Stress

Stress and How You Can Manage It Image

If you feel threatened, your body’s defense system starts a process known as the stress response. Stress is a normal reaction to threat or danger, whether it is real or imagined. If you’re aware of the origins of stress, you can take steps to manage the stress in your life and reduce the effects of stress on the mind and body.

The Stress Response

The stress response, or “fight or flight” response, allows you to survive dangerous events by either running to safety or fighting off the threat. Every time you sense threat or danger, your nervous system releases adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones to ready your body for a quick, lifesaving response. Some of the physical changes that occur during the stress response include:

  • Enhanced focus
  • Faster breathing
  • Faster reaction time
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Sharpened physical senses
  • Tightened muscles.

The stress response can save your life when you’re in mortal danger, and also helps you to do your best in situations such as:

  • Artistic performances
  • Athletic competitions
  • Exams at school
  • Professional presentations.

Acute vs. Chronic Stress

When used to help you succeed at or survive specific short-term events, the stress response is a healthy adaptation. This is called acute stress. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t tell the difference between actual physical threats and psychological ones. When the stress response is provoked by everyday events such as finances, relationships or work, it can become chronic stress.

Our bodies weren’t meant to be constantly flooded with stress hormones, and chronic stress can lead to a variety of health challenges. Long-term effects of stress may bring on or worsen conditions including:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Heart disease
  • Pain in many parts of the body
  • Skin conditions
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Weight problems.

Stress Management Tips

If you are experiencing chronic stress, here are a few tips to help you feel better:

  • Exercise: Physical activity you enjoy, such as dance, martial arts, sports or running, will help burn off stress.
  • Get enough sleep: A good night’s sleep will help you cope better with stressful situations.
  • Get your mind off yourself: Helping others can take your mind off stress and put things back in perspective.
  • Keep your goals realistic: Eliminate unnecessary things in your life so you are not overloaded with responsibility.
  • One thing at a time: Deal with each task as it comes, rather than overwhelming yourself with your entire workload.
  • Take breaks: Even a few minutes a day away from a stressful situation will recharge your batteries.
  • Try relaxation techniques: Meditation and breathing exercises are helpful for managing stress.

Resources

Smith, M., et al. (2009). Understanding stress. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm

Study Guides and Strategies. (n.d.). How to deal with stress. Retrieved August 12, 2010, from http://www.studygs.net/stress.htm