blood clots, plaque, and atherosclerosis.
  • Excessive stress (and the cortisol it generates) can alter the immune system, increasing individual’s’ risk of infection and cancer. An overactive immune system can lead to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and contribute to cardiovascular disease.
  • Individuals’ reactions to stress vary based on their genetics; some people are naturally prone to be overly anxious or worry excessively. Two different people can face the exact same stressor and respond to it in entirely different ways. Individuals who are genetically predisposed to mental illness based on their family history are more likely to experience stress, worry, and anxiety about life.
  • Stressors can be classified as either challenges or threats, and the different types provoke varying responses on how we act, feel, or respond to pressure.
  • Negative, uncontrollable events that have ambiguity are most likely to generate a stress response, especially if the person experiencing the event is already feeling overloaded.
  • About 30% of American workers are often or always under stress, an increase of 300% since 1995, and problems at work are associated with more health complaints than any other type of stress. Burnout is linked to chronic occupational stress and decreases employee productivity.
  • Stressed employees are three times more likely to have shoulder, back, and neck pain; have double the risk of heart attack; and typically have higher cholesterol, blood pressure, and body mass indexes than those who do not report being stressed.
  • Long-term stress causes sleep deprivation, which in turn diminishes the effectiveness of the immune system, lowers body temperature, impairs memory, decreases the ability to think clearly, and causes fatigue.
  • Headaches and migraines can often be traced back to stress.

How to fight stress

As medical journals and other publications show, stress can lead to a wide array of physical and mental problems that have the potential to harm, disable, or prematurely kill us. But what can we do about it? Many of us bring stress into our lives with the decisions and life choices we make. Often, we feel paralyzed or helpless to change our situations; however, if we chose to act in a positive way rather than complain, we could break the cycle of anxiety and unhappiness. Here are some simple steps we can all take to decrease stress and improve the quality of our lives:

