According to Hans Selye, M.D., a pioneer in medicine and stress research, stress is “the non-specific response of the body to any demand.” It does not matter whether or not it is caused by pleasant or unpleasant things. It does not matter whether or not it results in good or bad things. Stress is the reaction to any change in the status quo–good, bad, real, or even imagined.

Marriage or divorce, job loss or the threat of being fired, even the disappointment of not getting a promotion, all create stress. So do countless other situations.

Inside, your body reacts to stress by preparing to do something—fight, kick, scream, cry, run away. But in most situations, none of these options is acceptable. The adrenaline flows, blood pressure increases, breathing speeds up—for what? You can’t usually fight or flee, so you just stew in your own juices. And then you get sick. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians states that about two-thirds of all visits to family doctors are for stress-related disorders. And obvious discomforts—like insomnia or headaches—aren’t the only health problems that have been linked to stress.  Heart disease, back or neck pain, high blood pressure, and alcoholism—along with just about every disease affected by the immune system—are at least partly affected by the inability to handle what life dishes out. The stress of concern is the stress of excess.

The good news, though, is that you don’t have to stew under stress. You can learn to view changes as challenges, opportunities, or blessings—anything but threats. In this chapter, you’ll learn a variety of skills that can enable you to cope more effectively with stress. Some tips will help you prevent stress, while others can short-circuit a stress response once you feel it coming on. As a result, you’ll live a happier and healthier life.

Chapter 6
  1. Success Over Stress