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Stress & Stress Management

Feeling like there are too many pressures and demands on you? Losing sleep? Eating on the run because your schedule is just too busy? You're not alone. Everyone experiences stress at times — adults, teens, and even kids. But there are ways to minimize stress and manage the stress that's unavoidable.

Stress is a part of daily life. Modern lifestyles tend to add to it. Stress normally serves to motivate people and bring out the best in them - but it can also bring out the worst.

The effects of stress are not only emotional and mental, but also physical. The mind and body have adaptive mechanisms to adjust to a stress situation.

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.

Hormones released by the adrenal glands - the 'fight or flight' response - raise the heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. The person feels more alert and energetic.

Diffculties arise when a stress situation is too much for the adaptive mechanisms to cope with. Further, individual reactions vary.

Some people are 'stressed out' by a situation that others adapt to. Or a situation may indeed be overwhelming. The symptoms include tension, fright, irritability, exhaustion and insomnia. The person may have anxiety or depression, or seek escape through a diversion like alcoholism.

Stress Signs and Symptoms

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
Cognitive Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms Behavioral Symptoms
  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • 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)

Causes of Stress

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.


Causes of Stress
Common external causes of stress Common internal causes of stress
  • Major life changes
  • Work
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial problems
  • Being too busy
  • Children and family
  • Inability to accept uncertainty
  • Pessimism
  • Negative self-talk
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Perfectionism
  • Lack of assertiveness

What can you do?

  • Consult: If stress is preceded by a known traumatic event; the diagnosis is not difficult. Treatment should be started early and may include relaxation methods, dtugs, and psychotherapy techniques like counselling by a psychologist.

  • Relax: Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.
 

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