About Stress And The Effects Of Stress
Combat stress – The Healthy Lifestyle way will show you:
- What stress is
- How stress affects your health and lifestyle
- How to effectively deal with stress using simple and effective techniques to bring about positive health benefits, both mentally and physically.
I will help you diagnose and understand the stress in your life, identify your stressors and assess your readiness to make changes. Then I will provide you with methods, tools and techniques for you to take and develop a systematic approach to combat the stress in your life.
Stress is a major cause of ill health – so the prevention and management of stress is a must-have skill.
Unfortunately, stress is playing a major part in today’s growing health crisis. Here are a few of the health conditions that have in part been attributed to stress:
• Heart Disease
• High Blood Pressure
• Chronic Fatigue
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Low resistance to infection
So do you think your health is affected by stress? Perhaps your pressures are building, you are starting to struggle, and beginning to worry about the effects stress is having on you. You have demonstrated by your reading of this that you are no longer willing to leave stress unchecked in your life or allow it to harm either your body or mind. Today, I want you to make a commitment, to do what is necessary to combat stress, and that will entail making changes in your life and how you deal with things, from this moment, before change is forced upon you through ill health.
Managing stress whilst implementing a healthy lifestyle will not only improve your life, it will help you become fitter and healthier, as well as enable you to cope better with the stressors in your life. I know that is what you want.
‘Combat stress – The Healthy Lifestyle way’ will enable you to make a fresh start towards a healthier, less stressed and happier you, giving you ideas and resources for managing and preventing day-to-day stress, and helping you to improve your life.
I invite you to discover new ways to face those challenges that life’s stressors are sending your way. I promise you that physically banging your head against the wall, or putting your fist through the door, are not effective stress relievers. Read through this book, and you are certain to find solutions which will work for you.
‘If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn’t ask me, I’d still have to say it’. George F. Burns
Personal Benefits from Combat Stress
• Increased Ability To Relax
• Increased Ability To Handle Stress & Tension
• Improved Physical Health
• Improved Mental Health
• Improved Energy & Concentration
• Improved Nutrition & Digestion
• Reduced Risk Of Weight Gain
• Elevate your mood
• Improve sleep
• Sharpen your mind
• Make right lifestyle choices
• Learn breathing techniques
• Learn relaxation methods
• And so much more
Organisational Benefits from Combating Stress
• Healthier, Happier Workforce
• Motivated Team With High Morale
• Good Employee Relations
• Less Sickness & Absenteeism
• Lower Staff Turnover
• Positive Community Benefits
• Improved Company Image
Stress affects us all – Learn How to Cope with Stress & Improve Health
There is no escaping from stress. Everyone, man, woman and child, will be afflicted by stress at some point in their lives. It’s just a fact. Stress is a part of life, and there is no getting away from it. You’re always going to have to deal with stressful situations on a daily basis. As I will explain shortly, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It is how you manage these situations that determines whether you suffer from the adverse effects of stress, and its negative impact on your health and well being.
So as you cannot cure stress, you must learn how to cope with it. If you don’t learn how to manage your stress you will suffer its adverse effects. But as you’re reading this book, you’re obviously aware that there are solutions, and here you know you will find those that are right for you.
‘Stress is essentially reflected by the rate of all the wear and tear caused by life. ….. although we cannot avoid stress as long as we live, we can learn a great deal about how to keep its’ damaging side-effects, distress, to a minimum’ Hans Selye, M.D
“Combat stress – The Healthy Lifestyle way” will assist you in coping with stress in relation to your day to day routine and address general lifestyle issues, giving you a clear road map for making positive changes in your everyday lives.
‘Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness’ Richard Carlson
The most significant reason reported for work related ill health is musculoskeletal problems; the second is Stress.
‘I don’t believe people die from hard work. They die from stress and worry and fear — the negative emotions. Those are the killers, not hard work’ A.L. Williams
The musculoskeletal system (also known as the locomotor system) is an organ system that gives animals the ability to move using the muscular and skeletal systems. The musculoskeletal system provides form, stability, and movement to the human body. (Extracted from Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia).
It is made up of the body’s bones (the skeleton), muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and other connective tissue (the tissue that supports and binds tissues and organs together). This accounts for the number one reason for work related ill health, closely followed by stress.
Causes of workplace stress can be associated with a wide range of factors. These include:
• A feeling that they’re paid less than they deserve
• An unsupportive boss
• Being in the wrong job
• Boring, repetitive and monotonous tasks
• Bullying or harassment
• Continuous unreasonable performance demands
• Excessive time away from home and family
• Feeling unimportant
• Lack of consultation and communication
• Lack of job security
• Lengthy working hours
• No control over destiny at work.
