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Stress Management

Stress Management

Stress is a non – specific response of the boy to a demand. Researchers define stress as physically or emotional response to events that cause bodily or mental tension. Stress arises when individuals perceive that they can adequately cope with the demands being made on them or with threats made to their well being. 

Stress Management
          For instance, for a teacher, stress is “the experience by teacher of unpleasant, negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, tension, frustration or depression,, resulting from some aspect of their work as a teacher”. It is important to understand that while stress is necessary and positive. It can also be negative and harmful. Whether positive or negative, physical or mental, the body’s reaction to stress can be described by three stages

Alarm Reaction Stage : The body identifies and first reacts to the stress. In this stage the body first releases hormones that help in the defense against the stressor.

Resistance Stage : The body continues to resist the stressors as they persist. If the stressors continue and there is a consistent state or resistance, there is potential to move into the third and final stage.

Exhaustion Stage : The body and mind are no longer able to make the necessary adjustments to resist the stressors and there is physical and mental exhaustion. 

Why Stress ?

Sources of Stress :

          We can experience stress from four basic sources like,
-         Environmental
-         Family – related stressors,
-         Workplace Stressors,
-         Physical reasons.
-         Our thoughts also play role in stress.

A. Environment Stress : The environment can bombard us with intense and competing demands to adjust.
Ex : Environmental Stressors include
-         weather, Noise, Crowding, Pollution, Traffic, Unsafe and Substandard housing, and Crime.

B.Family – related Stressors : Include, family separations ( due to work relocations or other reasons),
Ex : Relationship conflict, Disagreements, demands for your time and attention, Loss of loved one, illness or death of a family member, parenting or child care challenges.

C. Physiological Stressors : These are situations and circumstances that affect our body.
Ex : Physiological stressors include rapid growth of adolescence, menopause, illness, aging, giving birth, accidents, lack of exercise, poor nutrition and sleep disturbances.

D. Thoughts : Our brain interprets and perceives situations as stressful, difficult, painful, or pleasant. Some situations in life are stress provoking, but it is our thoughts that determine whether they are a problem for us or not.

Causes of Stress :

          Stress is a psychological and physiological response to events that upset our personal balance. The potential causes of stress are numerous. These may be linked to outside factors such as the state of the world, environment in which one lives or works or the family. It may come from one’s own irresponsible behavior, negative attitude or feeling or unrealistic expectation. 

          The causes of stress are highly individualistic. A range of physical to emotional factors cause stress. These include threat, fear, uncertainly, life causes, frustrations, conflicts, pressures, environment, fatigue and overwork.

 i)Threat : A perceived threat will lead a person to feel stressed. This can include         
-         Physical threats,
-         social threats
-         Financial threats.

           A threat may lead to stress. Threat can also lead to fear which again leads to stress. When there is a gap between what one does and what one thinks, there is gap between what one does and what one thinks, there is cognitive dissonance and one feel stressed. 
          There are many causes of stress in life like fear of death, ill health being victim of a crime, self abuse, family change, sexual problems, argument, physical changes, moving to new location, financial crisis, environment and increase in responsibilities.

ii)Frustration : Frustration comes from obstacles that prevent from meeting one’s needs or achieving personal goals. These may be external ( discrimination ) or internal ( physical handicap, lack of desired ability or more incompatible needs or goals, the choice between two desirable options, or decision involving disagreeable alternations.

iii)Conflicts : Involving two or more incompatible needs or goals, the choice between two desirable options, or decision involving disagreeable alternations.

iv)Pressures : Stress can stem from expectations of others or demands placed on one. Pressure to get good grades in exams is one of those.

v)Survival Stress : It is common response to danger in all people and animals. When one is afraid that someone or something may physically hurt him or her, this leads to stress.

vi)Environment : It is a response to thing around us like noise, crowd, pressure of work/family that causes stress.

vii)Fatigue and Overwork : This kind of stress builds up over a long time and takes a hard toll. It can be caused by working to much or too hard at jobs at home. It can also be caused by not knowing how to manage the time well and taking time for rest and relaxation.

