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.

Stress Response

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
Stress Symptoms

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

    Optimizing Stress
    Optimizing Stress (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)
  •  Autogenic training
  • Deep breathing
  • Massage therapies
  • Visual imagery
  • Self hypnosis practices
  •  Acupuncture,
  • Acupressure,
  • Biofeedback,
  • Alexander,
  •  Reiki,
  • Feldenkrais
  • Bodywork and postural techniques.
  • Listening to music,
  • Hobbies,
  • Volunteer work,
  • Keeping a daily journal of events and how they feel,
  • Laughter,
  • Playing with pets,
  • Taking short breaks or shopping

Others find relief for their stress related symptoms from :-

  • Aromatherapy,
  • Nutritional supplements like chamomile, spearmint, kava kava, adaptogens and St. John’s wort

There are also certain medicines prescribed as stress relievers:-

  • Tranquilizers,
  • Sedatives,
  • Hypnotics,
  • Antidepressants
  • 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.

Stress Prevention

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.

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