• Office politics and conflict among staff
• Poor relationships with colleagues
• Poor working conditions
• Too much work
• Too little work
• Target driven business piling on pressure
• Work that’s too difficult
• Work that’s not demanding enough
• Work-life-balance out of sync
Certain professions such as nurses, teachers, doctors, police and the armed forces all provide many reports of high work related stress levels. Females, of the age 45-54 are reported to be the most likely to suffer from stress. From personal knowledge, very few professions, industries or jobs escape from the burden of stress.
Consequences to Business
• Demoralised work force
• Increased Staff Turnover
• Reduced Productivity
• Decreased Cooperation And Teamwork
• Increased Levels Of :
• Poor Productivity
• Inconsistent work patterns
• Late arrival to work
• Reporting in intoxicated
• Accident rates
The ‘Quality of Working Life’ report published in April 2006 by the Chartered Management Institute and Workplace Health Connect found that:
Of those questioned:
• 21% have difficulty making decisions due to ill health.
• 26% want to avoid contact with other people
• 30% are irritable ‘sometimes or often’ towards colleagues.
• 31% experienced a loss of humour creating workplace pressures.
• 43% feel or become angry with others too easily.
• 44% experienced frequent headaches.
• 55% complained of muscular tension or physical aches and pains.
• 55% experienced feelings of constant tiredness at work.
• 57% complained of insomnia.
Information from the UK Health and Safety Executive stress statistics shows
• 442,000 working individuals in 2007/8 believed that they were experiencing work-related stress at a level that was making them ill (Labour Force Survey)
• 13.6% of all working individuals thought their job was very or extremely stressful (Psychosocial Working Conditions Survey 2007)
• 13.5 million working days lost in Britain in 2007/8 due to Work-related stress, depression or anxiety (Labour Force Survey)
• £700m every year in stress-related costs to UK employers
• £7bn per year the cost of stress to society
• 70% of doctors appointments, and 85% of serious illnesses are the result of stress
In conclusion, work-related stress is a major cause of ill health. These statistics seem to be getting no better year by year. By the fact that you are reading this, and I know will be implementing many of the techniques I will be giving you, my hope is that not only will you experience a far healthier, confident life, but many of those around you will also benefit from what you will subsequently know. A saying, which comes to mind, is that the best way to learn, is to teach.
‘Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live’. Margaret Fuller
What Is Stress?
Stress refers to – ‘any type of bodily reaction to a mental, physical, emotional or social stimulus – where this reaction changes the way we feel, think or perform our daily tasks’.
‘Stress is not only created by how we see a situation, but also how we react to it. We do, in fact, control our own stress’ Catherine Pulsifer
Stress describes our body’s automatic, inbuilt response to either “fight” or “flight” from what we perceive as danger, harm or a threat to ourselves.
This “fight or flight reaction” is extremely responsive. It’s like the accelerator peddle in a car. Just the slightest pressure gets a reaction. So your “fight or flight response” reacts to the merest threat of potential danger. This could be real danger or just a perception of danger. This is a really important part of the human make up. It is our inbuilt defence mechanism. When something dangerous happens, our bodies will produce this “fight or flight” reaction to let us know that we either need to run away or fight. If you have ever faced very real dangers to your physical survival, this response will have kicked in, and as you’re still here, reading my book, you know how important it was for you to have it.
Believe me, if you see a dinosaur walking down the road towards you, your flight reaction will kick in, and off you’ll move in the opposite direction. You’re sure to appreciate your stress response in this case. Mind you, it’s pretty unlikely in this day and age. But yesterdays dinosaur is today’s debt collector, bailiff, disgruntled client, and traffic warden. I think you get the point. Who is it that affects you this badly?
In prehistoric times people needed to be able to protect their family, hunt animals to be able to eat, run away from the threat of hostile people or aggressive predators. At the moment of actual physical danger, an alarm was activated in their brains, their bodies produced extra energy, and they were ready for high levels of physical activity, which enabled them to fight or flee from any threat. Once the threat diminished their bodies no longer needing this extra energy, so then it calmed down, returning to a state of relaxation.
In this day and age, the most typical dangers or threats are less physical. Your ‘fight or flight’ response is triggered by psychological (relating to the mind or mental activity) threats, just as much as they are by physical ones. So mental and emotional pressures activate stress, in the same way as do physical pressures.
Many people facing, eviction from their homes, closure of their businesses, losing their job, the break up of their family, perhaps through a acrimonious divorce, seeing a loved one inflicted with cancer, or their child going off the rails, face tremendous pressure leading to stress, as much as our prehistoric ancestors with their physical dangers. .