Symptoms of Stress :

          Every one reacts to stress differently. But there are some common symptoms of stress. One may shake uncontrollably, breathe faster, deeper than normal or even vomit. Stress can even trigger an asthma attack.
          Intellectual symptoms include memory problem, difficulty in taking in decision, confusion, poor judgment and lack of concentration.
          Physical symptoms include digestive problem, sleep disturbance, fatigue, high blood pressure, weight gain or loss, skin problems, asthma or shortness of breath, decreased sex drive and heart palpitations.
          Emotional Symptoms include are becoming moody and hypersensitive, restlessness and anxiety, depression, anger and resentment, irritation, lack of confidence, apathy and urge to laugh or cry at inappropriate times.
          Behavioral Symptoms are eating more or less, sleeplessness, isolation, neglecting responsibilities, increased alcohol and drug use, nervous habits, teeth grinding or jaw clenching, overdoing activities such as exercising or shopping losing temper and overreacting to unexpected problems.

The Stress Response :

          Any problem, real or imagined, could cause the cerebral cortex ( the thinking part of the brain ) to send an alarm to the hypothalamus ( the main switch for the stress response, located in the midbrain ).
          The hypothalamus then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system to make a series of changes in our body. Our heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, metabolism, and blood pressure, all increase. Our hands and feet get cold as blood is directed away from extremities and digestive system to the large muscles that can help fight or run.
          Our adrenal glands start to secrete corticoids ( adrenaline, epinephrine, and nor-epinephrine), which inhibit digestion reproduction, growth and tissue repair and the responses of your immune and inflammatory systems. The stress response is useful and can be necessary in times of emergency, but the frequent or unrelenting triggering of the stress response in our modern life without a balancing relaxation response can contribute to a number or illnesses and symptoms.
          The same mechanism that turned the stress response on, can turn it off. This is called the Relaxation Response. As soon as we decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, or brain stops sending emergency signals to brain stem, which in turn ceases to send panic messages to nervous system. Minutes after the danger signals stop, the flight or fight response burns out. Our metabolism, heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure all return to their normal levels.

The Effects of Stress :

          Prolonged unhealthy stress has many physiological effects. These include hair loss, eating disorders, tense, muscle ache and pain, palpitations and chest discomfort, fainting, choking, indigestion and nausea, diarrhea and frequent urination, tremors and twitching, breathlessness and hyperventilating and tension headaches. Prolonged unhealthy stress has cognitive, emotional and behavioral effects also. These are lack of concentration/ability to think rationally being easily distracted, reduced memory, increased errors, organization and planning deterioration, increased tension, change in person ability, irritable/aggressive, depression/isolation, reduced self-esteem, speech problems, less enthusiasm, lower energy levels/sleeplessness, absenteeism and burnout.

Stress Prone Personalities :

          The people with personality traits like active, energetic, having anger/hostility, impatient to wait in a queue, conscientious, having high standards, never having enough time. Often intolerant to others, feeling guilty when relaxing generally find themselves in various high pressure scenarios which tends to increase stress.
          Machine paced work has been linked to anxiety, anger and depression but usually for workers having these traits, emotional and behavioral reaction patterns are not mutually exclusive and due to the complexity of the human body. It is likely that a variety of influences affect the relationship between personality and health.

Stress Management Techniques :

          Stress management strategies that address the symptoms of stress are typically relaxation strategies, Remember that the “fight of fight” response stimulates the body by increasing heat rate, blood pressure, respiration and more. It is this continued state of stimulation that contributes to health problems. Relaxation strategies help to reverse the stimulation caused by the stress response. Therefore, they can reduce the risk of stress – related health problems it is important to note that relaxation strategies can be useful for managing stress in the short term, but because they don’t remove the root cause of stress ( danger ), they are not useful at managing stress in the long term, 

1.Breathing Exercises :

          Breathing exercises have been scientifically shown to induce relazation. There are several ways to perform breathing exercises. There is a method called the “relaxing breath” that originated from yoga.

2.Progressive Muscle Relaxation :

          Not surprisingly, the goal of Progressive Muscle Relaxation ( PMR ) is to progressively relax your muscles. As with breathing exercises, techniques vary but the essence of the exercise remains the same to progressively tense and then relax muscle group. As we learn to distinguish between tense muscles and relaxed ones, we can become more efficient at inducting a state of relaxation in the group of muscle that we are focusing on.

