Map Your Stress Points

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Stress points: Brain, eyes, mouth, ears

Brain

Stress begins in the brain, with a surge of hormones causing intense alertness. In this hyped state, we can't relax or sleep. But our minds can't function at this extreme level for prolonged periods: Eventually, the hormone surges and exhaustion cause tension headaches, irritability, aggression, inability to concentrate and memory loss.

Unchecked stress can also trigger depression, which strikes twice as many women as men. Stress suppresses the hypothalamus, the emotion control center in our brains, curbing the production of the hormones that energize us and make us feel joyful, says Witkin.

Eyes

The adrenaline rush from stress dilates the eyes, improving vision. But it also triggers eye ticks because eye muscles become fatigued. Eyes may bulge if stress overstimulates the thyroid gland.

Mouth

Dry mouth, bad breath and difficulty swallowing occur when stress makes us take short, shallow breaths. Under constant stress, some people clench their jaws or grind their teeth.

Ears

The surging hormones induced by stress improve our hearing to help us react to danger. But better hearing can actually be bad for the body: A recent Cornell University study concluded that even moderate noise elevates heart-damaging stress hormones. Studies have also shown that a lot of small noisy stressors added together -- honking horns, ringing telephones and loud co-workers -- can be more dangerous to the body than one major stressful event.

Continued on page 3:  Hair, lungs, heart, immune system

 

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