Understanding Stress and its Signs, Sources and Effects as Discussed by Melvin Feller MA
Melvin Feller MA, is not only a business owner and mentor to others who are involved in businesses of all types but also a husband, father, grandfather, and a surviving victim of mental spousal abuse from his former marriage and of cancer. Melvin Feller loves life today and all it has to offer especially married now to one the most beautiful and kindest women he has ever known. Therefore, in reorganizing his life to make him a better person in both business and personally, he has now added the stresses of life to his mentoring and online adjunct teachings. He always starts out with the question of what is stress? Why because in order to understand it we must know its definition and knowing what it is allows us to stop it or readjust from letting it harm us.
Therefore, what is stress; actually, it is the stress response of the body is meant to protect and support us. To maintain stability or homeostasis, the body is constantly adjusting to its surroundings. When a physical or mental event threatens this equilibrium, we react to it. This process is often referred to as the “fight or flight response.” We prepare for physical action in order to confront or flee a threat.
Our ancestors responded to stressful ordeals in this fashion. Millions of years later, when you face a situation that you perceive as challenging, your body automatically goes into overdrive, engaging the stress response. Immediately, you release the same hormones that enabled cave people to move and think faster, hit harder, see better, hear more acutely, and jump higher than they could only seconds earlier. Like theirs, your heartbeat speeds up; your blood pressure increases; your breathing quickens. Most modern stresses, however, do not call for either fight or flight. Our experience of stress is generally related to how we respond to an event, not to the event itself.
When is stress a warning signal?
When it is part of a natural reaction to challenge or danger, the body’s response is called positive stress. However, when you feel out of control or under intense pressure, you may experience the physical, emotional, or relational symptoms brought on by negative stress. These are the signs of stress that you need to recognize and control.
It is important to remain attentive to negative stress symptoms and to learn to identify the situations that evoke them. When these symptoms persist, you are at risk for serious health problems because stress can exhaust your immune system. Recent research demonstrates that 90% of illness is stress-related.
It is not possible to live without any stress. We can, however, learn ways to handle the stress of daily life efficiently, and to manage our reactions to stress and minimize its negative impact.
What are the symptoms of stress?
Physical symptoms can be caused by other illnesses, so it is important to have a medical doctor treat conditions such as ulcers, compressed disks, or other physical disorders. Remember, however, that the body and mind are not separate entities. The physical problems outlined below may result from or be exacerbated by stress:
· sleep disturbances
· back, shoulder or neck pain
· tension or migraine headaches
· upset or acid stomach, cramps, heartburn, gas, irritable bowel syndrome
· constipation, diarrhea
· weight gain or loss, eating disorders
· hair loss
· muscle tension
· high blood pressure
· irregular heartbeat, palpitations
· asthma or shortness of breath
· chest pain
· sweaty palms or hands
· cold hands or feet
· skin problems (hives, eczema, psoriasis, tics, itching)
· periodontal disease, jaw pain
· reproductive problems
· immune system suppression: more colds, flu, infections
· growth inhibition
Like physical signs, emotional symptoms such as anxiety or depression can mask conditions other than stress. It is important to find out whether they are stress-related or not. In either case, the following emotional symptoms are uncomfortable and can affect your performance at work or play, your physical health, or your relationships with others:
· nervousness, anxiety
· depression, moodiness
· irritability, frustration
· memory problems
· lack of concentration
· trouble thinking clearly
· feeling out of control
· substance abuse
The antisocial behavior displayed in stressful situations can cause the rapid deterioration of relationships with family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers. A person under stress may manifest signs such as:
· increased arguments
· isolation from social activities
· conflict with co-workers or employers
· frequent job changes
· road rage
· domestic or workplace violence
Severe stress reactions that persist for long periods of time and recur without warning after a traumatic event or even after an intense experience such as an accident, hospitalization, or loss, may become a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) requiring professional assistance to overcome.
What triggers your stress response?
Except for major catastrophes, few events are stressful in themselves. Stress arises when you perceive a situation as threatening. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more than enough time and enjoy playing music or listening to books while they drive.
Stress is often associated with situations that you find difficult to handle. How you view things also affects your stress level. If you have very high expectations, chances are you’ll experience more than your fair share of stress.
Take some time to think about the things that cause you stress. Your stress may be linked to external factors such as:
· the state of the world, the country, or any community to which you belong
· unpredictable events
· the environment in which you live or work
· work itself
Stress can also come from your own:
· irresponsible behavior
· poor health habits
· negative attitudes and feelings
· unrealistic expectations
How serious are your stress symptoms?