3.Exercise :

          During exercise, the body releases a hormone called adrenaline-the  same stimulating hormone that is released in the “fight or fight” response. During exercise adrenaline serves a purpose as it is needed to ge the body moving and keep it moving. It get “used up” and the body returns to normal when the exercise is over. However, in times of stress the hormone is secreted but there is generally no physical action ( Ex : running, jumping, etc.) so the body stays in this stimulated state.

          Research reveals that a relaxed state usually occurs after physical activity. A few types of exercises including Yoga and Chi have additional benefits as they promote body awareness and breath control. If we ar feeling stressed, we should go out for a brisk walk, play a sport with some friends or do any kind of physical activity that we enjoy. The benefits of physical activity especially regular physical activity –extend well beyond stress management.

4.Healthy Living and Stress :

          Adopting health-enhancing behaviors can help us be less vulnerable to stress and make us better able to manage it when it arises. Health is our greatest resource and this resource will help us to manage stress. Beyond having a positive impact on stress. These behaviors are also associated with many other benefits such as reduced risk of physical and mental illness and an enhanced sense of well-being.

5.Eat a Healthy Diet :

          A healthy diet should consist of plant based food items such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. It should be low in overall fat, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.
          Trans fats should be avoided which are found mostly in commercially prepared baked goods ( ex : cookies, crackers, pies). Hydrogenated fats ( Ex : shortening, some margarines ) should also be avoided.

6.Engage in Regular Physical Activity :

          Regular physical activity is associated with many health benefits including a significant reduction in the risk of heart disease. high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, stroke, depression and other illness as well as better sleep, better sex and a healthy weight. At least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity should be done every week.
          Moderate activities include leisure bicycling, low impact aerobics, dancing, shoveling snow, and badminton. Vigorous physical activities include jogging, high-impact aerobics, most competitive sports and swimming steady-paced laps. Other forms of physical activity include stretching, yoga and weight lifting .

7.Don’t Use Tobacco :

          We should quit smoking and use of tobacco to manage stress Majority of people continue to use tobacco as they are addicted to nicotine, Nicotine stimulates the pleasure center of the brain.
          When the brain of a smoker is deprived of nicotine he or she experiences negative emotions, which makes one feel stressed. Tobacco does not relieve stress in fact it causes it. Although relieve stress infact it causes it. Although it is difficult to quit. But with one’s will power one can.

8.Get Sufficient, Quality Sleep :

          Lack of quality sleep negatively affects our health. It reduces level of energy decreases ability to think clearly and solving problems. It also negatively affects mood ( Ex : Increased irritability ) and weakness immune system.

9.Establish and Maintain Healthy Relationships :

          The people in our life are extremely important resource for stress management. They can provide help as well as emotional support. Although Face book and other social networking sites are convenient way to communicate with people but they are not the basis of mutually – beneficial, health – enhancing relationships.

10.Meditation :

          There are different methods of practicing meditation. Typically, it begins by assuming a comfortable posture – such as sitting on a cushion or a chain. Then by gently closing eyes one can begin to relax muscles.

11.Listening to Music :

          Most of us listen to music regularly. But we rarely take the time to truly appreciate the many facets of music such as the lyrics, the beat, or even the contribution of each individual instrument. This can also help in releasing stress.

12.Hobby :

          Anyone who spends time doing a hobby knows that it can take their mind off stress – producing thoughts and can also be relaxing. A hobby that is too demanding, time-consuming, or expensive, however, will probably add to stress.

13.Time Management :

          To be effective we must manage our time properly, Here are some suggestions on how to reclaim our time. These include eliminating time – wasting activities, other unnecessary distraction, such as Face book, Computer games, television. One should make a daily and weekly plan to long-term goals and to meet personal needs. One can also breakup a large project into smaller, more manageable parts, set deadlines for completion of each part. Recognize that you do not have to say “yes” to every request that others make.

References :

          Dr. Jitendra Nagapl is well known psychiatrist and stress counseling expert. He can be reached at jnagapl10@gmail.com 


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