Stress: Types and Remedies


Stress: Types and Remedies





Acute Stress

Acute stress is your body’s reaction to a direct threat or danger. Your body responds by preparing itself for defense (this is known as the “fight or flight” response). The nerves are stimulated and the two stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, are secreted. These hormones work to better your senses, speed your pulse and respiration, and tense your muscles. When the danger has passed, your body lowers the levels of stress hormones in a relaxation response.

No treatment can relieve the cause of stress; this must be discovered and avoided through the remedies discussed below. When you relieve the symptoms, however, you are more able to relax, rest, and function. This will help you cope with the causes, while keeping you in better health.


Symptoms of Acute Stress




MEMORY AND LEARNING:

the hormone cortisol weakens the hippocampus, the part of the brain concerned with short-term memory, inhibition, and rational thought. This allows for quick reactions; however, it hinders the intellect and social thinking.

HYPOGLYCEMIA:

hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is an effect of stress hormones. Symptoms include weakness, irritability, and light-headedness.
SKIN: stress worsens hives, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and eczema, and may cause itching. The hands become cool and damp: the skin cools as blood is diverted away to important tissues, and is damp due to perspiration induced by hormones.

LUNGS AND CIRCULATION:

stress instantly raises the heart rate and blood pressure to bring more blood to the muscles, brain and lungs. Breathing is deepened to bring more oxygen to the lungs. Sudden stress also constricts the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke or rhythm disturbances.

IMMUNE SYSTEM:

cortisol immediately dampens the immune system, as white blood cells are redistributed to critical areas. These immune-boosting troops are sent to the body's front lines where injury or infection is most likely, such as the skin, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes.

Chronic Stress

In early human history, the stress response was necessary when facing danger. Today, the response helps us function in times of sudden danger. However, emotional pressures such as relationship problems, isolation, deadlines, or financial worries may lead to chronic stress. If the cause of stress is ongoing, or if our bodies cannot achieve a relaxation response, we stay in a constant state of "fight or flight." The body's defensive systems become overwhelmed, causing fatigue and damage.


Psychological Symptoms


NEGATIVE FEELINGS:

chronic stress makes us feel emotionally overwhelmed. Symptoms include anxiety, tension, depression, and low self-esteem.

INSOMNIA:

a good night's sleep is essential to restore the body and get emotional perspective. Unfortunately, chronic stress often keeps you awake or causes you to awaken too early.

MEMORY AND LEARNING:

over-exposure to cortisol can damage memory cells in the brain, causing permanent memory loss. Memory loss in the elderly may not be solely due to aging. In fact, older people with low cortisol levels can have sharper memories than young people.

ISOLATION:

people with chronic stress often lack a network of family and friends. Emotional isolation is physically unhealthy; this is why married people outlive their single peers.


Dangers Of Chronic Stress


THE HEART:

stress doubles your heart attack risk by increasing blood pressure, and thickening the carotid arteries. Blockage in these arteries causes stroke and heart disease.

PAIN:

chronic arthritis pain can worsen with stress. Stress can cause tension headaches and migraines. The muscles in your shoulders, neck and back remain tense, causing pain and increasing the risk of injury.

SEXUAL PROBLEMS:

stress can lower libido and the ability to orgasm. Men may experience impotence, while women may develop menstrual irregularities. Stress hormones impact the hypothalamus gland, which produces reproductive hormones.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: people with chronic stress have fewer white blood cells and are more susceptible to colds. Stress can cause symptoms such as eczema, asthma, and sinus congestion.

DIGESTION:

chronic stress can cause irritable bowel syndrome, which leads to diarrhea, constipation, cramping and bloating. Stimulated stomach acid causes ulcer-like burning.

WEIGHT:

some sufferers lose appetite and grow dangerously thin. Others crave sugar, salt, fat, or carbohydrates to counteract their tension. People who respond to stress in this way tend to have abdominal fat, which can result in diabetes and heart problems.


Stress Remedies




If you suffer from stress, there are three ways to combat the problem: tackling the cause, changing your perspective, and seeking balance in your life. Note which of the following remedies strikes a personal chord with you. Then try it!


Tackle the cause

  • LET IT OUT: feelings that are not expressed correctly lead to hostility, helplessness, or depression. Don't keep feelings bottled up. Find a trusted friend or clergy. Talking quietly, explain your stress feelings (not the problems). Or you can keep a journal, or write a letter that you do not mail.

  • PROCRASTINATION: many people lose motivation because they put off high-priority tasks. Make a list of all your tasks on a word processor program. In front of each task, add a 1, 2, or 3 priority. Reorganize the list moving all the 1’s to the first page. On this page, put a star in front of seven tasks you will complete in the first week. Do one per day, and don’t get sidetracked.
  • CHUCK IT: the easiest way to finish a project is to let it go. You don’t need to read every newspaper before recycling it. Throw away anything you can look up at a library or on the Internet. Find someone else to paint, or do your cleaning. If you can’t afford to hire, try bartering.
  • RELATIONSHIPS: let go of the idea that your partner is an opponent. Remember that any problems belong to both of you because they affect both of you emotionally. Spend more time thinking of solutions than deciding who is to blame. Set an example by behaving maturely, without feeling that you are “giving in”. During arguments, let your partner talk uninterrupted.
  • JOB STRESS: if a boss or coworker is a problem, talk to other employees about solutions. As a group, tell Human Resources that the stress is affecting morale and productivity. Think of your boss as a customer that you want to keep, treat her diplomatically.

