It’s That Time of Year Again…

by Paul Maitland-McKinley, AmeriCorps Member, GLIDE Health Services

As November moves forward it’s important to realize that we are in a time of change. Stores start to show off their beautiful holiday displays, the smell of freshly baked cookies and earthy spices is in the air. Not to mention that extra layer of clothing that becomes so necessary just to make it through the day.

But with these changes comes a more unexpected and often forgotten enemy: the holiday season stress. Whether it comes from trying to make some extra money for gifts, to looking for a warmer place to stay, this stress can have wide-spread effects on the body.

See, stress comes in two forms: acute stress, which refers to our response to a problem that appears suddenly and goes away pretty quickly. Like the increased heart beat you feel if you miss the bus in the morning. Even though it’s uncomfortable, it’s actually a good reaction. It’s caused by something called adrenalin which is made to super charge your body and prepare you, in this case, to chase after that bus.

Then there’s chronic stress, which is our response to a long-term problem over a stretch of time. Using the example above, it might cause the sleep loss you suffer from because you worry every night about missing that bus in the morning.

As unimportant as it seems at the time, long-term stress can have a large negative impact on your health.  Besides the psychological effects that stress can cause (e.g.  anxiety, depression, anger, etc.), it also has the ability to break down our body’s greatest defense: the immune system.

Stress affects our immune systems using natural hormones made by our bodies. Over time, constant stress can wear down our immune systems and increase our chances of getting sick. Ever notice how you always seem to catch that cold or stomach virus right when you’re most busy and can least afford to give up time? That’s what I’m talking about.

Stress can be dangerous, and that’s why it’s time to take it by the horns. It can become easier to manage by making small changes like getting more sleep or learning to better manage commitments.

But if you’re looking to take a more fun approach to dealing with stress, why not try the new beginner Tai Chi course at GLIDE Health Services. It is called “Silk Reeling” and it combines simple and easy movements with deep breathing designed to relax the mind and body. It is generously taught by two volunteer Tai Chi masters, Malcolm and Kevin, and is offered on Monday and Wednesday mornings from 10:00am to 11:00am on the beautiful rooftop garden of GLIDE. And it’s free if you are a GLIDE client or staff member! Just come by the 6th floor front desk in the morning before class to sign up and then get ready for a lesson in tranquility.

So before you let something as small as a missed bus ruin your day and your body, think about joining us for a session. The things you learn will give you the tools to manage your stress and take back your health. We’ll see you up there. And don’t forget some comfy clothes!

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