What is STRESS? Stress is a normal physical response to events thatmake you feel threatened or upset your balance insome way. When you sense danger – whether it’s realor imagined – the bodys defenses kick into high gearin a rapid, automatic process known as the ―fight-or-flight‖ reaction, or the stress response. The stress response is the body’s way of protectingyou. When working properly, it helps you stay focused,energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stresscan save your life – giving you extra strength to defendyourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on thebrakes to avoid an accident.
What is STRESS? But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful andstarts causing major damage to your health, your mood,your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life. But not all stress is bad -- some stress is good. In fact,everyone needs stress in their lives; without it, life would bedull and unexciting. Stress adds flavor, challenge andopportunity to life. Stress can pump you up, give youenergy, supply that zest for living. Stress is an unavoidable part of life. The challenges causedby stress help to develop new skills and behavior patterns.The problems occur, however, when stress becomesexcessive. It can become destructive and can turn intodistress. Too much stress on your mind and body can makeyou feel miserable, worried, sad and ill.
Is stress harmful? Stress can have a positive side. A certain level ofstress may be necessary and enjoyable in order tohelp you prepare for something or to actually do it –e.g. if you are taking part in a performance, taking anexam or you have to do an important piece of workfor a deadline – it will be stressful even if you enjoyit, and the stress itself will keep you alert andfocussed. Our bodies still respond in this way, releasing thehormones adrenaline and cortisol.
Is stress harmful? Adrenaline The release of adrenaline causes rapid changes to yourblood flow and increases your breathing and heart rate, toget you ready to defend yourself (fight) or to run away(flight). You become pale, sweat more and your mouth becomesdry. Your body responds in this way to all types of stress as ifit were a physical threat. You may merely be having anargument with someone, but your body may react asthough you were facing a wolf.
Is stress harmful?Short-term positive effects:Long-term negative effects: Cortisol The other stress hormone, cortisol, is present in yourbody all the time, but levels increase in response todanger and stress. In the short-term, its effects arepositive, to help you deal with an immediate crisis, butlong-term stress means that cortisol builds up andcreates a number of stress-related health problems. imbalances of blood sugar increase in abdominal fatstorage suppressed thyroidactivity decreased bone density decreased muscle mass high blood pressure lowered immunity less able to think clearly. a quick burst ofenergy decreasedsensitivity to pain increase inimmunity heightenedmemory.
Is stress harmful? People’s tolerance of stress varies. A situation that isintolerable to one person may be stimulating toanother. What you feel is determined not just byevents and changes in the outside world, but howyou perceive and respond to them. The important point is that you can learn torecognise your own responses to stress and developskills to deal with it well.
Causes of Stress Situations which are recognised to be very stressfulare associated with change, and with lack of controlover what is happening. Some of the causes ofstress are happy events, but because they bring bigchanges or make unusual demands on you, they canstill be stressful. Some of the most stressful events are: moving house getting married having a baby bereavement serious illness in yourself or a friend or family member.
Causes of Stress Stress is also caused by long-term difficultcircumstances, such as: unemployment poverty relationship problems caring for a disabled family member or friend difficulties at work bad housing noisy neighbours. Not having enough work, activities or change in your lifecan be just as stressful as have too much activity andchange to deal with.
Stress symptoms: Effects on your body,feelings and behavior Stress thats left unchecked can contribute to healthproblems such as high blood pressure, heartdisease, obesity and diabetes. Also, if you have chest pain, especially if it occursduring physical activity or is accompanied byshortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, nausea, orpain radiating into your shoulder and arm, getemergency help immediately. These may be warningof a heart attack and not simply stress symptoms.
