Quiz: How Much Do You Know About the Effects of Stress?

Stress happens, no matter how much we might try to avoid it. Whether we're stuck in a dead-end job or merely stuck in traffic, we all face aggravation from time to time. Any major change in our lives -- from the loss of a loved one to the arrival of a new baby -- can also cause stress. Whenever we're stressed, our bodies and minds go on alert, a remnant of the bygone days of our distant ancestors, when our problems tended to take the form of saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths. Modern annoyances aren't especially dangerous, but stress can be. How much do you know about stress and your health? Take this short quiz to find out.

1. A little stress can actually be good for you.

True

False

2. Which of these forms of stress can weaken the immune system?

a. Marital conflict

b. Grueling physical labor

c. Job dissatisfaction

d. All of the above

3. Studies have found that long-lasting emotional stress makes people vulnerable to all of the following conditions EXCEPT what?

a. Cold and flu

b. Heart disease

c. Peanut allergy

d. Hypertension

4. Emotional stress is the primary cause of stomach ulcers.

True

False

5. Which of the following physical symptoms can be a sign that you're overstressed?

a. Lingering back pain

b. Insomnia

c. Upset stomach

d. All of the above

6. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, avoiding anxiety-provoking situations is the best way to manage stress.

True

False

7. Which of these is a good way to manage everyday stress?

a. Practice stretching and deep-breathing exercises

b. "Vent" anger whenever needed

c. Rest your body as much as possible

d. Learn to be passive and take life as it comes

Answers

1. A little stress can actually be good for you.

The correct answer is: True

Too much stress may be hard on your health, but you don't want to flatline, either. In fact, a little stress can help you perform your best at work and play. When you're under pressure, your body gives you a quick shot of energy by releasing "stress hormones" such as adrenaline. Anybody who doesn't feel at least a little rush of excitement before a big speech or a big game may be headed for a lackluster performance.

2. Which of these forms of stress can weaken the immune system?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

In addition to providing a burst of energy, stress hormones act like a brake on the immune system. These hormones can come in handy if overaggressive cells from the immune system are causing trouble. But if a person is overly stressed from work, grueling labor, or marital conflict, the immune system can have trouble accomplishing the basic mission of fending off germs.

3. Studies have found that long-lasting emotional stress makes people vulnerable to all of the following conditions EXCEPT what?

The correct answer is: c. Peanut allergy

Prolonged stress can raise the risk of a wide range of health conditions, including hypertension, heart disease, stroke, infections, and back pain. The link between stress and cardiovascular disease is especially strong -- and especially dangerous. A Finnish study of 812 workers found that job-related stress more than doubled the risk of a fatal heart or stroke. In contrast, stress is not considered a risk factor for peanut allergy.

4. Emotional stress is the primary cause of stomach ulcers.

The correct answer is: False

A bacterial infection or overuse of anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen,or overuse of alcohol -- not stress -- are the primary causes of most stomach ulcers. Still, long-term stress may help raise the risk of ulcer-causing infections by weakening the immune system. A recent study found that people with generalized anxiety disorder, a condition that causes a near-constant state of worry, had more than their fair share of stomach ulcers.

5. Which of the following physical symptoms can be a sign that you're overstressed?

The correct answer is: d. All of the above

Other possible physical symptoms include shortness of breath, chronic fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, stiffness in the neck, and sudden weight loss or weight gain.

6. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, avoiding anxiety-provoking situations is the best way to manage stress.

The correct answer is: False

In some cases, avoiding stressful situations is definitely a good strategy. If certain people drive you crazy, you don't need to seek them out. And if you can't stand driving in traffic, you just might consider taking the bus. But you can't completely avoid all forms of stress, nor would you want to. For the most part, the best way to manage stressful situations is to control your reaction to them. As the AAFP puts it, you should "try to look at change as a positive challenge, not a threat."

7. Which of these is a good way to manage everyday stress?

The correct answer is: a. Practice stretching and deep-breathing exercises

Stretching and deep breathing can calm the mind in almost any situation. The other approaches -- venting, resting, and staying passive -- might worsen your stress instead. Instead of venting your anger, try to calm down with a few deep breaths. Rather than resting all day, be sure to get regular exercise: A good workout will burn pent-up energy and make you feel better all day long. And instead of being passive, you should take action. Plan ahead for stressful events, set realistic goals, and reach out to people who can help.

References

American Academy of Family Physicians. Stress: How to cope better with life's challenges. January 2004.

Kivimaki Mika et al. Work stress and risk of cardiovascular mortality: Prospective cohort study of industrial employees. British Medical Journal. October 19, 2002.

Wein Harrison. Stress and Disease: New Perspectives. National Institutes of Health. Word on Health. October 2000.

National Mental Health Association. Stress: Coping with Everyday Problems. 2004.

Vitaliano PP, et al. A path model of chronic stress, the metabolic syndrome, and coronary heart disease. Psychosom Med. 2002 May-Jun;64(3):418-35.

Ohlin B, et al. Chronic psychosocial stress predicts long-term cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in middle-aged men. Eur Heart J. 2004 May;25(10):867-73.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Linked to Peptic Ulcer Disease. Ann Quigley. Health Behavior News Service.

Top Ten Strategies for Wildly Effective Stress Management. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Counseling and Psychological Service.

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