By Sandra Block
How stressed out are we? Consider this: In some cities, “rage rooms,” sometimes known as anger rooms, allow customers who are fed up with work, politics or the stress of everyday life to smash old furniture, TVs, dishes and other breakable items.
At the Anger Room in Dallas, prices range from $25 for five minutes of destruction to $75 for the 25-minute “total demolition” package. There are similar places to vent your spleen in Houston and Toronto, and Anger Room is offering franchises to entrepreneurs who want to open facilities in other cities.
Sadly, 25 minutes with a sledgehammer probably won’t cure chronic stress, a toxic debility that has been associated with a litany of ailments, from headaches to heart disease. It weakens your immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds and flu. It makes you restless and irritable, which affects your relationships at home and at work. And it’s probably getting worse. More than half of Americans reported that the 2016 presidential campaign was a significant source of stress, according to the American Psychological Association. The stress was bipartisan, with Republicans and Democrats reporting the same amount of anxiety.
Stress is a natural response to a life-threatening situation. When you perceive a threat, your brain sets off an alarm – the classic fight-or-flight response. That causes a number of internal events to occur. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. The adrenal glands release cortisol, the primary stress hormone, which increases glucose in the bloodstream. It alters immune systems and suppresses digestion until the threat has passed.
Your body’s stress-response system can help you meet an important deadline or leap out of the path of a rogue beer truck. But when those hyped-up hormones fail to recede after the crisis has ended, it can trigger a cascade of health problems.
Call it a failure of evolution: Our brains haven’t adapted to a world in which we’re not under constant threat from hungry predators.
“There is no other species that has changed its environment so quickly,” says Amit Sood, M.D., chair of the Mayo Clinic’s Mind-Body Initiative and author of “The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living.”
“We are working with a medieval kind of brain, although our challenges are very different,” he adds. Fortunately, you can take steps to reduce stress that don’t require protective gear.