  1. Take a stress self-assessment: Set aside some time to make several lists. First, write down things that make you happy; second, make another list of issues and/or people that precipitate unhappiness and contribute to your stress; and third,  record any symptoms of stress that you are experiencing, such as weight gain (or loss), digestive problems, headaches, insomnia, excessive sleepiness, pains, fatigue, and emotional issues like anger, irritability, bitterness, and sadness. You may also want to list the triggers of stress within you or anything that you awakens you at night. Basically, you want to record your common causes of stress and the symptoms or results that you are experiencing.
  2. Obtain a thorough physical from a medical doctor: Preferably, seek out an internist, who has received extensive training on the diagnosis and treatment of medical diseases. Before your appointment, make a detailed list of any symptoms you are experiencing and discuss them with your doctor. Blood tests and other examinations may reveal medical abnormalities, such as a malfunctioning thyroid, that could be contributing to your stress and anxiety. If you are experiencing major stress, ask your physician for C-reactive protein and cortisol tests to detect inflammation in the bloodstream.
  3. Based upon your assessments, create a plan to reduce stress in your life: Some stressors may be handled quickly and easily; others may require more time (for example, changing jobs). A few may be outside of your control, and you will have to adjust your response to these sources rather than eliminating them. It is helpful to solicit input from wise individuals, friends, relatives, or professionals when developing your plan. Think carefully when developing the plan, as some issues may be hidden in your subconscious.
  4. Once you have created your plan, take baby steps to implement it: Keep thinking “Rome was not built in a day.” You will experience frustrations and setbacks, but continue one small step at a time. Most likely, it took a while to arrive at your stressful state, and it will take effort and time to dig your way out of the pit! Your plan should provide you with hope for the future, a key element in changing one’s circumstances and negative behaviors.
  5. Exercise: One of the best medicines for dealing with stress is to perform some type of vigorous exercise for 30 minutes a day. Good options include brisk walking and climbing stairs, neither of which require any monetary investment or gym membership.
  6. Eat healthily: People who are under stress tend to make unhealthy food choices, which leads to weight gain, adding even more anxiety. Eating a healthy diet with four or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day also decreases harmful inflammation hormones. If you are overweight, begin a weight loss program (try a proven method like a low-carb diet). If you need inspiration, visit this blog to learn how I lost 35 pounds.
  7. Surround yourself with positive people: There’s nothing worse for individuals who are under stress than hanging out with negative, pessimistic individuals who will drag them down further!
  8. Leave stressful jobs: If your job generates high levels of stress and is making you miserable, start looking for another one, even if it pays less or is less prestigious. Your happiness is more important than a fancy title and big paycheck! There are plenty of miserable, wealthy people who live stressful lives. (See this blog for an informative article on new job-hunting techniques.)
  9. Reduce clutter: Examine your home, garage, attic, office, car, closet, and desk, where things tend to accumulate. Then, organize them. Clutter often frustrates individuals because they feel crowded or can’t find things, leading to increased stress and anxiety. If you haven’t used an item in two years, trash it or give it away.
  10. Seek professional help: If you find that you are an obsessive worrier, overly anxious, depressed, fearful, or too easily stressed, have an honest discussion about it with your physician. He or she may be able to prescribe medications that can help. For example, small doses of drugs such as clonazepam (or its name-brand version, Klonopin) can shut down anxiety and obsessive worry. A professional therapist or counselor can also teach you how to deal with stressful times in your life. To find an experienced professional who fits your needs, talk to your doctor and look for someone trained in cognitive behavioral and mindfulness therapy. Your friends, spiritual leaders, and insurance carrier can also provide good suggestions. Once you have several potential therapists in mind, interview each to find the best one for your personality and requirements. Don’t allow the stigma attached to mental challenges to keep you from seeking professional help! We all need someone to talk to from time to time. A combination of medication and counseling works best for most individuals.
  11. If you have lost a loved one, allow yourself to grieve: The death of a friend or family member is one of the most devastating, stressful occurrences in anyone’s life. If you experience such a loss, seek out grieving classes offered by local churches and/or professional counselors who are trained in helping individuals go through the grieving process. It takes time to heal.
  12. Talk to yourself: This form of self-hypnosis works particularly well for me, and its effectiveness is also supported in scientific literature. When I have a stressful thought, I tell myself, “I will not think that way” or “It will not help me to worry about this.” After a while, I was able to desensitize myself when thinking about my painful past. Conversely, if you tell yourself (and others) over and over that you’re a worrier or anxious person, you will transform yourself into one! In some cases, a trained hypnotist can help you release stress and unhealthy habits. I recommend Dr. Fredrick Mau with Watermark Hypnosis and Counseling (visit for more information).
  13. Live within your means: Financial problems are a major culprit in creating stress and worry. If you find yourself significantly in debt, a financial counselor can help lead you in the right direction. Developing a detailed budget with saving money in mind (and sticking to it) is a great first step. It’s a great feeling going to bed every night knowing you don’t owe anyone!
  14. Let go of the past: It’s very difficult, but finding solutions to unresolved conflict, releasing bitterness, and forgiving those who have wronged you will set you free. Holding onto these things only reminds us of unhappy times and fosters stress and anger. I rode down the unhealthy path of resentment and bitterness myself, but fortunately was able to forgive and forget (see this blog for my story).
  15. Slow down! If you are overly stressed, the culprit may be too many commitments. Reduce the number of activities you are involved in to only those you enjoy doing or are truly passionate about. Learn to politely say “no” to people who ask you to do things that frustrate you or usurp your valuable time. If you have a family, limit the number of activities your children are involved in, too. Sometimes, it’s better to just let them be kids and play instead of trying to create future superstars. With this in mind, my wife and I always limited our children to one or two activities at a time. All of us, adults and children alike, need time to have fun, relax, and enjoy life, instead of running frantically from one activity to another!
  16. Take breaks: Take short intermissions during work hours, especially to get away from the office at lunch. Try inserting short bursts of exercise throughout the day, like walking up and down steps for 10 to 15 minutes—it’s an excellent stress reliever.
  17. Have fun: Throughout the year, plan some fun things to do that will allow you to rest, relax, and recharge. I take short vacations every 60 days to get away from it all. You need something to look forward to that breaks the monotony and adds a little excitement to your routine, even if it’s just something small like a nice dinner, weekend trip, or massage.
  18. Shut down the electronics: A new threat in the home, workplace, and personal lives is technology addiction, which can include obsessively checking e-mails, always listening for the buzzing of an instant message notification, and other stressful habits like constantly checking stocks. According to a 2014 NBC News report, the average Facebook user checks his or her account about 20 times a day and engages his or her smartphone more than 100 times daily! To reduce stress, turn off sound notifications and pop-ups for e-mail and other messages and designate just a few times to check them per day.
