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Faith & Life:

Make time to rest and play

May 12, 2010|By Kimberlie Zakarian

If only our culture could slow down its rapid pace, we may see an increase in health — especially in Los Angeles, where we live in a culture prone to rushing in various aspects of our lives.

We hasten to get our children ready and to school, rush to work, and text and make calls as we drive. We have become so driven and achievement-oriented that often children are hurriedly picked up from school and driven to their many after-school activities.

Add to this the need for meal preparation, homework, hygiene, our evening work, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and texting, and we are a culture on overload. Our bodies and minds may seem like they are adapting and functioning, but they often are not doing so at optimum capacity. And for some, they cease functioning altogether in revolt to the stress they are undergoing.

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We live in a demanding environment, and with that comes consequences to these hurried lives. Stress can cause anxiety and depression, and it alters brain function.

What happens when we live at a high stress level for prolonged periods of time? Long-term exposure to stress — where an individual sees no way out of their circumstances or lifestyle and has little support — decreases one’s ability to cope. It can actually create neurotransmitter abnormalities, causing depression.

And to top it off, a chaotic and busy lifestyle leads many to believe there is no time for exercise, which has been proven to reduce depressive symptoms, stress and anxiety. Living under extended periods of stress causes the stress hormone, cortisol, to create belly fat. As cortisol reaches toxic levels, it can even damage the part of the brain that has to do with our affect. No way around it — we are negatively altered by stress.

Some are genetically predisposed to stress and anxiety. Generalized anxiety disorder is a diagnosis given to individuals who inherited anxiety through their family line. But for countless others, it is often external stressors and pressure that create anxiety within the realm of a taxing lifestyle.

So what can we do to get out of the rat race and live healthier lives when we are already involved in so many activities? Cutting back on obligations is huge. It has been proven to reduce stress. Making time for play, eating nutritiously, exercising, getting enough sleep and brainstorming for ways to change your schedule to make room for “down” or “spontaneous” time can help.

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