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“Stress can be defined as a state of physical and mental tension caused by certain external or internal factor in a person's life”. The art of stress management is to keep yourself at a level of stimulation that is healthy and enjoyable. Life without stimulus would be incredibly dull and boring. Life with too much stimulus becomes unpleasant and tiring, and may ultimately damage your health or well-being. Too much stress can seriously interfere with your ability to perform effectively. By analyzing the likely causes of stress, you will be able to plan your responses to likely forms of stress. These might be actions to alleviate the situation or may be stress management techniques that you will use.
Stress arises when individuals perceive that they cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on them or with threats to their well-being. R.S. Lazarus (1966).
Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we readjust our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.
Stress results from an imbalance between demands and resources. R.S. Lazarus and S. Folkman (1984). Formula for finding Stress: In simple words we can say that when the pressure is greater that the resources we face stress.
Where S stands for Stress P is for Pressure & R stands for Resources.
Types of Stress
So, what are the major types of stress? While there are many subcategories of stress that are being treated today, the major types of stress can be broken down into four different categories: Eustress, Hyperstress, Hypostress, and Distress. Eustress Eustress is one of the helpful types of stress. What is the definition for eustress? It is the type of stress you experience right before you have the need to exert physical force. Eustress prepares the muscles, heart, and mind for the strength needed for whatever is about to occur. Eustress can also apply to creative endeavors. When a person needs to have some extra energy or creativity, eustress kicks in to bring them the inspiration they need. An athlete will experience the strength that comes form eustress right before they play a big game or enter a big competition. Because of the eustress, they immediately receive the strength that they need to perform. When the body enters the fight or flight response, it will experience eustress. The eustress prepares the body to fight with or flee from an imposing danger. This type of stress will cause the blood to pump to the major muscle groups, and will increase the heart rate and blood pressure to increase. If the event or danger passes, the body will eventually return to its normal state. Distress Distress is one of the negative types of stress. This is one of the types of stress that the mind and body undergoes when the normal routine is constantly adjusted and altered. The mind is not comfortable with this routine, and craves the familiarity of a common routine. There are actually two types of distress: acute stress and chronic stress. Acute Stress Acute stress is the type of stress that comes immediately with a change of routine. It is an intense type of stress, but it passes quickly. Acute stress is the body's way of getting a person to stand up and take inventory of what is going on, to make sure that everything is OK Chronic Stress Chronic stress will occur if there is a constant change of routine for week after week. Chronic stress affects the body for a long period of time. This is the type of stress experienced by someone who constantly faces moves or job changes
Things that happen outside your body: SITUATIONS/EVENTS Relationship conflicts Job changes Stock market fluctuations Illness in a loved one Divorce or separation Being sued Losing a job Going to the doctor/dentist Failures/mistakes Retirement Overcrowding Disasters Death of a loved one
DEMANDS Deadlines Competition Tests/Examinations Time pressures Family/children problems Financial pressures Too many responsibilities Public speaking Public performances Caring for others Dieting Quitting smoking
OTHER EXTERNAL PROBLEMS Inconsiderate neighbors Unappreciative boss Traffic jams
Construction problems Economic recession Business problems Employee problems Travel problems Car problems House problems Crime Vandalism Harassment Prejudice/discrimination Lack of resources Lack of opportunities Lack of education/training Bureaucratic hassles Social unrest Unexpected crises/changes Corporate takeovers
Things That happen inside your body: THOUGHTS Trouble concentrating Compulsive ruminating Being overly critical Thinking negatively Awful zing Catastrophizing
FEELINGS Feeling tired Feeling trapped Feeling irritable Feeling tense or nervous Diminished libido MOODS/EMOTIONS Acute anxiety (Fears/phobias) Chronic anxiety Anger
Sadness Frustration Worry Guilt Impatience Depression Resentment Hostility Hopelessness Powerlessness Resignation Despair Boredom Apathy
OTHER BODY RESPONSES Muscle aches/tension Teeth grinding Jaw clenching Cold hands/cold feet Rapid heart beat Headaches Neck pains Back pains Upset stomach Diarrhea High blood pressure Skin rashes Increased appetite Decreased appetite Sleeping problems Sexual problems
Managing Stress Better.
Identifying unrelieved stress and being aware of its effect on our lives is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effects. Just as there are many sources of stress, there are many possibilities for its management. However, all require work toward change: changing the source of stress and/or changing your reaction to it. How do you proceed?
1. Become aware of your stressors and your emotional and physical
reactions. Notice your distress. Don't ignore it. Don't gloss over your problems. Determine what events distress you. What are you telling yourself about meaning of these events? Determine how your body responds to the stress. Do you become nervous or physically upset? If so, in what specific ways? 2. Recognize what you can change. Can you change your stressors by avoiding or eliminating them completely? Can you reduce their intensity (manage them over a period of time instead of on a daily or weekly basis)? Can you shorten your exposure to stress (take a break, leave the physical premises)? Can you devote the time and energy necessary to making a change (goal setting, time management techniques, and delayed gratification strategies may be helpful here)?
2. Reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions to stress.
The stress reaction is triggered by your perception of danger...physical danger and/or emotional danger. Are you viewing your stressors in exaggerated terms and/or taking a difficult situation and making it a disaster? Are you expecting to please everyone? Are you overreacting and viewing things as absolutely critical and urgent? Do you feel you must always prevail in every situation? Work at adopting more moderate views; try to see the stress as something you can cope with rather than something that overpowers you. Try to temper your excess emotions. Put the situation in perspective. Do not labor on the negative aspects and the "what if's."
3. Learn to moderate your physical reactions to stress.
Slow, deep breathing will bring your heart rate and respiration back to normal. Relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension. Electronic biofeedback can help you gain voluntary control over such things as muscle tension, heart reate, and blood pressure. Medications, when prescribed by a physician, can help in the short term in moderating your physical reactions. However, they alone are not the answer. Learning to moderate these reactions on your own is a preferable long-term solution. Build your physical reserves. Exercise for cardiovascular fitness three to four times a week (moderate, prolonged rhythmic exercise is best, such as walking, swimming, cycling, or jogging). Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals. Maintain your ideal weight. Avoid nicotine, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants. Mix leisure with work. Take breaks and get away when you can.
Get enough sleep. Be as consistent with your sleep schedule as possible.
5. Maintain your emotional reserves.
Develop some mutually supportive friendships/relationships. Pursue realistic goals which are meaningful to you, rather than goals others have for you that you do not share. Expect some frustrations, failures, and sorrows. Always be kind and gentle with yourself -- be a friend to yourself.
There’s not an easy solution to deal with the problem of stress. Stress is encountered in almost every aspect of our lives. Like successful weight management, in order to achieve stress reduction we must weave the solution into the fabric of our lives. Through regular practice of stress reduction techniques, symptoms of stress decrease and become more manageable. For the most part, stress is largely under your control. You may not be able to control the situation, however, your reaction in any given situation is entirely under your control. One way to monitor and understand stress in your life is to record your feelings in a diary. Once you gain better awareness of the things that cause you stress, you can then build an action plan to positively manage it by creating some positive goals to help reduce the amount of stress in your daily life.
Relaxation: Stress Management Techniques
For the next few moments... stop doing... just sit. Become aware of your breath. Focus on the subtle ebb and flow as you breath in, and breath out, and breath in, and breath out, and breath in, and breath out... You have just experienced a relaxing, albeit brief, time-out. When practiced throughout the day, this breathing exercise can reduce your stress level significantly! There are a variety of stress management techniques that will help decrease the amount of anxiety you experience in your life. My list is not all inclusive, but it’s a good start. I suggest you experiment with a wide variety of techniques to find the ones that work best for you. Once you find some effective techniques, practice them regularly to weave them into the fabric of your daily life. Deep breathing. The exercise like the one explained above can give you some immediate relief from a stressful situation. Focus on slowing your heart rate down by breathing in deeply and slowly, then exhaling slowly and completely. Repeat the inhale/exhale cycle at least five times and you should notice a decrease in your heart rate and anxiety level. Quiet time. Taking some quite time for yourself can often reduce stress. Find a place at home and at work where you can get away from everyone and take a few minutes for
yourself. You can practice any relaxation technique or simply spend the time thinking through a problematic situation. Use the time to do whatever will help you to relax. Relaxation media. There is a variety of relaxation media on the market in the form of cassettes, CD’s, videos and even computer software. These products can provide you with multiple forms of stress management techniques, step-by-step instruction, soothing music and more. Visualization. Mental visualization is a powerful technique. While it can be implemented in almost any situation, visualization has gained notoriety in it’s successful practice by competitive athletes. The basic technique of visualization is to put yourself in a relaxed position, breathe deeply and rhythmically and close your eyes. Then, in detail, imagine in your mind’s eye a peaceful place or any surroundings that are pleasant and claming to you. While imagining this place, focus on breathing deeply and releasing tension from your entire body. Visualization can also be used to play out a situation from the beginning to its positive end. This is one of the variations used by competitive athletes. In your mind’s eye, you imagine in detail, the chain of events and the actions you will perform to attain a positive end result. During this process, focus on breathing deeply, releasing tension from your body and approaching every action in a calm and confident manner. Yoga. The word yoga comes from Sanskrit language meaning union and is believed to be at least 6000 years old, originating in India. Yoga combines dynamic physical exercise with a lifestyle philosophy. There are many forms of yoga but the goal is always the same, perfect self knowledge. More specifically, the ultimate goal of yoga philosophy is complete detachment from reality, as we understand it, and complete self knowledge. By separating our "self" from the environment we are able to come to terms with our individual personality and start putting our mind and emotions in order. If you would like to experiment with yoga as a stress management tool, check out some books at the library to learn more or rent a beginner’s yoga video tape. There are alot of good exercise video’s available on yoga that would be worth experimenting with. Meditation. Meditation is meant to bring about awareness, nothing else. It’s a time to connect to your inner “source” and let go of the issues, responsibilities and situations that bind your life. The benefits of mediation are uniquely individual, but both physiological and psychological balancing is common. To get you started, here is an explanation of how to practice classic and simple meditation: The Mantra: A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is repeated to yourself out loud or silently. The purpose of the mantra is to discard your normal thoughts and focus your awareness inward. You can select anything as your mantra from a single word to religious scripture, anything that is meditative for you. Exercise. Exercise is an excellent means of releasing tension from your body and inducing a relaxation response. You’ve been practicing this technique for many weeks