  19. Avoid watching TV news and radical commentaries: Watching cable news programs, especially multiple times each day, can add stress, anxiety, anger, and even depression to your life! While I read four daily newspapers and online sources extensively, I rarely ever watch the negativity-laden TV news. These shows seem to want you to believe that the world is in awful shape and nothing good ever happens in it!
  20. Get a full eight hours of sleep: Sleep deprivation decreases our ability to deal with stress, limits productivity, and inhibits intellectual abilities. Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bedtime so you can relax and ease into “sleep mode.” If you have problems sleeping, try taking natural supplements like melatonin (begin with 1 mg) before bed. Also, reducing caffeine intake (especially after 3 PM) and increasing exercise before 6 PM may help. If problems persist, consult a sleep physician and inquire about taking a sleep study to determine the root cause. You may have a sleeping disorder called sleep apnea, which actually causes you to stop breathing for short periods during the night. Sleep apnea promotes fatigue, anxiety, and stress, and it can shorten your lifespan in the long run. You may also want to speak to your doctor about trying a sleeping agent (like temazepam 15 or 30 mg, which has fewer side effects than some other sleeping medications).
  21. Be realistic: Know your limits and stay within them. While it is helpful to stretch your mind and body, constantly setting yourself up for failure is frustrating and stressful. So, establish realistic career, relationship, personal, and health objectives. For example, I desired to lose weight. After careful study, I set a goal of losing one pound per week for 35 weeks, and it worked!
  22. Don’t procrastinate: Waiting until the last minute to do things sets the body’s “fight or flight” reaction into motion, releasing adrenaline and other potentially harmful hormones into the blood. Procrastination can be genetic or learned. Some related issues are chronic tardiness, disorganization, cramming too many activities into too small of a time window, lowered productivity, and an “uptight” personality. Personally, I used to struggle with procrastination, until I realized that it’s counterproductive to a healthy, successful, and peaceful life. Now, I plan far ahead, allowing lots of attention to detail and giving myself a better chance of reaching excellence. I recommend envisioning the optimum outcome of a future event, designing a path of measurable steps to get there, and monitoring and adjusting the plan as it unfolds.
  23. Stay organized with “to-do” lists: Every week, I develop a list of things I need to complete, separated by level of importance. Then, each day, I select actions based on at least a few “must-do” items from the list. For things like running errands, I find it helpful to envision the route I’ll be taking and arranging the order of errands for maximum efficiency. Sometimes, it may be best to check some easier items off the list first to promote a feeling of accomplishment. Then, you can block out all distractions and “get into the zone” on an important project.
  24. Focus on one thing at a time: Multi-tasking is generally less effective in the long run because it takes time to adjust after switching from one activity to the next. According to a May 2013 New York Times article by Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson, “Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, found that a typical office worker gets only 11 minutes between each interruption, while it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after an interruption.” Most research indicates that the brain can only successfully manage two activities at a time before productivity and focus suffer.
  25. Sniff some scents: Scents such as lavender have consistently been shown to reduce stress levels, according to government reports. A February 2014 Wall Street Journal article explained that this is because certain scents appeal to the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for emotion, memory, and motivation. Major retail chains, hotels, and airlines have quietly introduced fragrances to their environments to enhance sales and reduce anxiety. If you are not allergic, try lighting a scented candle to bring about a peaceful mood.
  26. Listen to soothing music: Research points to various ways that music can reduce stress, including triggering calming biochemicals. Because I love Hawaii, music by the Hawaiian band Ho’okena is one of my favorites. Jim Gibson’s piano music is also very soothing while driving, in the office, or at home.
  27. Laugh it off: Laughter can reduce stress, according to studies. During some stressful times, I watch humorous movies such as Home Alone—which makes me laugh so hard I cry, releasing endorphins into the bloodstream!
  28. Get a massage: Whether from a chair or a masseuse, a massage not only relieves tense muscles, but also induces a state of mental relaxation.
  29. Meditate: There is growing evidence that meditation can help reduce anxiety. Even just taking deep breaths forces our bodies and minds to calm down and promotes relaxation. Removing all thoughts and worries from one’s mind can be difficult, so it can be helpful to start out with a few simple mini-sessions throughout the day. Put on some soft music such as Ron Allen or Gibson, which are used in many spas) or noise-canceling headphones and visualize your favorite peaceful place. Taking deep breaths, attempt to clear out your thoughts, keeping your mind from darting around. According to a December 2014 NBC report, when four of the worst-performing schools in a California district began meditating in the classroom for fifteen minutes each day, suspensions fell by 75%, attendance increased to 98%, and academic performance rose from the bottom percentiles to the upper middle!
  30. Be more spiritual: Research suggests that religious individuals experience less anxiety and fewer psychiatric problems, often living longer than the general population. Remember that if God created the universe, He can help you too!
  31. Keep a journal: Taking notes when you feel stressed or anxious can help you identify and avoid stress triggers.
  32. Do something you enjoy: Volunteer work, hobbies like gardening, creative activities like arts and crafts, and playing with pets all release anti-stress hormones in the body.
  33. Improve the appearance of your surroundings: Take a look at your home and office for ways to brighten up your environment. For example, hang up some art or your favorite pictures on the walls and get some non-flowering plants. I have a large painting of Paris in my home office and I instantly feel good when I view it, remembering our visits. Some researchers say that using soft, warm lights in the office (rather than harsh fluorescent lights) can give a calming effect. Even painting the walls certain colors, such as blue, can create a more peaceful, relaxing vibe.
  34. Study your medicines: Use reputable websites like to learn the side effects of the prescriptions and supplements you take. Nearly all medications have some type of side effect, and yours could be the source of your anxiety or depression. Many affect the central nervous system and can lead to insomnia and nervousness. Your supplements may also contain harmful amounts of stress-inducing caffeine. It is helpful to use a “drug cross-checker” on medical websites to determine if any of the medicines or supplements you are combining could have serious interactions.
  35. Reduce stress at work: Since stress can negatively impact workplace culture and productivity, it behooves leaders to promote a healthy work environment. For more information about building less stressful workplaces, visit this blog.
  36. Work on your relationships: With the divorce rate at 50% for couples under 60 years old and 60% in older individuals, many marriages are clearly cracking under pressure! Having a good marriage is easier said than done, but a healthy, loving relationship with your spouse can add years to your life and reduce stress. The key to success: place your spouse first in most things you do. Your relationships with relatives, in-laws, and friends can also increase your stress levels, especially if you are caring for elderly parents in their declining years.
  37. Avoid perfectionism: It’s one of the worse diseases you can have, since you expect to have a perfect life and demand that people around you think and behave as you do…and when things go wrong or individuals don’t live up to your expectations, the stress level accelerates! It’s OK to make mistakes and’s just important that you learn and grow from it.

