Stress :

Stress and Physical Health

If you are suffering from stomach problems, such as heartburn, abdominal cramps or loose stools, could it be stress related? The Harvard Medical School newsletter suggests watching for these and other common symptoms of stress and talk it over with your doctor.

Other physical symptoms to watch out for include stiff or tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulder, headaches, sleep problems, shakiness or tremors, recent loss of interest in sex, weight loss or gain and restlessness.

Behavorial symptoms can include procrastination, grinding teeth, difficulty completing work assignments, changes in the amount of alcohol or food consumed, taking up smoking or smoking more than usual, increased desire to be with or withdraw from others and frequent talking or brooding about stressful situations.

Emotional symptoms to be on the lookout might involve crying, overwhelming sense of tension or pressure, trouble relaxing, nervousness, quick temper, depression, poor concentration, trouble remembering things, loss of sense of humor and indecisiveness.

By identifying symptoms and stress-causing situations in your life, it's easier to come up with specific strategies to improving health.

Eating as a crutch

Meryl Hershey Beck is an author, therapist and former binge eater who counsels compulsive overeaters. In her new book, "Stop Eating Your Heart Out," she offers a 21-day plan to help "emotional eaters" change their attitude toward food.

"As I disclose my ordeals with food and out-of-control eating, I am telling the story of millions of others who use food to self- soothe. With the focus on recovery I share the modalities that worked with me." She separates the book into day-by-day chapters, providing one small task or challenge at a time, such as creative visualization or recording a food-mood diary.

On Day One, for instance, you'll examine your own eating history and read examples from what some of Beck's clients have written, such as "We had big family celebrations with a lot of food," and "I was always a normal weight until my sister died when I was 20." Day Four is all about creating a support system, and Day Eight is devoted to the power of prayer and meditation. By Day 19, Beck has moved on to forgiveness.

These daily topics may not be for everyone, but by the end of the book at least you'll be aware that planning your meals ahead of time, packing snacks and leaning on a support person can keep you from using food in unhealthful ways.

2012 Chicago Daily Herald. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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