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.
Can I Eliminate Stress from My Life?
As we have seen, positive stress
adds anticipation and excitement
to life, and we all thrive under
a certain amount of stress. Deadlines,
competitions, confrontations, and
even our frustrations and sorrows
add depth and enrichment to our
lives. Our goal is not to eliminate
stress but to learn how to manage
it and how to use it to help us.
Insufficient stress acts as a depressant
and may leave us feeling bored or
dejected; on the other hand, excessive
stress may leave us feeling "tied
up in knots." What we need
to do is find the optimal level
of stress which will individually
motivate but not overwhelm each
Can I Tell What is Optimal Stress
There is no single level of stress
that is optimal for all people.
We are all individual creatures
with unique requirements. As such,
what is distressing to one may be
a joy to another. And even when
we agree that a particular event
is distressing, we are likely to
differ in our physiological and
psychological responses to it.
person who loves to arbitrate disputes
and moves from job site to job site
would be stressed in a job which
was stable and routine, whereas
the person who thrives under stable
conditions would very likely be
stressed on a job where duties were
highly varied. Also, our personal
stress requirements and the amount
which we can tolerate before we
become distressed changes with our
has been found that most illness
is related to unrelieved stress.
If you are experiencing stress symptoms,
you have gone beyond your optimal
stress level; you need to reduce
the stress in your life and/or improve
your ability to manage it.
Can I Manage 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?
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
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
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)?
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."
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,
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.
Maintain your emotional reserves.
Develop some mutually supportive
Pursue realistic goals which are
meaningful to you, rather than goals
others have for you that you do
Expect some frustrations, failures,
Always be kind and gentle with yourself
-- be a friend to yourself.
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