The bottom line: It’s impossible to completely avoid all stress within our lives. In fact, some stress can be good for us because it motivates us to get things done. However, long-term stress creates anxiety and fear, which release harmful hormones such as cortisol into our bodies. Once that deadly switch is turned on, it’s difficult to turn off again. We now know that long-term stress can harm, disable, or shorten our lives, so it’s important that we implement strategies to prevent, reduce, and manage stress before it harmfully rewires our brains, destroys our health, and robs of us of our happiness!


About the Authors: Our corporate and personal purpose is to “create opportunities to improve lives” by sharing our knowledge, experience, success, research, and mistakes.

Mike DuBose is a former licensed counselor, has been in business since 1981, authored The Art of Building a Great Business, and is a field instructor with USC’s graduate school. He is the owner of four debt-free corporations, including Columbia Conference Center, Research Associates, and The Evaluation Group. Visit his nonprofit website for a free copy of his book The Art of Building a Great Business and other useful articles.

Dr. Surb Guram, MD is a board-certified internist and is a graduate of the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He is a partner with the SC Internal Medicine Associates in Irmo, SC and has practiced internal medicine in the Midlands for the past 30 years. See for more information on Dr. Guram and his practice.

Blake DuBose graduated from Newberry College Schools of Business and Psychology and is president of DuBose Web Group. View our published articles at

Katie Beckserves as Director of Communications for the DuBose family of companies. She graduated from the USC School of Journalism and Honors College.

© Copyright 2015 by Mike DuBose and Blake DuBose—All Rights Reserved. You have permission and we encourage you to forward the full article to friends or colleagues and/or distribute it as part of personal or professional use, providing that the authors are credited. However, no part of this article may be altered or published in any other manner without the written consent of the authors. If you would like written approval to post this information on an appropriate website or to publish this information, please contact Katie Beck at [email protected] and briefly explain how the article will be used and we will respond promptly. Thank you for honoring our hard work!