What is stress?
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What is stress?
We often hear that people are feeling stressed or pressured, either due to their daily routine, school or office work, relationships or as a result of some specific incident. People react differently to different situations and the way they manage their responses has a lot to do with their mental well-being and happiness or in simple terms, stress is a reaction or response to any kind of change.
Stress is the physical and emotional response to situations, which are perceived as new, frightening, confusing, exciting or tiring. Stress does not necessarily get precipitated by external demands, but can also be generated from within by our hopes, fears, expectations and beliefs.
Stress acts like a signal for the mind and body to prepare itself for any eventuality. Technically stress is caused due to chemical hormones that our body produces when it feels threatened or presented with real or perceived complex or uncertain situations. Once a situation has been assessed as demanding or frustrating, it will trigger off a reaction, which has a mental, emotional, physical and behavioral component. Your mood and behavior are likely to be affected due to stress. However, the intensity of the stress-response may vary from one person to another.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses -
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Signs & Symptoms of Stress
You may have noticed that some people are usually more dissatisfied with their surroundings than others and complain about things that happen to them. This is the most obvious sign of being stressed, but it is not the only sign. Many people bottle up their problems and find it difficult to talk about unpleasant situations, and this makes it very important to identify your stress level before it takes a toll on your health. Everyone reacts to stress in different ways. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for. Your symptoms can be psychological, emotional, behavioral or physical, or a mix of these.
Cognitive/Psychological symptoms of stress can include -
If you’re affected emotionally by stress, your symptoms may include -
Your behaviour might also change and you may be -
Stress can affect you physically, causing symptoms such as -
These signs and symptoms may be caused by problems other than stress. If you have any of them, speak to your doctor / consultant for advice.
Managing stress in daily life
Stress is not an illness itself, but it can cause serious illness if it isn't addressed. It's important to recognise the symptoms of stress early. Recognising the signs and symptoms of stress will help you figure out ways of coping and save you from adopting unhealthy coping methods, such as drinking or smoking.
Spotting the early signs of stress will also help prevent it getting worse and potentially causing serious complications, such as high blood pressure.
There is little you can do to prevent stress, but there are many things you can do to manage stress more effectively, such as learning how to relax, taking regular exercise and adopting goodtime-management techniques.
Studies have found that mindfulness courses, where participants are taught simple meditations across a series of weeks, can also help to reduce stress and improve mood.
"To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him" - Buddha
"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them" - Dalai Lama
Stress is what you make of it
As per research, not all stress is bad. We sometimes hear people say ‘I work better under pressure’ or ‘I thrive on competition’. There are others who endlessly crib about work pressure, increasing population, mounting prices, water shortage, etc. What we need is a balance. We need to feel stretched, but not so far that we might snap. Feeling bad or worrying about something does not fix the problem but adds to your feeling of helplessness. Being stressed is by itself, usually a cause for further stress.
The attitude of the person and the way they approach the situation makes all the difference. One person’s challenge may well be another’s business-as-usual.
Some Stress is Normal - a certain amount of stress is essential for normal health. Some stress is definitely required to stimulate us to do day-to-day tasks. Some levels of stress are beneficial for higher productivity and efficiency. A student may be nervous about studying for a competitive exam, but this does not automatically mean that it will cause him/her to perform poorly. The child may just become more conscientious with revision.
Things that influence your stress tolerance level
Support of your friends and family members - a strong network of supportive friends and family members can be an enormous buffer against life’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
Respect the elders or may be a generation gap - disconnect between younger and older members of a family may be a cause of stress for both. Young people often feel that the elders are not approving of the way that they want to lead their lives and are interfering or asking too many questions. There may be exchanges of words, like - “you don’t understand”, “in our time” and “that was long ago, now things are different!” Parents and children must take a moment to reflect on the issue at hand and calmly rationalize what it is, how it affects their relationship.
Unpleasantness or Marital discord - unpleasantness with your life partner can be upsetting and a usual irritant in your regular family scenario. Of all domestic relationships that are likely to turn stressful, marriage is the most complex one. When two individuals with different backgrounds and personalities decide to marry and live together, there are bound to be some changes in their lifestyles. When you marry, you have to make some commitments and adjustments, which, in turn, invariably cause stress. There are bound to be times when you don’t see eye to eye with your partner and differences arise. For the most part these differences can be handled or ignored. In the face of additional pressures, these differences may cause friction or marital-tension.
It is possible to resolve these types of issues through talking more openly about what bothers you and allowing the other person to give their point of view. Active listening from both sides shall enable clarity on the main issues at hand. Counselling can help to bridge the bitterness caused by disagreements, only if both participants go with an open mind and the willingness to understand each other better.
Your sense of control - It may be easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.
Life Events and Stress
Stress is an intrusion on your peaceful existence. All of us strive to have orderly and peaceful lives. We tend to develop well when we get into certain routines. Human beings are all animals. If you have ever owned a dog, you may have observed that the dog thrived very well on routine. You had to walk the animal a certain time each day, it had to be fed at a certain time each day and it slept at a certain time each day. The dog depended on a routine.
When the routine was broken, the dog would do things such as have accidents in the house, or behave in another destructive type manner. This is because the dog was actually stressed out. Why was the dog stressed out? The routine had been broken.
Human beings behave the same way - we all want to feel safe and secure, but as we get older, we realize that we cannot always count on things being the same. We experience different incidents in our lives that turn our world upside down and cause us to feel stress. Most of these incidents we cannot control, others we can control to a certain degree. Some of us are fortunate enough not to experience these stressors until adulthood. Others experience stress as young children.
How to manage your stress - Just remember these four (A) - avoid, alter, adapt, or accept
Stress Is More Dangerous Than You Think (Dangerous Stress)
The human body is designed to experience stress and react to it - stress can be positive, keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.
Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress - a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. Research suggests that stress also can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco, or drugs to try to relieve their stress - unfortunately, instead of relieving the stress and returning the body to a relaxed state, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and cause more problems. Consider the following -
"Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship" - Buddha