Today with the constant pressures associated with living in a fast-paced world, stress is often constantly affecting us. There is no getting away from the fact that everybody faces stress in one form or another on a daily basis. Over time stress hormones accumulate in our bodies and eventually, unless we find ways to reduce stress and recover from its effects, we become burnt-out, depressed or see deterioration in our health. It’s this build up, over time, caused by a variety of stressors, which eventually causes us problems.
This stress we experience daily often goes unnoticed, and often just unmanaged. Many people simply put up with stress, just accepting it as the way things are. Eventually they experience serious physical and mental health problems caused by all this stress.
Today stress and the problems it can cause have become more and more common in our lives. The good news is that there are solutions at hand, and these I will be providing you with. They may not remove the threats, take away all the pressures, but be assured from someone who in his life has had to deal with many major difficulties; these techniques enable you to keep yourself together during even the worst periods. They will keep you sane, and enable you to stay strong and face your challenges.
The Definition of Stress
Above, I describe stress as: a term that refers to – any type of bodily reaction to a mental, physical, emotional or social stimulus – where this reaction changes the way we feel, think or perform our daily tasks.
So stress is the body and mind’s response to any pressure that disrupts its normal balance. It occurs when our perception of events doesn’t meet our expectations and we are unable to manage our reaction, which results in the throwing out of sync of our physiological (body) and psychological (mind) equilibrium, and if not brought back into balance, this can create numerous health problems.
The UK Health and Safety Executive define stress in the following way: “the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demand placed on them”.
Hans Selye, MD defines Stress as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand”.
Other definitions are:
‘Stress is the pressure that a person experiences when their demands exceed their personal resources and their ability to meet those demands’.
‘Any opposing reaction or force to your own intention that causes strain or tension, and this can be mental and physical’.
‘Stress is a build up of mental and physical tension in your body that distracts your mental focus, drains your energy and impairs your immune system – all reducing your productivity’.
‘It is a physical and psychological reaction to the perception that the demands on you exceed your coping resources’.
‘Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down’. Natalie Goldberg
Is Stress Bad?
At the level at which stress is our basic survival instinct creating our “flight or flight” response, stress is good. When it kicks in adrenaline is released into the body and this can cause an increase in blood pressure, as well as an increase in body temperature, heart rate and in our ability to handle obstacles and all our senses are heightened.
A moderate amount of stress helps to get you ready for the daily challenges you will face, and this stress reaction is a survival tool which helps to keep our bodies strong and our minds alert. So again it’s a good thing.
Eustress is defined in Richard Lazarus’ model as stress that is healthy or gives one a feeling of fulfilment. So it’s good stress. The kind you feel when you get a pay rise, buy a new home, or go on a great first date. Good in the sense that it makes you feel elated, that the stress is enjoyable. Challenges and projects create Eustress, as opposed to overload and problems,which create distress (bad stress).
Eustress can provide us with motivation, it can energise us, and it raises our game, resulting in peak performance. The stress provides you with the push you need to respond to situations, motivating you to perform at your best and stay focused and at full attention. Any author would admit there are certain times that they’d rather be sitting watching TV than writing an article, but that looming deadline gets them off the sofa and over to the computer. That feeling of pressure is what helps you get yourself out of bed every morning so you can go to work, or to go into the gym for your workout.
After a certain point, stress rapidly becomes counterproductive or even dangerous. When you have maximized the effects of ‘good’ stress and reached your ‘tipping point’, you then fall over on the other side where stress becomes bad and unhealthy. You are at overload at this stage. Now your stress is working against you. You move from peak performance to weak performance. You struggle with an inability to concentrate, anxiety and depression which ultimately can lead to heart disease, diabetes, eating problems, substance abuse or even death.
It is our interpretation of how things are that determines whether a situation is deemed by us to be good or bad. We interpret situations through our thoughts, beliefs, feelings and personal values. For example, if you were offered a new job that would entail moving to a new city. This move will require a big change, and by its very nature will cause some stress. Change is tantamount to stress.. Whenever something causes a change in your life this will always bring about stress. It makes no difference whether this is a “good” change, or a “bad” change. Either way it is stress.
If you are thrilled and excited about the move, then to you this is a good stressor. Alternatively, if you are miserable and afraid about the move, to you this will be a bad stressor. This was demonstrated when I was offered a fantastic salary package to move from Hertfordshire to Newcastle. For me the excitement of pastures new, a job that I really looked forward to, and earning a big salary really motivated me, got me feeling as though I was on top of the world. But this same move caused my wife huge stress. To her, leaving family and friends behind, selling the house, looking for a new home and not knowing anyone in Newcastle, created fear and anxiety. The same situation, but we both reacted so differently to it.
