Passage 55. Stress and Relaxation
It is commonly believed that only rich middle-aged businessmen suffer from stress. In fact anyone may become ill as a result of stress if they experience a lot of worry over a long period and their health is not especially good. Stress can be a friend or an enemy: it can warn you that you are under too much pressure and should change your way of life.
It can kill you if you don't notice the warning signals. Doctors agree that it is probably the biggest single cause of illness in the Western world. When we are very frightened and worried our bodies produce certain chemicals to help us fight what is troubling us.
Unfortunately, these chemicals produce the energy needed to run away fast from an object of fear, and in modern life that's often impossible. If we don't use up these chemicals, or if we produce too many of them, they may actually harm us. The parts of the body that are most affected by stress are the stomach, heart,skin, head and back.
Stress can cause car accidents, heart attacks, and alcoholism, and may even drive people to suicide. Our living and working conditions may put us under stress. Overcrowding in large cities, traffic jams, competition for jobs, worry about the future, any big changes in our lives, may cause stress. Some British doctors have pointed out that one of Britain's worst waves of influenza happened soon after the new coins came into use. Also if you have changed jobs or moved house in recent months you are more likely to fall ill than if you haven't. And more people commit suicide in times of inflation. As with all illnesses, prevention is better than cure. If you find you can't relax, it is a sign of danger. "When you're taking work home, when you can't enjoy an evening with friends, when you haven't time for outdoor exercise—that is the time to stop and ask yourself whether your present life really suits you." Says one family doctor. " Then it's time to join a relaxation class, or take up dancing, painting or gardening."