Stress is not 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 pay the price. Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. 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. Our fight-or-flight response is our body’s sympathetic nervous system reacting to a stressful event. Our body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which trigger a higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness,all these factors help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation.
Non-essential body functions slow down, such as our digestive and immune systems when we are in fight-or flight response mode. All resources can then be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness and muscle use.
- Blood pressure rises
- Breathing becomes more rapid
- Digestive system slows down
- Heart rate (pulse) rises
- Immune system goes down
- Muscles become tense
- We do not sleep (heightened state of alertness)
Effects of Stress
Stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a highly subjective phenomenon that differs for each of us. Things that are distressful for some individuals can be pleasurable for others. We also respond to stress differently. Some people blush, some eat more while others grow pale or eat less. There are numerous physical as well as emotional responses as illustrated by the following list of some 50 common signs and symptoms of stress.
|1. Frequent headaches, jaw clenching or
|26. Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing
|2. Gritting, grinding teeth||27. Difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts|
|3. Stuttering or stammering||28. Trouble learning new information|
|4. Tremors, trembling of lips, hands||29. Forgetfulness, disorganization,
|5. Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms||30. Difficulty in making decisions.|
|6. Light headedness, faintness, dizziness||31. Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed.|
|7. Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds||32. Frequent crying spells or suicidal
|8. Frequent blushing, sweating||33. Feelings of loneliness or worthlessness|
|9. Cold or sweaty hands, feet||34. Little interest in appearance,
|10. Dry mouth, problems swallowing||35. Nervous habits, fidgeting, feet tapping|
|11. Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores||36. Increased frustration, irritability,
|12. Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”||37. Overreaction to petty annoyances|
|13. Unexplained or frequent “allergy”
|38. Increased number of minor accidents|
|14. Heartburn, stomach pain, nausea||39. Obsessive or compulsive behavior|
|15. Excess belching, flatulence||40. Reduced work efficiency or productivity|
|16. Constipation, diarrhea||41. Lies or excuses to cover up poor work|
|17. Difficulty breathing, sighing||42. Rapid or mumbled speech|
|18. Sudden attacks of panic||43. Excessive defensiveness or
|19. Chest pain, palpitations||44. Problems in communication, sharing|
|20. Frequent urination||45. Social withdrawal and isolation|
|21. Poor sexual desire or performance||46. Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue|
|22. Excess anxiety, worry, guilt,
|47. Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs|
|23. Increased anger, frustration, hostility||48. Weight gain or loss without diet|
|24. Depression, frequent or wild mood
|49. Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use|
|25. Increased or decreased appetite||50. Excessive gambling or impulse buying|
There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, immune system disturbances that increase susceptibility to infections, a host of viral linked disorders ranging from the common cold and herpes to AIDS and certain cancers, as well as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. In addition stress can have direct effects on the skin (rashes, hives, atopic dermatitis, the gastrointestinal system (GERD, peptic ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis) and can contribute to insomnia and degenerative neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease.
Stress Reduction and Stress Relievers
Every person react differently to various stress relieving activities, jogging can be good stress reliever for one person, while another person may feel stressed when recommended as stress reliever. Following can be helpful to reduce stress and relive stress:-
- Jogging and other aerobic exercises,
- Different types of meditation, prayer, yoga and tai chi are great for many people
- Various progressive muscular relaxation exercises
- Autogenic training
- Deep breathing
- Massage therapies
- Visual imagery
- Self hypnosis practices
- Bodywork and postural techniques.
- Listening to music,
- Volunteer work,
- Keeping a daily journal of events and how they feel,
- Playing with pets,
- Taking short breaks or shopping
Others find relief for their stress related symptoms from :-
- Nutritional supplements like chamomile, spearmint, kava kava, adaptogens and St. John’s wort
There are also certain medicines prescribed as stress relievers:-
- Beta-blockers for specific complaints.
A variety of cranioelectromagnetic stimulation devices have been found to be effective and safe for anxiety, insomnia and drug resistant depression. Strong emotional support from group therapy, family or friends is a powerful stress buster.
The focus in recent years has been on preventing such problems that cause stress. This involves
- Identifying the sources of stress in your life
- Finding ways to avoid them or reduce their impact.
- Sometimes one create our own stress because of habits and traits that can have harmful effects that can be reduced using cognitive restructuring techniques such as behavioral modification, assertiveness training, time management and stress inoculation.
- Some turn to smoking, alcohol or drugs to relieve their stress but these short-term solutions eventually cause even more stress.
- Long-term use of prescription medications can result in dependency or adverse side effects and some supplements can have similar problems or interact with other drugs.
- Getting enough sleep
- A proper diet
- Avoiding excess caffeine and other stimulants
- Taking time out to relax may be helpful in this regard.