Now-a-days, stress management has become a hot topic for discussions amongst friends, with doctors, in our social meetings and informal chats. We try to mange our families, our money, our property, our businesses – we manage whatever is valuable to us. But we are not able to manage our mental stress. Why would anybody manage stress? We understand that people have made stress part of life. Stress is not a part of life. It is not your lifestyle, it is not your work, it is not your family, it is not the situations in which you exist which cause stress to you; it is your inability to manage your system – your body, mind, emotions and your energy – your lack of understanding of how this system functions, your inability to use the system the way it should be used.
Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, and demands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it has become a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body may have to pay the price.
If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. You can protect yourself by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.
When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus – preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. It is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV. When you sense danger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges.
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life as well.
How does stress affect you?
The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychological threats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergency stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and the harder it is to shut off.
Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Many health problems are caused by stress, including Pain of any kind, Heart disease, Digestive problems, Sleep problems, Depression, Obesity, Autoimmune diseases and Skin conditions, such as eczema etc.
How much stress can we tolerate?
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it’s important to know our own limit. But just how much stress is “too much” differs from person to person. Some people roll with the punches, while others crumble at the slightest obstacle or frustration. Some people even seem to thrive on the excitement and challenge of a high-stress lifestyle. Our ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of our relationships, our general outlook on life, our emotional intelligence and genetics.
What influences our stress tolerance level?
• Our support network – A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated we are, the greater our vulnerability to stress.
• Our sense of control – If we have confidence in ourselves and our ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, it’s easier to take stress in stride. People who are vulnerable to stress tend to feel like things are out of their control.
• Our attitude and outlook – Stress-hardy people have an optimistic attitude. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humour, accept that change is a part of life, and believe in a higher power or purpose.
• Our ability to deal with our emotions. We are extremely vulnerable to stress if we don’t know how to calm and soothe ourselves when we are feeling sad, angry, or afraid. The ability to bring our emotions into balance helps us bounce back from adversity.
• Our knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if we go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if we were expecting to bounce back immediately.
Are we in control of stress or is stress controlling us?
• When we feel agitated, do we know how to quickly calm and soothe ourselves?
• Can we easily let go of our anger?
• Can we turn to others at work to help us calm down and feel better?
• When we come home at night, do we walk in the door feeling alert and relaxed?
• Are we seldom distracted or moody?
• Are we able to recognize upsets that others seem to be experiencing?
• Do we easily turn to friends or family members for a calming influence?
• When our energy is low, do we know how to boost it?
As many times we question ourselves on the above lines, so deeper we may know our own attitude towards stress.
Causes of stress
When we recount the reasons of our stress, we will find one or more of the following reasons can be responsible for our stress:
1. Spouse’s death
3. Marriage separation
4. Jail term
5. Death of a close relative
6. Injury or illness of self or some one we love
7. Unpeaceful Marriage
8. Fired from job
9. Maladjustment with the spouse.
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you or forces you to adjust can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.
What causes stress depends, at least in part, on your perception of it. Something that’s stressful to you may not faze someone else; they may even enjoy it. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more than enough time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.
Some Eternal Causes of Stress
Not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be self-generated due to Major life changes, change in Work, Relationship difficulties, Financial problems, Being too busy and due to Children and family etc.
Some Internal Causes of Stress
Not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be self-generated on account of Inability to accept uncertainty, Pessimism, Negative self-talk Unrealistic expectations, Perfectionism and Lack of assertiveness etc.
What’s Stressful For Us?
What’s stressful for us may be quite different from what’s stressful to our best friend, our spouse, or the person next door. For example:
• Some people enjoy speaking in public; others are terrified.
• Some people are more productive under deadline pressure; others are miserably tense.
• Some people are eager to help family and friends through difficult times; others find it very stressful.
• Some people feel comfortable complaining about bad service in a restaurant; others find it so difficult to complain that they prefer to suffer in silence.
• Some people may feel that changes at work represent a welcome opportunity; others worry about whether they’ll be able to cope.
Signs and symptoms of stress overload
It’s important to learn how to recognize when our stress levels are out of control. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on us. We get used to it. It starts to feels familiar – even normal. We don’t notice how much it’s affecting us, even as it takes a heavy toll.
The signs and symptoms of stress overload can be almost anything. Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently.
How do we respond to stress?
The following can be the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:
• Foot on the gas – An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
• Foot on the brake – A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
• Foot on both – A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.
Some of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress
The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.
Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
1. Cognitive Symptoms
• Memory problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Poor judgment
• Seeing only the negative
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant worrying
2. Emotional Symptoms
• Irritability or short temper
• Agitation, inability to relax
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Depression or general unhappiness
3. Physical Symptoms
• Aches and pains
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Nausea, dizziness
• Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
• Loss of sex drive
• Frequent colds
4. Behavioral Symptoms
• Eating more or less
• Sleeping too much or too little
• Isolating yourself from others
• Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
• Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological and medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.
Be Happy – We may become stress free.