Some stress in our life can cause us to feel happy, excited, surprised. When this gets too much it then does not serve us in any useful way, and can result in physical and emotional harm. A high level of stress can make you more unproductive, stops you from getting a good night sleep, makes you feel excessively anxious all the time, as well as many other adverse effects.
So stress in itself isn’t necessarily harmful, but too much can be damaging. Chronic daily stress is a bad thing because it wears down both our physical and mental ability to handle daily tasks.
As demonstrated above, each individual responds differently to the varying levels of pressure to which they are exposed, but when the pressure becomes excessive for the individual, it can result in physical and mental symptoms. What I am going to enable you to do is take control of your life, no longer allowing stress to be in control of you.
The Body’s Stress Response
When faced with a threat, the body’s defence’s kick into the “fight-or-flight” response. Stress activates adaptive responses. The body calls upon all its forces to confront the on coming threat and protect you from harm. Its your body’s defence mechanism, resulting in the following reactions:
• Heartbeat increases; pumping blood to the necessary parts of the body quickly.
• Blood pressure increases
• Blood flow:
• is constricted to the digestive organs.
• increases to the brain and major organs.
• increases to the major muscles.
• constricted to the extremities e.g. hands and feet
• Muscles tense up
• Breathing becomes more shallow and rapid.
• Your nervous system releases stress hormones such as Adrenaline into the bloodstream.
• Blood loss in case of injury is prevented by your Blood vessels constricting
• Your Pupils dilate allowing more light in and other senses become heightened
• The liver releases stored sugar into the blood stream
• Other non-essential body processes are suppressed.
• Your digestive system is slowed down, as is your reproductive system
• Growth hormones are turned off.
• Your immune response is repressed.
• The body perspires
• Metabolic rate increases
• Blood clotting agents are released.
Thankfully it does stop short of turning you into The Incredible Hulk.
These stress responses are there to protect and support us. As explained earlier they have their uses, in the right circumstances, particularly life-or-death situations. They help us to fight with more strength or run away faster.
In the world we find ourselves in today, most of our stress is brought on by psychological threats, not physical ones; it’s just that our minds and bodies can’t tell the difference. The stress response will be activated over an approaching deadline, an argument with the wife, a mass of unpaid bills, your teenage daughter being late home, your petrol warning light flashing on a country road. So no differently to a caveman confronting a dinosaur, our bodies go into this automatic response.
In today’s world so many of us are faced with so many different roles and responsibilities, it is not surprising we feel as though we are under constant pressure. We face so many problems, and worry about so many things; we are constantly operating at high stress levels. We frequently jump in and out of emergency mode. Once we’ve dealt with one crisis we lurch into the next.
The more frequently our stress response is activated, the harder it is to turn it off. Instead of subsiding once an emergency has gone, our stress hormones, and increased heart rate and blood pressure remain high. This in turn takes a heavy toll on the body.
The risk to your health, and threat of serious illness, is increased dramatically through this constant exposure to stress. That is why learning to deal with stress is essential for you, learning tools and techniques that will help you handle stress in a positive way, and thereby reducing the harmful impact that stress has on your life. When stress is in control of you, it also controls your attitude to life and your physical health.
‘Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And response is something we can choose’. Maureen Killoran
What Creates Stress?
Stress comes from our internal perception of the world and the things that we perceive to be threatening to us.
Have you noticed how much doom and gloom there is in the world? What are our newspapers full of? The news programmes on television. We are always forced to read or hear about disasters, poverty and famine, terrorism, deaths, financial crisis, crime and other very negative, gloomy news. All this contributes further to our own personal stress. How often do you hear people talking about climate change? I hear people discussing and getting stressed about the fact that we in the UK will never see a hot summer again. Now in 2009 we are reading and hearing about an economic downturn, and we are certainly seeing panic set in.
Nowadays you can’t get away from the hustle and bustle of life. There’s no escaping. If people want to get hold of you, it’s now so easy. With new technology, phones, internet, emails, text messaging, all of which are supposed to have provided us with more time, have now made us contactable most of the time, and there seems to be no escaping from any part of our lives, particularly work.
Today stress is triggered by rush hour traffic, exams, late nights, missing a deadline, a bounced cheque at the bank or having an argument with our supervisor, boss or spouse as well as major Life events.
Having a certain amount of pressure in our lives is good. It gets us going. What is important is keeping the pressures on you at the right level. Too much pressure, on a constant basis doesn’t allow you recovery time, and can result in health problems. So is it surprising that so many people now suffer from stress? There is no stigma to being diagnosed as suffering from stress, it’s now so common. There is no divide, no class distinction; it’s the price many of us are paying for modern living.