now. Among the other benefits physical activity brings, have you experienced a reduction in stress? Stretching. Stress makes your muscles tense up and can cause headaches, a stiff neck, sore shoulders and a knotted back. Full body stretching will help your muscles relax and help you to breath deeper. Always remember to hold stretches for a minimum of ten seconds and concentrate on elongating the muscle slowly and rhythmically. Don’t bounce! When you don’t have the time to stretch your entire body, try these simple upper body stretching exercises to release tension. They can be easily done in a chair anywhere; at home, at the office, traveling in a car, bus or on plane:
Neck. Sit comfortably with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Tilt your head to the left as though you are trying to touch your left ear to your shoulder. Feel the stretch on the right side of your neck. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Be sure not to let your shoulders raise up, keep them down and relaxed. Now, slowly move your head to the right, repeating the exercise to stretch the left side of your neck. Last, slowly roll your head down, bowing your head and try to touch your chin to your chest. Feel the stretch down the back of your neck. Hold this position for 10 seconds. A word of caution: Do not tilt your head back in an attempt to stretch the front of your neck, this position hyperextends the neck and can cause physical harm. Shoulders. Sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your sides. Slowly begin rolling your shoulders in a circular, backward motion. Keep the movement isolated to your shoulders and keep your arms relaxed and limp. Roll your shoulders back ten times then begin rolling them forward ten times. Make the largest circles you can and feel the full range of motion as your shoulders move. Next, shrug your shoulders up as though you were trying to touch them to your ears, then bring them down as though your were pressing them to the ground. Repeat this up and down shrugging ten times.
Back. Sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your sides. Slowly rotate your torso and head as though you were looking over your left shoulder. Rotate as far around as you comfortably can and hold the stretch for ten seconds. Slowly bring your torso and head back to center position and rotate to your right side. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Next, sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and cross your arms in front of your chest. Now bring your crossed arms up to a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to your body and hold them there. Slowly begin rounding your back, making your chest concave. Stretch your arms away from your back as though a sting was tied around your arms pulling them forward and another string attached to your back was pulling it backwards. Hold the stretch for ten seconds.
Lastly, sit comfortably with your back straight, your shoulders relaxed and your arms at your side. Slowly begin leaning forward until you are resting your chest in your lap. Allow your arms to relax and gently fall to the floor and bow your head over your knees. Feel the stretch across your back as you let your body go limp. Hold this stretch for ten seconds. Give yourself reminders. Part of the problem with some of these techniques is simply remembering to practice them. At home, at work, or in the car you may want to put up little reminders to practice a technique. For example, purchase some labels that are small round colored dots. Put them in various places in your home, car or work area. Whenever you see one of these colored dots, practice deep breathing. Or, remind yourself with sticky notes, an on-screen computer message that pops up at various intervals during the day, schedule it in your daily appointment book, etc. Just be inventive in finding things that will remind you to take some time to de-stress. “Is this worth the stress?” Often we become involved in situations that simply aren’t worth the stress that they cause. Ask yourself this question occasionally, and if the answer is “No,” move on. Be aware of situations you can’t control. Have the wisdom to realize when you’re in a situation you can’t control, then accept it. Don’t waste your time trying to change it. Instead, focus on reacting to the situation in a stress-free manner. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Often stress occurs out of frustration and lack of communication. Learn positive ways to express your feelings and desires to people who may be causing you stress. If talking to a person isn’t the answer, then put your feelings on paper in a journal. Many times the simple act of 'getting it off your chest' in an appropriate manner will reduce your stress level. Are chemicals the culprit? Surprisingly, much of the stress you experience daily could be due to what you are putting into your body in the form of chemicals. Be sure to eat a balanced, healthy diet to assure you’re giving your body the nutrients it needs to operate and maximum efficiency.
Caffeine is a stimulant. If you drink more than a couple cups a day, try decaf. You may find that switching to a good decaffeinated coffee will reduce a significant amount of stress. Alcohol in small doses may help you relax. However, in larger amounts it may increase stress as it disrupts sleep and causes hangovers. Large amounts over an extended period will start damaging your body. Nicotine in the very short-term may appear to relax your body, but it doesn’t. Nicotine’s toxic effect raises the heart rate and stresses the body and lungs. Consider quitting! There are a number of stop-smoking aids available on the market today.
Sugar can raise energy in the short term. Unfortunately, your body has to counteract the high dose of sugar in your blood by raising your insulin level. Once your blood-sugar level is normalized, the insulin will continue acting and you will experience a decrease in energy lower than before you ate the sugar. Try not to overtax your body by feeding it high dosages of sugar.
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