26 Feb 2007

(1) Manage Stress Before It Manages You!

PART 1

INTRODUCTION

Do you have trouble concentrating? Are you always worrying? Do you feel anxious such that your hands tremble and your palms get sweaty? These are all signs of stress. You can control stress and not let it control you!

WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress is the body’s response to any physical or emotional changes in life. This response includes the release of a hormone, adrenaline, in the body. Adrenaline causes an increase in heart rate, breathing and in blood sugar levels. It also diverts the blood flow from your digestive system to your muscles (e.g. leg muscles).

This response prepares you for “fight or flight”. Therefore you will feel more alert. We all experience stress as we cope with daily events. Daily demands such as rules, responsibilities, decisions, changes, relationships, illness and money can cause stress.

Stress can give life some spice and excitement. Positive stress helps you to cope with problems that might arise. On the other hand, living under very stressful conditions for long periods of time, may harm your health, your relationships, and your enjoyment of life.

HOW STRESS AFFECTS US DIFFERENTLY
Everyone reacts and copes with situations differently and thus we experience stress to different levels of intensity. Your body sends out various physical, mental, behavioural and emotional warning signs of stress.

Physical Signs of Stress
• Headaches, migraine, stomach aches
• Muscle tension
• Stomach ulcers
• Fast heartbeats
• Sleep disruption
• Loss of appetite or overeating
• Sweaty palms
• Trembling
• Chronic fatigue

Emotional Signs of Stress
• Anxiety and being bad-tempered
• Excessive worrying, moody
• Sadness, fear
• Feeling inadequate

Mental Signs of Stress
• Poor concentration
• Forgetfulness
• Lack of confidence

Behavioural Signs of Stress
• Acting in a defensive, aggressive or impulsive manner
• Nervous habits (e.g. stammering or biting nails)
• Loss of interest in activities
• Avoidance of tasks
• Easily distracted
• Withdrawing from social activites
• Drinking or smoking excessively

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF STRESS?
Both positive and negative life events can lead to stress. Common causes could include:

  • Death of loved ones
  • Accidents
  • Legal issues
  • Relocation
  • Debt
  • Illness
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • New job
  • Divorce
  • Unemployment
  • Excessive noise
  • Traffic jams
  • Time pressure
HOW CAN STRESS AFFECT OUR HEALTH
Prolonged stress exposes our body constantly to the effects of adrenaline and will lead to many health problems:
• decreased immunity levels, thereby increasing our chances of getting colds and other illnesses
• worsening of asthmatic conditions
• increased blood pressure that will increase the risk for stroke and heart attacks and even kidney problems
• digestive problems like indigestion, constipation or even diarrhoea
• depression, nervous breakdown or mental illness

WHAT WE CAN DO TO MANAGE STRESS
Some people have a negative way of coping. They take drugs, consume excessive alcohol, smoke, binge on food and injure themselves. These only mask the stress they feel, harm their health and even cause emotional and financial burden to their family.

We would not be able to get rid of stress altogether, but we can manage it at a level that we can handle.

To be continue...

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