Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Getting a Grip on Stress

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Getting a Grip on Stress

Article excerpt

Helping ourselves and our communities.

Parks and recreation can make a major difference in everyone's life. As leisure advocates, one of our primary duties is to be informed about stress and its effects on people. The first step is that we must rescue ourselves before we reach out to others. We must set a good example by taking care of ourselves with appropriate diets, regular exercise programs, good medical care and a constant re-creation of mind and spirit.

Stress is a challenge for our bodies and minds. As Alvin Toffler emphasized in Future Shock, "By subjecting individuals to too much change in too short a time, we induce disorientation and shattering stress."

It has been estimated that 75 percent to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related problems. According to the American Institute of Stress, job stress is far and away the leading source of anxiety for adults. Stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; the erosion of family and religious values and ties; and the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters.

Contemporary stress tends to be more pervasive, persistent and insidious because it stems primarily from psychological rather than physical threats. It's associated with ingrained and immediate reactions over which we have no control. Repeatedly invoked, it's not hard to see how these threats can contribute to hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, ulcers, neck or low back pain and other "diseases of civilization."

The American Institute of Stress tells us that certain types of chronic stress-and more insidious stress caused by loneliness, poverty, bereavement, depression and frustration about discrimination-are associated with impaired immune system resistance to viral disorders, ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and cancer.

Of course, stress isn't always necessarily harmful. …

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