Written by Joe Garcia

Survival of the Fittest (Stress Management During a Recession) – Part One

How do you answer when someone asks, “How are you doing today?”

Is it something like, “Just trying to survive…”

Today, words and phrases (like recession, down turn, economic meltdown, relief packages, going out of business, etc.) inundate our minds and bodies almost every minute of the day. Yet one word out of all of them seems to be hitting American lips the most:

“All I can do is SURVIVE.”

“Just trying to SURVIVE” or, even better,


This is the daily mantra we speak to ourselves subconsciously or consciously every time we head off to work, school, life.? When we sit down to pay bills and have to hold our heads up high so that our friends and family don’t see us in our dark hour. We have all heard it before but I’ll say it again:

Stress is the Number 1 killer of people in America.

Researchers suggest that as much as 60-90% of illnesses are directly caused by, or exacerbated by, stress. Stress is related to major illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, but can also cause back pain, headaches, tooth grinding, upset stomach and digestive problems, sleep loss and exhaustion, skin problems, unhealthy weight gain or loss and, of course, loss of sex drive. And these are just the bodily symptoms.? Stress is also linked to depression, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, restlessness, irritability, insecurity, forgetfulness, and a host of other negative mental and behavioral symptoms.

So, how do we handle it? How do we stop the ticking time-bomb? Everyday, news reporters and media outlets bombard us with how bad we all have it.

Huffington Post reports,

– JUDY LIN | February 17, 2009 10:59 AM EST

California Expected To Begin Layoff Proceedings For 20,000 Government Workers… Will Halt Public Works Projects… State Senator: “We Are Dealing With A Catastrophe Of Unbelievable Proportions”

CNN Headlines,

Stocks sink to 3-month lows

Financials lead a selloff sparked by worries the $787 billion stimulus plan won’t go far enough. Automakers in the hot seat.

-By Alexandra Twin, CNNMoney.com senior writer

February 17, 2009: 10:54 AM ET

MSNBC Top Headlines in business,

Stocks tumble amid economy, auto worries

Dow sheds more than 250 points in early trading

-By ? 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

These are just a few of the recent headlines that assault us every minute of every day of every week. No wonder we are all dying of stress-related diseases. Try finding something positive in the news today. That, in itself, is stressful.

So how do you “survive?” This is the question we are all asking ourselves. Well, “stress” is not something we get rid of, it’s something we “manage” (thus, the inclination to always answer with some phrase like, “just trying to survive,” when someone asks you “How are you doing?”)? When we can understand this we can understand that the answer to this question is not absence of stress, but a need for a healthy balance of stress in our lives. What does this mean? Well let’s look at the definition of what stress is first.

stress n

1. mental, emotional, or physical strain caused, for example, by anxiety or overwork. It may cause such symptoms as raised blood pressure or depression.

2. something that causes mental or emotional strain

3. a force or system of forces exerted on a body and resulting in deformation or strain

Encarta? World English Dictionary ? 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Stress is also physical? So, is working out placing stress on the body? Why is working out good for us if research shows that stress can cause harm and sometimes disease?

Well, before you get too excited and dump your gym membership, calm down. A healthy balance of stress in the body and mind can be healthy. Combining a good amount of safe physical activity like walking, hiking, aerobics, swimming, or good old fashioned weight training can offer huge health benefits to your body and, most of all, to your mind. Balancing the stress your mind undergoes with what your physical body goes through is essential to healthy living. In short, daily physical activity will help you manage your levels of stress. So, the next time you say you can’t work out because you’re too stressed out, think twice about how ridiculous that sounds. It’s as simple as 2 + 2. You must balance your stress. There is no other way.

Please follow this series as I make practical weekly suggestions and invite experts to weigh-in on ways to manage your daily stress.

Joe Garcia is the owner of Arena Fitness in Encino, California.