It’s impossible to escape from pressure totally, so its really important to acquire methods to help you manage stress effectively. In this book, I shall shortly demonstrate a variety of ways to reduce the negative impact of stress.
So let me make this very clear. A small amount of pressure is good in that it gets you alert, helps maintain your motivation to get things done, and allows you to perform well those things that you must do. But, when there is too much pressure, or the pressure of certain things is sustained for a length of time, this becomes stress. Stress, we know, when it gets too much will cause physical and emotional problems, as well as ill health. So keep on reading, I will give you the tools and techniques to manage stress effectively.
The Different Types of Stress
Understanding the different types of stress will enable you to understand where the stress in your life originates.. Only when you know this, can you then put solutions into place to deal with it. There are four main types of stress that people experience.
Eustress is defined in the model of Richard Lazarus as stress that is healthy or gives one a feeling of fulfilment. It is a positive form of stress, usually related to desirable events in a person’s life.
• Handling a challenge
• Winning something
• Getting a promotion
• Being in Love
• Your holidays
• Getting Married
• Authoring a book (that’s after publication)
Whenever you need to exert physical force, Eustress will occur, preparing your muscles, heart and mind, in readiness for the strength you are going to require. Any sportsman, just before their activity begins, will experience stress. It gets your mind and body strong, alert and ready to perform. In this case rather than it being an immediate threat that is causing stress, it is an immediate challenge. It gets your blood pumping to all your major muscle groups, increases your heart rate, your blood pressure, and you’re ready to rock and roll, and take on the world. It’s definitely my best friend, when in the gym, lying on a bench, with a heavy loaded barbell over my chest.
Distress is negative stress. It is the stress you experience when your ordinary routine is being continuously changed. This alteration in what you regard as the norm, can bring about strain, anxiety, even suffering.
Distress can be broken down into two categories:
• Acute Stress
• Chronic Stress.
Acute stress is short-term stress, and is the body’s immediate reaction to any situation that seems demanding or dangerous – ‘coming from pressures or demands of the recent past or anticipated demands and pressures of the near future’.
Your stress level depends on how intense the stress is, how long it lasts, and how you cope with the situation. The body usually recovers quickly from acute stress, but it can cause problems if it happens too often or your body doesn’t have a chance to return to normal.
Although it is an extreme stress, it appears rapidly, and only lasts for a short time. It is experienced in response to an immediate perceived threat, physical, emotional or psychological; the threat can be real or imagined; it’s the perception of threat that triggers the response.
As acute stress is a short term condition, not lasting very long, it doesn’t create the long term effects, such as ill health, that other levels of stress do. At worst it can lead to a person being unable to function at optimum level for a period of time.
• A job interview,
• A car crash
• Following an unforeseen ‘life crisis’ such as an accident or death of somebody close
• Doing a public presentation or giving a speech
• A dangerous event
• A deadline
• Realising you’ve forgotten something important
• Running late for a meeting
• Traffic jams
Chronic stress is a long-lasting condition. This is the stress that can wear people down day after day, year after year. It’s the stress that results after constant day to day hassles and a life where you go from one problem to the next. Eventually it all gets on top of you and the effects upon your health can be catastrophic. Over time, chronic stress will have a serious effect on your health.
So chronic stress is often caused by the unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly endless periods of time, over which one sees no solution or way out. With modern life bringing this barrage of ongoing stressful situations, lasting for long periods of time, it ultimately suppresses your fight or flight response, you become the punch bag, instead of the boxer, no longer having the will to defend yourself from the onslaught of daily life. You now have chronic stress.
Chronic, sustained, uncontrolled stress can result in a failing immune system, illness, and even death.
By becoming more aware of the common or persistent stressors in your life, you can then initiate methods for managing them. Lets start thinking about those that effect you the most:
• Long-term pressured work
• Long-term financial problems
• Long-term relationship breakdown
• Bullying and/ or abuse
• A series of acute stress events
• Serious illness
Hyperstress occurs when an individual is overloaded or overworked. It again is a negative stress caused by a person being pushed beyond what they can handle; or forced to undertake or undergo more than they can take.
When you are in a job that has so many demands, where your workload is so extreme that you are pushed to your limit, and beyond, where day after day you are working flat out, with no end in sight, this results in Hyperstress. When experiencing Hyperstress even something really small, can become a stressor and result in you experiencing colossal emotional outbursts. This type of stress can cause serious emotional and physical problems. So if you’ve ever overreacted, just found yourself blowing up at something, when a little time afterwards you’ve asked yourself why that happened, over something so trivial, well Hyperstress may be affecting you.
