Many people go through their days not aware of the stress in their lives. They might think, "Well, how serious can it be if I don't even know it exists?"
Quite simply your body can get used to stress in such a way that, even though your body still reacts harmfully to stress, because the stress is so continuous, you just don't realize how much stress you are in. Regardless of how little or how much stress you have in your life, being able to identify it will be a big help to you. Once you are able to identify the stress in your life for what it is, you can then go about the business of dealing with it more effectively.
Make no mistake about it, if there is stress in your life, chances are you are reacting negatively to at least some of it. Most of us are so used to stress that we begin to believe that the state of stress is normal.
TAKE A STRESS TEST
The standard tests that doctors use to tell whether you are an easily stressed "hot reactor" (and at greater risk for disease) are pretty simple, so take your pick, says Frank Barry, M.D., a family practice physician in Colorado Springs and author of Make the Change for a Healthy Heart. For the first two tests, you'll want to take a blood-pressure reading twice, once before the test and once during the test, for comparison.
Test 1: Chill out. In Test 1, put your hand into a bucket of cold water for one minute and have someone measure your blood pressure right after you have done it. If it goes up into the high range in response to physical stress, you are a "hot reactor."
Test 2: Do some math. Test 2 is a little more cerebral. Start with the number 100 and mentally subtract 7, then continue to subtract 7 until you get to 2. In the midst of your figuring, have your blood pressure taken. "There's no exercise, no threat to your life, but a lot of people still feel mental stress and their blood pressures shoot up," says Dr. Barry.
Test 3: Talk to yourself. You can also test yourself without the shock of cold water or the mental anguish of math. As yourself: "Are you working toward your own true goals or someone else's?" If you are busy trying to keep up with the Joneses, you're still in the rat race, even if you have retired. You're much more likely to feel the effects of stress regardless of whether you're a "hot reactor," says Dr. Barry.