What is Stress?
The simplest answer to this question is that stress is the human response to challenge. Most often stress is associated with the difficulties of life associated with events we perceive as a problem; work, relationship crises, financial issues, however, the body also experiences stress when challenged by the environment, the foods we eat, infection and so forth.
Is Stress all in My Head?
No. Your Mind-Body’s response to stress is a complicated whole Being phenomena. Neurotransmitters in the brain, hormones throughout the body, muscle tension, immune system down regulation, gastrointestinal changes and many more adaptations of the body to both acute and chronic stress all have a major impact on our health and wellbeing.
Is Stress always Harmful?
No. It is in fact our body’s response to stress that challenges us to grow in all manner of ways. We learn to cope with day to day problems through dealing with stress and we need the stimulus of challenge so as not to get bored. Furthermore, the acute stress response is necessary for us to deal with immediate risks in our lives.
So what is the Problem with Stress?
The problem with stressful circumstances arise when we are unable to:
•Deal with an immediate problem that overwhelms us.
•Resolve acute stress such that it becomes a chronic situation contributing to disease and dissatisfaction with life.
Are we Designed to Cope with Modern Stresses?
The truth is we are not very well designed to cope with modern stresses. Our body’s normal response to stress is to rapidly prepare it for Flight or Fight, do battle or run. Yet modern stressors are rarely of this type anymore. Relationship issues, work tensions, financial issues often last weeks, months or even years, not minutes or hours. As a result, the stress response which is effective over short time frames actually works against us over the long term.
What Risks are there in Being Stressed?
The risks of chronic stress are widespread and how it affects you will depend upon your individual susceptibility to a wide range of diseases. Stress has been linked to almost all modern diseases, either through causal influence or simply mediating the progress of disease. There are, in fact, few diseases that will not be progressed by chronic stress issues in your life, so it must be controlled both for your happiness and your health.
Will I always know when I am Stressed?
Most people are, but some can overlook or deny chronic low grade stress while it literally eats away at their health and happiness. The acute stress response is usually easy to notice as it generally increases our anxiety and readiness to act such that we be become fidgety, nervous and have problems sleeping.
On the other hand, chronic stress can often lead to completely opposite symptoms over time as the adrenal system, the most important gland in the stress response, becomes exhausted and overworked, leading to sluggishness, fatigue and depression.
Of course, there will be a cross over point where a combination of symptoms are present, so you should always be watchful of your mood state, energy levels and general health and seek support whenever you realise stress is getting you down.
What will Stress Me?
This is highly individual. In particular, psychological and lifestyle stressors are highly dependent upon your own skills and temperament developed over your life time. A simple way of thinking about this is what life challenges would you feel inadequate in meeting or coping with. These will be the challenges that stress you most. On the other hand there are stressors that are common to everyone, such as infections and environmental toxins.
Knowing what stresses you is the first step to managing stress. Understanding stress as a challenge implies that meeting the challenge with appropriately developed skills will eventually manage it. This is perhaps the most important means of reducing stress; coping with the challenge such that it no longer causes you a problem. It should be noted that many skills are required across multiple situations in life ( e.g. time management, assertiveness, problem solving etc) and therefore are important for all people to learn.
This approach to stress management is through working with the causes of your stress.
What can I do if I can’t solve the Challenge Now?
Since the stress response is a physiological reaction in the body, it can be worked with and minimised.
This approach to stress management addresses the effects of stress.
What should I not do?
There are many coping strategies which can have short and long term consequences. Unfortunately, many people use negative coping strategies which will eventually have negative consequences upon both your health and happiness, even if they may distract you from your current stress. These include, but are not limited to, many forms of self medication, both prescribed and otherwise.
Examples of Negative Coping Strategies include:
•Recreational drugs usage
•Prescription drug abuse, even if prescribed by your Doctor
•Excessive Aggression and Risk Taking
•Shopping as distraction beyond your financial means
•Avoidance of meeting a challenge where it is inappropriate
Stress Management for Health and Happiness