Where Hyperstress is when an individual is overloaded or overworked, Hypostress is where you don’t have enough stress in your life. It occurs when you may be constantly bored, unchallenged, agitated and not excited by your life, perhaps stuck in a 9 to 5 job, where you get home of an evening, and feel brain dead, because you can do the job in your sleep, and nothing happens to get your mind alert, when the clock has ticked by so slowly, you’re just waiting for the time when you can escape the monotony.
Stressors are any pressures and demands which cause stress. They include physical traumas, disease, life events and situations, together with threats, daily hassles, internal perceptions, worries and obsessions. Stressors are any internal or external factors that make demands on an individual and tend to disrupt our equilibrium.
As commonly used, the term “stressor” indicates a situation or event seen as being challenging in that it produces a stress response which places demands on a person’s physiological or psychological resources as well as possibly causing a state of physical or mental tension. A prolonged reaction to a stressor will produce a severe disruption called a strain.
There are so many causes of stress. We are all different, in the way we are, our personalities, our general outlook on life, the way we think, the skills we possess, and whether we are happy with what we have in our lives. So what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Where one person may perceive a situation as being challenging and full of opportunity and potential, another individual will see the same situation as being very stressful and feel unable to cope.
Not all stressors are negative; positive things can cause stress too. Anything that forces us to alter can be a stressor. Any event, good or bad, if the alteration it requires strains our coping skills and resources, will ultimately result in stress.
Your body and your mind do not know the difference between positive stressors and negative stressors. An example of a positive stressor may include your forthcoming wedding, the birth of your child, a job promotion, Christmas time, preparing for your holiday, even winning the lottery.
So even positive events or experiences can be stressors. You will have a reaction to any stressful situation.
Common Causes of Stress
‘Stress: we all have some stress in our lives, some of us have more, some of us have less stress. But if stress is allowed to overtake our lives then serious implications can result’. Catherine Pulsifer
It is really important for you to identify the causes of stress in your life, and then once you have done so, to try to minimise them. Here are some examples of situations which can create stress:
• Arguments with partner
• Big loan or mortgage
• Change in eating habits
• Change in family contact
• Change in living condition
• Change in schools
• Change in sleeping habits
• Change in social activities
• Change in workload or conditions
• Change of personal habits
• Changes in job responsibilities
• Child leaves home
• Death of a close friend
• Death of a close relative
• Death of a partner
• Family member with ill health
• Financial hardships & debt
• Getting back together with partner
• Getting married
• Having an affair
• Jail term
• Job change
• Job loss
• Minor violations of the law
• Moving house
• New baby
• Outstanding personal achievement
• Partner begins or stops work
• Personal injury or illness
• Sexual difficulties
• Start or end of school
• Trouble with boss
• Trouble with in-laws
Stressors can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic):
We will all at certain times in our lives have to deal with stressful situations. Some of these will be temporary short-term ‘acute’ stressors, which make us react to immediate threats, which activate the fight or flight response, which when the situation is resolved, will go away. Others will be long-term ‘chronic’ stressors, where we are facing ongoing and continuous pressures, which ultimately result in our fight or flight response being suppressed.
It is these long-term ‘chronic’ stressors that we find to difficult to deal with, and they can lead to psychological and emotional damage.
Symptoms of Stress
We all face difficult challenges and obstacles, and at times the pressure becomes too hard to handle. We feel weighed down, not knowing how to meet the demands placed on us. At this time, when life’s demands exceed our ability to cope with the pressures in our lives, stress will then affect us physically, mentally and emotionally.
It can affect almost every aspect of our lives. If we do not learn and adopt methods to control and manage it, it can start to dominate our lives.
Your starting point to get in control of stress is to first acquire the knowledge of how to be aware of it in yourself. The physiological changes caused by the fight-or-flight response, result in Stress having a major affect on your mind and body, as well as affecting your behaviour. As each individual is so different, the signs and symptoms of stress differ greatly from person to person. There are literally hundreds of symptoms. Many of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress are shown in the following lists. Do you recognise any of them in yourself?
