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How Stress Gets Under the Skin by Julie Stout

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On Monday night, Dr. Cindy S. Bergeman came to Roanoke College to give a talk entitled “How Stress Gets Under the Skin”. Dr.Bergeman has a P.HD from Penn State and is currently a professor at Notre Dame University.  She began giving a little a bit of information about Notre Dame University, directing it towards potential graduate students. She quickly moved on to discuss the topic at hand; stress.  She explained that there are three types of stress; acute, chronic, and eustress. Acute stress is the kind of stress that comes and goes quickly, where chronic stress is triggered repeatedly; some examples of chronic stressors are work, schedules, and relationships. Adversely, she explained the eustress is “the good stress”, the kind that motivates us. Dr. Bergeman continues on to explain that, though inconvenient, stress does protect us from danger by invoking our “fight or flight” defense mechanism. This basically tells our bodies when to run or to face something head on.

Dr. Bergeman made sure to point out the “stress is in the eye of the beholder.” She then went through multiple symptoms of being stressed. The most famous she stopped and talked a bit about; sleep disturbance and overeating. Dr. Bergeman said that a lot of people try to solve their problems while they lay in bed at night which is a huge contributor to the sleep disturbance, along with release of cortisol, a stress hormone, and too much caffeine. She believes that as a society, we intake more caffeine than is desirable which is another big factor in sleep disturbance. For the overeating, she said that cortisol is also the culprit, since it leads to the craving of foods, especially salty foods.

Dr. Bergeman said the first thing to do when trying to get a hold of stress is to identify the sources of stress. She noted “True sources of stress are not always the obvious ones”. The next thing to do is to examine the way you are coping with stress, and last to learn healthier ways of coping to manage stress.

She then gave six healthy ways to deal with stress; first avoid unnecessary stress. This may mean learning to say no, or avoiding people who stress you out. Second, she says to alter the situation; express your feelings and be open to compromise. Third is to adapt to stressors. Change your expectations or view and look at the big picture. The fourth tip is often the most overlooked, which is making time for fun and relaxation. Dr. Bergeman says you should “do something you enjoy every day”; after all, laughing fights the negative effects stress can have! The fifth stress management tip is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Last, but certainly not least, Dr. Bergeman advises us to accept what we cannot change, look for the upside in every situation, and only worry about changes the things you can.