Health & Fitness
TIME The Science of Stress

TIME The Science of Stress

TIME The Science of Stress

Stress is a modern mental bogeyman, keeping nearly half of Americans up at night. It also takes a profound physical toll. Research has found it linked to higher risks of heart attacks, strokes and many major chronic conditions. Yet, many Americans say they don’t do anything to meaningfully combat stress. This special edition can help. First, you’ll examine the sources of your stress, including just how smartphones and other digital distractions rewire the brain for stress. Then, consider what you can do to increase calm and improve your health. Learn about the science-backed research that shows that self-care and relaxation can help alleviate stress in real and measurable ways. Find the latest proven ways to dampen the stress response, including mindfulness techniques, exercise, walking in nature and even washing the dishes. Get valuable tips on how to relax fast, in any situation. Or, if that’s just not possible, let this special edition make the case for embracing stress and teach you how to harness it to make yourself stronger, more positive and more resilient. Stress is a powerful response to an increasingly challenging world. Let this special edition help you make sure you’re in control of it!

United States
Meredith Corporation
Read More
$22.30(Incl. tax)

in this issue

7 min.
fight or flight forever

THE STAKES WERE A LOT SIMPLER A COUPLE OF million years ago when we were living on the savanna—uglier, yes, but simpler. There was the business of food, for one thing. You either ate or got eaten—and given that we were a slow, plump, flightless species with neither fangs nor claws, the getting-eaten part was a very real possibility. Injury and disease could get you too, and as often as not they did. In a world teeming with viruses and bacteria but with absolutely no human knowledge of sanitation, wound dressing or medical care, a broken leg, a bout of flu or even a mild infection from a simple cut could easily mean a nasty end. As for the whole primal reason for being alive in the first place—mating and…

12 min.
rising to the challenge

BEGINNING IN THE 1930S, A McGill University fellow (later University of Montreal professor) named Hans Selye published a series of academic papers on stress and what he called the “general adaptation syndrome” of living organisms. Selye’s big idea, groundbreaking at the time, was that the human body’s “basic reaction” to any threat—be it physical or psychological—is more or less the same regardless of the threat’s source. Whether a person is being stalked by a mountain lion or by concern for a sick loved one, the same internal defense mechanisms kick into gear. These mechanisms involve “every vital organ and function,” Selye wrote, and any problems or “derailments” that arise in this process could cause or contribute to potentially grave health concerns. Selye [see page 16] was a clear-eyed scientist, and he…

4 min.
the doctor who changed the way we think about stress

THESE DAYS, THE MEDICAL PROFESSION TAKES stress seriously—as countless studies on the effects of stress indicate it should. But that has not always been the case. Though human beings have always felt stress, it’s actually been less than a century since the subject began getting the attention it deserves. As TIME explained in a 1983 cover story, it used to be thought that “stress” was just a vague feeling, not a term precise enough to have real medical usefulness. There was no firm definition or way of measuring it. Even so, it was clear that there was something going on. As early as the Civil War, a condition known as “soldier’s heart” was noticed by doctors. “During World War I, the crippling anxiety called shell shock was at first attributed to…

11 min.
physical breakdown

IN THE SUMMER OF 1974, Tommy John of the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the finest pitchers in baseball. The 31-year-old lefty specialized in the sinker, a pitch designed to induce ground balls that could be scooped up by the defensively adroit L.A. infield. Midway through the ’74 campaign, John appeared to be headed for the best season of his 12-year career, with a stellar 13–3 record and major-league-leading.813 winning percentage. Then disaster struck: in baseball parlance, John’s arm went “dead”; attempting to throw brought excruciating pain. As it turned out, the stress of having delivered thousands of pitches since his boyhood in Terre Haute, Ind., had permanently damaged the ulnar collateral ligament of John’s elbow. It was the same injury that in 1966 had forced Dodgers great Sandy…

2 min.
some common stress injuries

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, repetitive stress disorders “are a family of muscular conditions that result from repeated motions performed in the course of normal work or daily activities.” These conditions most commonly afflict the hands, wrists, elbows and shoulders, but they can also happen in the neck, back, hips, knees, feet, legs and ankles. The injuries can be characterized by pain, tingling, numbness, swelling or loss of flexibility and strength; they derive from uninterrupted repetitive action or motions, overexertion, poor posture and fatigued muscles. Stress injuries come in a variety of forms. Here are a few: Bursitis: Inflammation and swelling of the fluid-filled sac near a knee, elbow or shoulder joint. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Painful compression of the median nerve across the inner wrist. It’s very…

4 min.
can anxiety cause high blood pressure?

ANXIETY IS PART OF LIFE. YOU FEEL IT WHEN you’re stuck in traffic, harried at work or worrying about your family and finances. There’s no doubt that feeling anxious can elevate your blood pressure, at least in the short term. “Our mind and our thoughts certainly are connected to our hearts,” says Christopher Celano, associate director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. When something makes you anxious—whether it’s a life-threatening emergency or a persistent worry—your sympathetic nervous system initiates a fight-or-flight response that raises your heart rate and blood pressure, Celano explains. This is fine—and sometimes even beneficial—in moderation. “A little anxiety can be motivating,” he says. It can help you start a new exercise routine or make healthier food choices. But action in the nervous system needs…