Stress is real. Stress can have truly horrible side effects. Stress cannot be avoided. These are all basic truths that are common knowledge in today’s fast-paced world of instant gratification and constant stimulation. Never before have stress management techniques been needed and ignored so much.
Virtually every person in the world strives for the same goal, happiness. The biggest roadblock to happiness for the average person is their ability to manage stress. Therefore, the first step in one’s pursuit of happiness must be stress reduction and management.
Stress comes from a variety of sources, some good and some bad. Regardless of the source, too much stress can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical and mental health. However, with the proper stress management techniques, the negative effects of stress can be minimized.
The increasing stress levels in our society are evident. A simple internet search for “stress management” on Google.com returns more than 21.5 million results . Even small towns have massage therapists, reflexologists, and classes teaching yoga or meditation these days. It would appear that there is a plethora of people feeling the effects of stress and an equal number of people offering their own personal advice on how to relieve that stress, for a price.
Sources of Stress
The sources of stress are virtually innumerable. Each person has different sources of stress and will respond differently to those stressors.
On top of that, there are different types of stress. Some sources of stress are good and produce beneficial results. However, other sources of stress are bad and cause negative responses and results. Regardless of the source, too much stress is detrimental and impedes individual happiness.
Exercise is a source of physical stress, but it is generally considered beneficial. It is common knowledge that exercise helps to build muscle, reduce fat, increase endurance and improve cardiac function. Unfortunately, as with anything, it is possible to exercise too much and cause more harm than good.
Fear heightens a person’s awareness and helps people respond to danger. It allows a person to run faster, jump higher, fight harder and feel less pain for a short period of time. Nonetheless, if a person is subjected to extended periods of fear, the body cannot recover properly and a person’s fear response can be altered in such a way that it will no longer allow him or her to respond properly to a fearful situation.
Competition encourages competitors to perform to the best of their abilities and improve themselves. It provides a safe outlet for a person to relieve feelings of aggression and receive recognition for a job well done. On top of that, team competitions provide feelings of belonging and acceptance.
Life changes can be good or bad. There are a number of life changes that are incredibly stressful, but are also happy events. Getting married, getting a new job, having a baby, buying a home or buying a car can all be considered good things. On the other hand, the death of a loved one, divorce, getting laid off or chronic medical problems are generally negative. Regardless of the nature of the life change, these are viewed to be some of the most stressful events that a person can endure.
Workplaces are full of stress. Whether it is a project deadline, an over-demanding boss, or drama from a co-worker, all jobs come with a certain level of stress. There are times when workplace stress is so intense that the stress of being unemployed is preferable to the stress in the current work environment.
Worrying is a part of life. Parents worry about their children, teenagers worry about getting into college, spouses worry about each other and single adults worry about being alone. People worry about animals being abused, getting lost while travelling, and missing their favorite television show. Regardless of how warranted a worry is, it is a source of stress.
Pain is an obvious source of stress. It makes things more difficult to accomplish, it saps energy from the body and increases the stress from other sources. Unfortunately, pain is also unavoidable at times.
The Symptoms of Stress
Regardless of the source of the stress, too much stress is a bad thing. It can affect a person’s physical and mental health in many different ways. A wide variety of physical and mental ailments are directly caused or exacerbated by stress.
Some of the symptoms that are directly linked to stress are high blood pressure, headaches, muscle pain, chest pain, loss of appetite and restlessness. On top of that, eating disorders, panic attacks and migraine headaches are all said to be caused by stress and many physical and mental conditions such as heart conditions, psoriasis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s Disease and diabetes are known to be made worse by stress . In light of this information it becomes apparent that there is a definitive need to properly manage stress.
Deanna Dykstra is a single mother of five children and a divorcee at the young age of 33. Despite her age, she has experienced more stress than most adults twice her age. She has experienced an abusive husband that was narcissistic and possessive; she has experienced not only her own divorce but the divorce of her parents, the death of a sibling and single parenthood . Any one of these scenarios would be enough to cause an overload of stress.
For Deanna, the first symptom of stress is panic, followed quickly by a loss of appetite and nausea . This is her first clue that she is in danger of regressing and should seek help.
While Deanna was never particularly good at managing stress, she did not experience any significant symptoms until she had been married for several years . It was not until she left her husband and moved out on her own that she was able to seek professional help. It was then that she was diagnosed as being anorexic.
Deanna has always experienced stress as a sense of losing control. Her anorexia began as a means of controlling part of her own life. However, it quickly progressed and by the time she left her husband, she weighed less than 100 pounds despite her height of 5’6″ .