‘Pressure and stress is the common cold of the psyche’. Andrew Denton
Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms
1. The Physical Effects of Stress
• Aggressive body language
• Changes in appetite
• Changes in bowel habits
• Chest pains
• Cold, sweaty hands and feet
• Cold chills, or “goose bumps”
• Constant illness
• Constant restlessness and fidgeting
• Difficulty breathing
• Difficulty with sexual orgasm
• Dry mouth
• Eating disorders
• Elevated Blood Pressure
• Enlarged pupils
• Frequent colds
• Frequent urination
• Gaseousness or belching
• General aches and pains
• Gritting or grinding of teeth
• Increased Heart Rate
• Increased perspiration
• Increased sensitivity to light and sound
• Jaw clenching
• Jaw pain
• Joint/Muscle tension
• Lacking Energy
• Light-headedness, faintness, or dizziness
• Neck aches
• Night sweats
• Premature ejaculation
• Racing pulse
• Ringing in ears
• Shortness of Breath
• Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
• Sleep problem
• Slumped posture
• Sore throat
• Stomach acidity/heartburn
• Stuttering or stammering
• Sudden, suffocating panic
• Trembling of lips or hands
• Twitching/Muscle Spasm
• Uneven or rapid heartbeat
• Weight Problem
2. Emotional Symptoms
• Angry outbursts
• Blame others
• Critical of Self and others
• Depression or general unhappiness
• Diminished initiative
• Emotional or Easily Upset
• Feeling of worthiness
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling tense and “on edge”
• Inability to relax
• Lack Of Concentration,
• Lack of humour
• Lack of interest
• Low self-esteem
• Panic Attacks
• Poor Memory
• Premenstrual Symptoms
• Reduced Sex Drive
• Self depreciating
• Sense of loneliness and isolation
• Short temper
• Tendency to cry
3. Behavioural Symptoms
• A more “serious” appearance
• Accident Prone
• Constant tiredness
• Defensiveness or suspiciousness
• Eating more or less
• Excessive alcohol consumption – Need Alcohol to Relax
• Excessive smoking – Need a Cigarette to Unwind
• Excessive/Comfort Eating
• Frequent use of over-the-counter drugs
• Gambling or overspending
• Hyperactive, Workaholic or Can’t Stop
• Inattention to dress or grooming
• Increased frustration and irritability
• Increased number of minor accidents
• Isolating yourself from others
• Lack of Appetite
• Lack of personal hygiene
• Lies or excuses to cover up poor work
• More frequent lateness
• Nail biting
• Need Several Coffee, Tea or Fizzy drinks daily
• Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
• Nervous Laughter
• Overreacting to small problems
• Overreaction to small things
• Picking fights with others
• Procrastination, neglecting responsibilities
• Recreational drug use
• Reduced work efficiency or productivity
• Rushing around or pacing the floor
• Sleeping problems – too much or too little
• Social withdrawal
• Speech Problems – Fast or mumbled speech
• Strained communication with others
• Sweet Cravings
• Taking tranquilizers just to sleep
• Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
• Too much time spent on certain activities (e.g. exercising, shopping)
• Unusual behaviour
• Weight gain or loss without diet
4. The Mental Effects of Stress
• A feeling of being a failure
• A feeling of being bad or self hatred
• A feeling of being the target of other people’s animosity
• A feeling of ugliness
• A sense of being overloaded or overwhelmed by problems
• An intense fear of open or enclosed space, or of being alone.
• Anxious or racing thoughts
• Constant irritability with people
• Constant or recurrent fear of disease
• Constant worrying
• Difficulty in letting go and laughing
• Difficulty making decisions
• Diminished fantasy life
• Diminished productivity
• Disorganization or confusion
• Dread of the future
• Errors in judging distance
• Fear of getting close to people
• Fearful anticipation
• Feeling constantly frightened
• Feeling neglected
• Feeling unable to cope
• Feelings of isolation
• Future Oriented
• Grammatical errors
• Inability to concentrate
• Increased anger and frustration
• Increased or decreased appetite
• Increased smoking and alcohol consumption
• Lack of enthusiasm
• Lack of interest in life
• Loss of interest in other people
• Loss of interest in sex
• Loss of objectivity
• Loss of sense of humour
• Mathematical errors
• Memory problems
• No attention to detail
• Obsessive behaviour
• Past oriented,
• Poor judgment
• Problems concentration
• Racing thoughts
• Rechecking tasks
• Reduced Creativity
• Reduced Interest
• Seeing only the negative
• Suicidal thoughts
• The inability of finishing one task before rushing on to the next
• Trouble learning new information
• Trouble thinking clearly
• Unable to feel pleasure or enjoyment
• Very tearful – More frequent crying
Post Traumatic Stress
My old friend. They say that the best way to see a problem is to take whatever good can come from it. At the time when I was suffering in the extreme from post traumatic stress disorder, did I realise that the pain I had experienced, and the nightmare I went through before and afterwards, would ultimately lead to me standing on stage, writing books and articles, helping others improve their lives? I would like to say I did, but that wouldn’t be the case. Looking back now, from where I am today, I realise that it was a lesson I had to go through to become the person I was meant to be.