Change your perspective

  • STRESS RESPONSES: often our reaction causes the stress feelings, not the situation itself. You can learn to change your emotional reaction. Who will remember this 10 years from now? Don't expect more of yourself than you are able to give.
  • YOU ARE IN CONTROL: look deep within yourself – do you feel like a victim? Remember, you are not helpless, because you choose how to live your life. If you are stressed, you can choose to let go of bad situations. If a situation is unavoidable, don’t take it personally.
  • LOOK FOR THE POSITIVE: do you find it is easier to notice the negative aspects of life? To prevent yourself from dwelling on problems, first identify the worst possible outcomes, and their likelihood. Then envision a favorable result. Finally, develop a plan to achieve the positive outcome.
  • CENTERED SPACE DIARY: when you are relaxed, write about it. You are more likely to be in in your “centered space”, where you don’t rush. Talk about why you are relaxed. List some ideas or obligations that you must let go in order to get what you want.
  • LET GO: some people perceive relaxation as letting down their guard. Actually, relaxation allows you to think clearly, and will contribute to better health. Spend half an hour listing all of your fears on a piece of paper. Then say to yourself, “These are only my fears. They haven’t happened yet.” This can be the first step to letting go of your stress.

Seek balance

  • TAKE A DEEP BREATH: during stress, breathing becomes shallow and rapid. A deep breath automatically calms you. Inhale slowly through the nose to the count of eight, making sure the stomach expands but the chest does not rise. Exhale through the nose to the count of eight.
  • MUSCLE RELAXATION: if you are having trouble getting to sleep, close your eyes, and concentrate on each part of your body, beginning with the feet. Tense each muscle tightly for five seconds, then release; experience the muscle as totally relaxed and heavy. Continue until you have reached the head. Then take twenty deep breaths.
  • MINI-MEDITATION: this can quiet your mind and reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline. Mini-meditation heightens your awareness to refocus your brain on your surroundings. When you find yourself alone, doing a routine activity, slow down. When washing dishes, concentrate on the feel of the water. If thoughts invade, focus on another sensory experience (sounds, smells, colors).
  • EXPERIMENT WITH DESIRE: people seek stress relief through drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, television or a bad diet. The cycle is self-perpetuating, as these habits cause fatigue, insomnia, and more stress. Go without one for a week. In time, you will stop desiring the habit. What do you really want: peace, comfort, a break? Think of positive replacement activities to achieve your real desire.
  • EXERCISE: fitness enhances stress resistance. Start very slowly, and don’t push yourself – after a month or two, your body will ask to go further. Just 10 minutes of brisk walking, four times a week can build a base. Form a routine, such as walking around the block a half-hour after dinner.
  • MEASURE YOUR MONEY: are your finances are out of control? For the next four weeks, carry a little book to log every purchase you make, from bills to bottled water. At the end of the month, split your purchases up into categories such as groceries, eating out, clothes, etc. Sum your totals for each category. Do your expenses match your household income, or do you use credit cards to pay the difference? Do you have enough left over to contribute to a retirement fund and an emergency savings account? If not, create a budget using your original categories. Add in Debt Payment, Emergency Savings and Retirement Fund. Follow the budget by keeping all your receipts for each category and subtotaling them weekly. Be strict: towards the end of the month, if you have spent all your clothes budget, you can’t purchase clothes until next month.
  • SUPPORT NETWORKS: studies of people who stay happy and healthy despite life stress conclude that most have social support networks, or pets. Don’t isolate yourself.
  • MAKE TIME FOR PLEASURE: scheduling recreation is as important as groceries or laundry. Plan pleasant diversions or physical exercise during your lunch hour. Don’t be afraid of being seen as selfish. Write one activity per week in your calendar, and cross it off when you’ve done it.

When To Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you experience heart problems, significant pain or illness. Also call your doctor if you think you may have any of the following conditions, which have similar symptoms to stress:


  • ANXIETY DISORDERS: the physical symptoms of anxiety are similar to stress -- a fast heart rate, rapid breathing, headaches, and digestive trouble. Emotional symptoms are uncertainty, fear, or panic.
  • DEPRESSION: mild depression changes your appetite, sleep patterns, and concentration. Serious depression causes sadness, hopelessness, inability to function, and loss of interest.
  • POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER: PTSD is a reaction to a very traumatic event. The patient tries to forget the event and may develop emotional numbness and amnesia. Often, the patient has disturbing dreams and thoughts. Other symptoms are hopelessness, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, low concentration, and a high startle response.

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