Since then, Deanna has worked hard to learn how to recognize the triggers and symptoms of her stress in an effort to manage her disorder. Until recently, she had maintained strict control of her anorexia by managing her stress and keeping track of her diet. However, near the end of April 2011 she noticed that she had lost 15 pounds in less than two weeks and immediately contacted her psychologist for an appointment .
Deanna now understands that, because of her past experiences with stress, she will always be anorexic. When she feels herself begin to feel a loss of control she must be careful. She describes her experience and condition as being similar to a cancer; “I feel a bit like I have some special cancer that is caused by stress. It goes into remission, but when my stress levels get too high, it comes back and I have to start all over again if I don’t catch it before I get sick again.”
Deanna’s story is tragic only because no one noticed it early enough to stop it before it happened. Now, she must live with it for the rest of her life. Her story is a perfect demonstration of why stress reduction and control are so important.
There are several ways to reduce stress. These methods do not involve anything more than some common sense and careful thought. However, by using these techniques, a person can reduce the amount of stress that they will encounter.
The first step is to keep the mind and body as healthy as possible. By staying healthy and active a person can reduce the risk of injury or illness and increase his or her ability to manage unavoidable stress. This alone can reduce stress by reducing worry over one’s ability to handle unforeseen circumstances.
The next step is to make all big decisions carefully. Do not make purchases that cannot be afforded, do not quit a job on a whim and do not move into a home that cannot be maintained. Things like marriage and children are not meant to be taken lightly and by carefully examining big decisions, stress can be minimized or avoided altogether.
The final technique for stress reduction is to prioritize worries. While it may be upsetting to watch an APSCA commercial full of abused animals, it is not beneficial to become consumed with worry over the animals unless you have nothing more important to worry about. It is never good to take on more worry than necessary.
Once a person has reduced their stress level as much as possible, the next step is to manage any remaining stress in such a way as to avoid the problems associated with too much stress. While there are a number of techniques available, it is best to choose the techniques that best fit the circumstances and symptoms of the stress.
The first technique is relaxation . A person may take a Yoga class or take up meditation. Playing a short and easy computer game or watching a mindless television show are also good ways to relax and divert attention away from the source of stress. One could read a chapter of a book, take a short nap or sit outside in the sunshine. Even a few deep breaths and some quick stretches can go a long way towards relaxation.
If the symptoms of stress lead to mental or behavioral disorders, psychotherapy should be sought. There are some times when stress can lead to insomnia, depression, hyperactivity, eating disorders, drug abuse or any number of other problems for which psychotherapy is appropriate . Even if the stress is simply more than a person can bear treatment from a mental health professional can provide help quickly and effectively.
Taking up hobbies that require concentration or physical exertion can help to manage stress effectively . By providing the mind and body with a temporary distraction from the sources of stress the mind can work our problems at a subconscious level and prepare the conscious mind to deal with them in the future. By setting aside time to focus on a hobby a person can reduce their stress levels and provide something pleasant and enjoyable for the mind to look forward to.
When all else fails, there are a number of medications that can be prescribed by physicians and mental health professionals that can help reduce the physical symptoms of stress . There are antidepressants which can alleviate symptoms of depression, medications to provide sleep to insomniacs and to lower blood pressure or control racing pulses. There are also fast-acting medications to treat panic attacks, chest pain or muscle cramps. Depending on which symptoms a person presents with, a doctor can prescribe a medication that can alleviate the symptoms until the sources of stress are under control or the individual institutes other means of managing the stress.
After researching this topic thoroughly and working on this paper, I have instituted a number of techniques in my own life to reduce and manage my stress. For the first time, while writing a paper I forced myself to take a short break every hour that I spent reading or writing. I required myself to stand up and do something that was unrelated to my computer or school for at least ten minutes.
Now, at the end of this paper, I can testify to the fact that this paper has been written in less time and with more understanding than previous papers of the same caliber. While I encountered the same distractions and stressors that I have experienced previously, taking a break and resting my mind and eyes from the stress of the assignment seems to have made this assignment progress faster and in a more fluid fashion. Therefore, I must conclude that the most basic techniques of distraction and movement do, in fact, provide a reduction in the level of stress felt regarding a task. I am sure that this would carry over to the types of stress felt in a work or home environment.
Stress happens. When it happens, it can have detrimental, if not disastrous results. By reducing and managing stress a person can limit or eliminate the negative effects of stress. If a person can effectively manage the stress he or she experiences, there should be a resulting improvement in the health, welfare and happiness experienced by the individual.
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