Becoming Aware of Stress in Your Life: Stress Management Basics
Despite the fact that stress is one of the most common human experiences, it is surprisingly difficult to define. Scientists say that stress is a force or event that impairs normal stability, balance or functioning, and Everyone experiences it at some point in life.
People do not need to study the biology of stress to gain a practical understanding of how it affects them. If people start with the understanding that stress is an event or a force that upsets a balance, they can begin to see some of the ways that they might be affected by stress. Seeing clearly where undesirable stress occurs in one's life is the first step in managing it. One can then examine how stress affects his or her body, emotions and thoughts.
Ways Stress Affects Individuals
The long-term effects of stress on one's health are quite significant. The American Academy of Family Physicians has said that two-thirds of office visits to family doctors are prompted by stress-related symptoms. Stress is more than just a nuisance or something that occasionally makes people feel nervous or anxious.
Very stressful events have been associated with a dramatically increased risk of a heart attack. For instance, in the days following an earthquake the incidence of heart attacks increases significantly, presumably because of the stress of the earthquake.
Chronic, ongoing stress, even when it is not so dramatic, can affect one's health in very significant ways. One common example of this is the effect of a very stressful job. Several large studies have demonstrated that a stressful job more than doubles one's risk of a heart attack. A stressful job might lead to cigarette smoking, obesity and lack of exercise, all of which increase one's risk for a heart attack. It is also the stress itself that directly leads to an increased risk. Stress has been associated with the risk of many other diseases, ranging from the common cold to chronic pain to some types of cancer.
Stress, however, is not always bad.
Some stress is inevitable and actually beneficial - such as when you put test yourself, so you can perform better under stressful conditions. Stress helps people when they need to grow, attain difficult goals and perform their best. Some degree of stress enhances performance even when individuals are not in immediate danger. An athlete in a race may perform better because of the stress of the big event.
Stress can increase performance, but only to a point. When one's stress exceeds a certain limit, additional stress will detract from performance. Stress or nervousness before a big presentation sometimes helps one to perform better and/or think with more clarity and precision. However, if that person becomes excessively stressed and anxious, he or she will have difficulty remembering what to say.
The physical stress of swimming in very cold water helps individuals to swim harder, but only for a short time. The colder the water and harder that one swims, the more quickly he or she becomes exhausted. This is physical stress. Everyone's tolerance for stress is different, and individuals handle various types of stress differently.
It is important to recognize and respect one's limits.
People do not learn to handle stress by letting it overwhelm them and rob them of their strength.
Ideally, people would be able to adjust the amount of stress that they face so that they receive neither too much nor too little. This, of course, is not always possible. When one cannot eliminate excessive stress, the best way to manage it is to learn to maintain a balance even during a stressful event.
If people learn to recognize the warning signs of increasing stress before they reach their limit, they can cope intelligently with their stresses before their resources are all spent.
THE STRESS TEST
The following exercise will assist you to identify symptoms that could be stress-related in five areas of human Experience: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual.
Mark the items that you experience regularly.
If you are surprised by the number of symptoms you identify, then take immediate action to improve your overall constitution against stress:
Physical or External Stress
Stress which affects the body, is the most straight forward and easy to identify. When people work too hard, stay up too late, or eat and drink too much, they feel the direct physical results of these actions. They are more likely to sleep poorly and feel tired and ill.
Some external stresses seem beyond one's control. The stress of a job that is boring, unrewarding or excessively demanding can make one miserable and more prone to illness. However, it is more difficult to correct this kind of problem than it is to eat a healthy diet or get more sleep.
When one has a medical illness, even if it is relatively minor such as a cold or the flu, it becomes increasingly obvious how this physical stress affects his or her sense of well-being and quality of life. Clearly, a major or life-threatening illness creates stress in many different dimensions of one's life. Some physicians think that the stress that accompanies sickness is one of the major obstacles to becoming well.
- Suffer from frequent headaches or migraines,
- Often feel fatigued or worn out,
- Fitful sleep: If awakened you find it difficult to fall asleep again,
- lump in throat - difficulty in swallowing: Experience digestive upsets,
- Recurrent and persistent stomach ulcers,
- Exercise infrequently,
- Grind your teeth,
- Often engage in finger-drumming,
- Increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco (or other filthy habits),
- Occasionally suffer from pounding heart,
- Exhibit signs of restlessness,
- Frequently catch colds or flu,
- Drink more than 4 cups of tea or coffee,
- High Blood Pressure,
- Often aware of body tension,
- Accident prone,
- You are overweight: Smoke more than 10 cigarettes a day,
- Suffer from chest pains Regularly experience tension in back of neck or head (migraines),
- Experience episodes of diarrhea,
- Have twitching in face or limbs,
- Suffer from dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness,
- Unexplained rashes or itches of the skin,
- Often take sleeping pills or tranquilizers,
- Irritation or wetness around back passage (euphamism for colitis),
- Excessive perspiration especially of the hands,
- Take mind-altering drugs,
Psychological or Emotional Stress
Psychological or emotional stress may seem less concrete, but it has an equally definite effect on an individual's health and well-being. Being able to identify areas of psychological stress is challenging, but important since they may have an even greater impact on one's happiness than physical or external stress. When people are lonely, depressed or unhappy, they are more likely to become sick and less likely to enjoy the things that should give them pleasure.
When people have any type of stress that exceeds what they can comfortably manage, they are much more likely to become depressed and anxious. It can be difficult to identify an internal or psychological stress.
Although these inner stresses often make people feel uncomfortable, it is easier to blame something external for the discomfort. It takes a considerable amount of psychic strength to be able to consciously handle this kind of stress instead of being swept along with it. Often, the first step it is to look clearly at one's own feelings and honestly ask oneself what it is that causes inner difficulty or pain.
- Mental attitudes are generally negative:
- You easily get confused:
- Suffer from mental lethargy:
- Seldom read a book or journal relating to your work:
- Have no intellectual relaxation:
- Rarely develop new ideas:
- Make negative statements about yourself:
- Find it difficult to concentrate:
- Seldom read anything but a newspaper:
- Do not have any hobbies:
- Rarely express your feelings through music, art, dance or writing:
- Fail to keep abreast of current events:
- Mind is often in a whirl:
- Rarely introduce innovations into your work:
- You avoid attending Seminars or courses that will assist you with your work:
- Frequently suffer from forgetfulness.
(Note: Do any of these symptoms describe your child? Do you love your child? If so, you must seek drastic change for the better for the good of your child - OR YOUR CHILD WILL END UP SEEKING THAT DRASTIC CHANGE FOR HIM/HER SELF; ALL PSYCHOLOGICAL CASE HISTORIES PROVE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE MAKE TRAGIC MISTAKES BECAUSE OF STRESS IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER.)