In determining how to cope with your stress symptoms, it is helpful to know what type you are experiencing. The most common form, acute stress results from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. The best way to envision the effects of acute stress is to imagine oneself in a primitive situation, such as being chased by a bear. In small doses, acute stress is thrilling and exciting, but too much is exhausting. The same ski run that feels so great in the morning can be quite taxing at the end of the day. Skiing beyond your limits can lead to falls and injuries. In the same way, too much short-term stress can produce physical or emotional symptoms. Most people recognize the signs of acute stress. They appear when something major happens like moving, changing jobs, or experiencing a loss. You probably feel stressed when something goes wrong, such as when your fender is crumpled in a car accident or your child has problems at school. Daily hassles with a demanding boss, a nagging spouse or mentally abusive spouse, or irritating noise also can make you feel stressed. Normally, as our ancestors did, our bodies rest when the stressful event is over. Moreover, because it is short term, acute stress doesn’t have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress.
Episodic acute stress
If you endure acute stress frequently, you probably are experiencing episodic stress. Your life feels like a disorderly exercise in chaos and crisis. You are always rushing, always late. If something can go wrong, it does. Trying to do too much, you can’t organize the tangle of self-inflicted demands clamoring for your attention. You are seemingly always facing a new stressful situation.
The grinding stress that wears people down day after day and year after year is chronic stress. It destroys bodies, minds, and lives. It’s the relentless stress of poverty, dysfunctional families, or despised jobs. The people of Northern Ireland, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East live with the chronic stress engendered by their endless troubles. If you are experiencing chronic stress, you can’t figure out how to alleviate a miserable situation that seems to go on for an interminable period of time. Devoid of hope, you stop searching for solutions.
Some chronic stress stems from traumatic, early childhood experiences that change the brain and become internalized, remaining forever present and painful. These experiences can affect personality profoundly. You create a belief system or view of the world that causes you constant stress.
The worst aspect of chronic stress is that you get used to it. You forget it’s there and learn to endure it.
Why should you learn to cope with stress?
In the best of all possible worlds, when a stressful situation ends, hormonal signals switch off the stress response, and the body returns to normal. Unfortunately, stress doesn’t always let up. If you tend to harbor anxiety, and you worry about daily events and relationships, your stress response never shuts down. Studies show that long-term activation of stress symptoms can have a hazardous, even lethal effect on your body. When the signs of stress persist, you are at risk for many health problems that people often do not realize are, in large part, attributable to stress, such as:
· heart disease
· anorexia nervosa or malnutrition
· obsessive-compulsive or anxiety disorder
· substance abuse
· sexual abuse
· hair loss
· tooth and gum disease
As if this weren’t enough, stress adversely affects reproduction, sexual behavior, and growth. Stress inhibits the immune system, making you more vulnerable to colds, flu, fatigue and infections. It causes digestive problems and can even lead to suicide.
For all these reasons, it is important to recognize the symptoms of stress and learn what to do about them. Fortunately, recent years have brought increased societal awareness and a greater understanding of factors that limit and relieve stress.
Living a more balanced life
You may be experiencing stress because your life has become out of balance. You may be spending too much time and energy on work or on caring for others at the expense of your own health and well-being. The following strategies can help you to live a more balanced and stress-free life:
· delegating or sharing your responsibilities at work and at home
· avoiding difficult colleagues, family members, and acquaintances
· learning to be more assertive
· doing regular exercise
· not using drink or drugs to cope
· eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
· finding humor or absurdity in stressful situations
· never taking on more than you know you can cope with
· organizing your time better to get as much done as possible
· talking to friends or family and sharing your thoughts and fears
· listening to music or relaxation tapes
· tensing and then relaxing your muscles, starting at the toes and working up to the head and neck
Managing time and scheduling
It may also be necessary to reorganize your schedule in order to maintain a more balanced life. Some strategies for time management include:
· Make a “to-do” list. Check items off as you complete them.
· Prioritize tasks and then work on the most important ones.
· Learn to say “no.”
· Delegate less important tasks.
· Schedule extra time for tasks, in case of interruptions.
· Take frequent breaks and schedule time for relaxation.
· Accepting support from others
One of the most effective things we can do when we are stressed is to talk from our heart to a friendly listener who remains calm and listens in a way that makes us feel understood. Studies show that people who are active socially are most capable of dealing with stressful situations and major illnesses.
To help reduce stress, develop a network of friends and family members to turn to when stress threatens to overwhelm you. If you are a naturally private or independent person, it might seem challenging to build a support system. In order to cultivate a circle of friends, you need to take the first step. Your efforts to create a strong social network will serve you well when you are confronted with serious stress.
· Think of individuals who care about you and with whom you can share your most personal thoughts.
· Reach out to the people you feel close to. Call them; make dates to see them; be open and available to them. Let them love you.
· Be sure to include some people at least a generation younger than you so that you won’t outlive your buddies and be left alone.
· Build relationships based on emotional honesty. Members of your inner circle should know how to listen without judging you, giving advice, or comparing your experiences to theirs.
· Developing coping skills for stress relief
· Your attitude has a lot to do with whether events and occurrences produce a feeling of stress. Once you admit that you are not able to control everything, you will be better equipped to handle unexpected situations. Stress management comes down to finding ways to change your thinking and manage your expectations.