Stress symptoms: Effects on your body,feelings and behaviorCommon effects of stress ...... On your body ... On your mood ... On your behaviorHeadacheMuscle tension orpainChest painFatigueChange in sexdriveStomach upsetSleep problemsAnxietyRestlessnessLack of motivationor focusIrritability or angerSadness ordepressionOvereating or undereatingAngry outburstsDrug or alcohol abuseTobacco useSocial withdrawalSource: American Psychological Associations "Stress in America" report,2010
STRESS MANAGEMENT: How to Reduce,Prevent, and Cope with Stress Identify the sources of stress in your life To identify your true sources of stress, look closely atyour habits, attitude, and excuses: Do you explain away stress as temporary (―I justhave a million things going on right now‖) eventhough you can’t remember the last time you took abreather? Do you define stress as an integral part of your workor home life (―Things are always crazy around here‖)or as a part of your personality (―I have a lot ofnervous energy, that’s all‖). Do you blame your stress on other people or outsideevents, or view it as entirely normal and
Start a Stress Journal A stress journal can help you identify the regularstressors in your life and the way you deal with them.Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in yourjournal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to seepatterns and common themes. Write down: What caused your stress (make a guess if you’reunsure) How you felt, both physically and emotionally How you acted in response What you did to make yourself feel better
Look at how you currently cope with stress Unhealthy ways of coping with stress Smoking Drinking too much Overeating or undereating Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities Using pills or drugs to relax Sleeping too much Procrastinating Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facingproblems Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angryoutbursts, physical violence)
Look at how you currently cope with stress Learning healthier ways to manage stress If your methods of coping with stress aren’tcontributing to your greater emotional and physicalhealth, it’s time to find healthier ones. There aremany healthy ways to manage and cope with stress,but they all require change. You can either changethe situation or change your reaction. When decidingwhich option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the fourAs: Avoid Alter Adapt Accept.
Dealing with Stressful Situations: The FourA’sChange the situation: Change your reaction: Adapt to the stressor Accept the stressor Avoid the stressor Alter the stressor
Stress management strategy #1: Avoidunnecessary stress Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them.Whether in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept addedresponsibilities when you’re close to reaching them. Taking on morethan you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistentlycauses stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around,limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end therelationship entirely. Take control of your environment – If the evening news makesyou anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longerbut less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore,do your grocery shopping online. Avoid hot-button topics – If you get upset over religion or politics,cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue aboutthe same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuseyourself when it’s the topic of discussion. Pare down your to-do list – Analyze your schedule, responsibilities,and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguishbetween the ―shoulds‖ and the ―musts.‖ Drop tasks that aren’t trulynecessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
Stress management strategy #2: Alter thesituation Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. Ifsomething or someone is bothering you, communicate yourconcerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice yourfeelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remainthe same. Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to changetheir behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willingto bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding ahappy middle ground. Be more assertive. Don’t take a backseat in your own life. Dealwith problems head on, doing your best to anticipate andprevent them. If you’ve got an exam to study for and your chattyroommate just got home, say up front that you only have fiveminutes to talk. Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause alot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind,it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead andmake sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the
Stress management strategy #3: Adapt tothe stressor Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from amore positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a trafficjam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen toyour favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time. Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressfulsituation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run.Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth gettingupset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energyelsewhere. Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source ofavoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure bydemanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourselfand others, and learn to be okay with ―good enough.‖ Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, takea moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in yourlife, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simplestrategy can help you keep things in perspective.
Stress management strategy #4: Accept thethings you can’t change Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in lifeare beyond our control— particularly the behavior of otherpeople. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on thethings you can control such as the way you choose to react toproblems. Look for the upside. As the saying goes, ―What doesn’t kill usmakes us stronger.‖ When facing major challenges, try to lookat them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poorchoices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them andlearn from your mistakes. Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make anappointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re goingthrough can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you cando to alter the stressful situation. Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfectworld and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger andresentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving
Stress management strategy #5: Make timefor fun and relaxation Healthy ways to relax and recharge Go for a walk. Spend time in nature. Call a good friend. Sweat out tension with a good workout. Write in your journal. Take a long bath. Light scented candles. Savor a warm cup of coffee or tea. Play with a pet. Work in your garden. Get a massage. Curl up with a good book. Listen to music. Watch a comedy.
Stress management strategy #5: Make timefor fun and relaxation Set aside relaxation time. Include rest andrelaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow otherobligations to encroach. This is your time to take abreak from all responsibilities and recharge yourbatteries. Connect with others. Spend time with positivepeople who enhance your life. A strong supportsystem will buffer you from the negative effects ofstress. Do something you enjoy every day. Make time forleisure activities that bring you joy, whether it bestargazing, playing the piano, or working on yourbike. Keep your sense of humor. This includes the abilityto laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your
Stress management strategy #6: Adopt ahealthy lifestyle Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing andpreventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes ofexercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise forreleasing pent-up stress and tension. Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared tocope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day rightwith breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear withbalanced, nutritious meals throughout the day. Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary "highs" caffeine andsugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. Byreducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugarsnacks in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcoholor drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief isonly temporary. Don’t avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal withproblems head on and with a clear mind. Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as yourbody. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may causeyou to think irrationally.