An extreme stress reaction can result from sudden, traumatic experiences and events such as a natural disaster, sexual assault, witnessing a violent death, experiencing a life-threatening accident, or participating in military combat. This is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Those struggling with post-traumatic stress may experience a variety of symptoms. One of the greatest struggles associated with the effects of PTSD are the really confusing mix of emotions that you constantly move between such as fear, shame, depression, guilt or anger. The more you recall the events the more you build within yourself this emotional turmoil. It gets no easier; in fact you constantly beat yourself up day by day. You can also have flashbacks, often replaying those memories or images. Frequently you find yourself waking in the middle of the night screaming, shaking, and freezing over the nightmares you have. Most times that you think of the traumatic event it triggers one or other of these emotional outbursts.
These traumatic events strike without warning and generally turn people’s lives upside down. Once a person has experienced trauma, it’s often extremely difficult for them to believe that their life can ever be the same again. Let me add here, that I’m living proof that you really can move on, and never again allow these events to traumatise you.
Factors that effect this severe reaction are:
1. The traumatic nature of the incident;
2. The character and personality of the individual involved; the circumstances of their life at the time, and past experiences.
3. The preparation of the individual, and the support given to them before, during and after the event.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines trauma as ‘a powerful shock that may have long-lasting consequences’.
Post Traumatic stress disorder is best described by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association:
The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present::
• The person experienced, witnessed or was confronted with an event that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others
• The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Note: In children, this may be expressed by disorganized or agitated behaviour
The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced in one (or more) of the following ways:
• Recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections of the event, including images, thoughts, or perceptions
• Recurrent distressing dreams of the event.
• Acting or feeling as if the traumatic event were recurring (includes a sense of reliving the experience, illusions, hallucinations, and dissociative flashback episodes, including those that occur upon awakening or when intoxicated).
• Intense psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
• Physiological reactivity on exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma and numbing of general responsiveness (not present before the trauma), as indicated by three (or more) of the following:
• Efforts to avoid thoughts, feelings, or conversations associated with the trauma
• Efforts to avoid activities, places, or people that arouse recollections of the trauma
• Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma
• Markedly diminished interest or participation in significant activities
• Feeling of detachment or estrangement from others
• Restricted range of affect (e.g., unable to have loving feelings)
• Sense of a foreshortened future (e.g., does not expect to have a career, marriage, children, or a normal life span)
Persistent symptoms of increased arousal (not present before the trauma), as indicated by two (or more) of the following:
• Difficulty falling or staying asleep
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Difficulty concentrating
• Exaggerated startle response
• Duration of the disturbance is more than one month.
• The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Illnesses That Stress Can Aggravate
When one is under stress major physiological changes take place in the body, such as:
• Increase in adrenaline secretion
• Rising blood pressure
• Fast heartbeat
• Increased tension in the muscles
• Digestive system slows down
Eliminating stress improves particular aspects of your health, for example, there is evidence to show that stress management can reduce the danger of heart attack. So, it makes sense to follow a stress management plan. And once you have discovered the techniques and tools to do this, which you will do in the next section, that’s exactly what you’re going to be able to do.
Too much stress can contribute to and aggravate many health problems and major illnesses including:
• Chronic Fatigue
• Colds / flu
• Eating disorder
• Hair loss
• Heart Disease
• Heart Disease/Attack
• High Blood Pressure
• Irritable bowel syndrome
• Lowered fertility
• Muscle and joint pain
• Skin problems (acne, hives, psoriasis)
At this point I will just mention a solution that was once frequently offered to a large number of people suffering from severe Stress. That was to prescribe Tranquillisers, known as ‘mother’s little helpers’.
A consequence of this was that millions of people became addicted to these tranquillisers. Breaking this addiction proved really difficult for far too many people. My sister being one of them.
My sister lost that battle, and hence my desire to help others find better solutions. In my sister’s case Valium couldn’t help her learn to cope better with the stresses she faced, they just made her less aware of them, but she became dependent on Valium until the day she died.
If I can help one person identify their stressors, and provide them with the tools and techniques to deal with them in a far more effective way than they are currently doing, then I will be very happy. I personally, do not want you becoming reliant on medication, when I know there are so many other fantastic methods that you can adopt to handle stress far better.
In my view prescription drugs do not have to be the answer. You want an alternative! Well there is an alternative to conventional pharmaceutical methods and now I’ll outline the techniques that we recommend.
If you want to prevent stress, you must learn how to deal with the problems life throws up and find simple, natural ways of reducing tension.
Indeed many doctors are now endorsing alternative methods to medication and that is what we are bringing you.
Next read SECTION 2: STRESS TOOLKIT ASSESSING YOUR LEVEL OF STRESS