Stress, Anxiety & Depression

Signs of Stress

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Clearly, an absence of the signs and symptoms of distress indicates that you are not suffering the bad effects of stress. The signs of eustress paint a picture of how you might feel when you are harnessing the positive aspects of the stress response. You might feel and appear;

Euphoric, stimulated, thrilled. Excited Helpful, understanding, sociable, friendly, loving, happy Calm, controlled, confident:

Creative, effective, efficient, Clear and rational in thought, decisive, Industrious, lively, productive, jolly, often smiling.

Looking at the lists and thinking about your own experience, it is striking how many different signs there are. This is because the stress response involves so many body organs and activities. The important point about being aware of the signs and symptoms of the stress response is to take heed of them.

Learn to read your body and if you detect too many signs and symptoms ask yourself why they are there; what is causing them? If you can identify the causes, then take steps to deal with them.

It may be that you have been working long hours dealing with too many demands, in which case your body is telling you to slow down and rest; you need to recover, time to recharge your batteries and restore the balance.

Not heeding the warning signs and taking appropriate action can lead to the ugly side of stress; for example, heart attacks, burn-out and depression.

Understanding Stress

To understand stress, we need to look at the events that occur, our thoughts about them, and the way we respond.

Stressors: Situations that are considered stress provoking are known as stressors.

There are many major events that occur in our lives: moving, leaving school, changing jobs, and experiencing losses. These ‘life events’ can be stress provoking. We also face many ‘daily hassles’. These are events that occur routinely.

They also contribute to the levels of stress that we experience. Daily hassles include events such as being stuck in traffic, deadlines, conflicts with family members, and dealing with busy city life. Between life events and day-to-day hassles, we are faced with many stress provoking situations each day. Our attitude towards these situations determines our response.

Coping effectively requires an understanding of the situations we perceive to be stressful.

If we decide that a situation is stressful, we put into play the body’s ‘fight or flight’ reaction, causing the release of adrenalin, a natural body chemical. This starts the first stage of the stress response.

We each have a particular way of responding to stress. Some of us have physical signs such as muscle tension and difficulty sleeping (insomnia). Others may have more emotional reactions, such as outbursts of crying or anger. Understanding your response to stressful situations is one of the first steps in developing your ability to lower your stress levels.

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Knowing what you do when you are under stress is the first step. To cope with stress, you need to know when it is happening. These signs of stress can give you clues you can use to change your response to stress. The next time you feel that you are getting ‘stressed’, take the time to check your body, your emotions and your behaviour. If you recognize some of your usual signs of stress, then you have a clue that you need to do something to cope.

Coping with Stress

Book stores are filled with books that tell us how to cope with stress. Each of these books offers its own perspective on stress along with various coping techniques. To make the most of the information on coping skills, you need to understand what coping is all about. Coping is simply a way of short-circuiting the stress cycle: stopping the stress response.

There is no single right way of coping with a given situation. Each of us must figure out what works best for us. What works best will depend, in part, on your coping style. There are three main styles. None of these styles is better than the other and some people use a mixture of them.

The first step in coping is to know yourself. Begin by deciding which of these may be your style.

Task-oriented: you may feel comfortable analysing the situation and taking action to deal directly with the situation.

Emotion oriented: you may prefer to deal with your feelings and find social supports.

Distraction-oriented: you may use activities or work

To take your mind off the situation. Keep this style in mind as you read the information on coping skills.

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Before you decide which coping skill to use in a situation, ask yourself the following  questions:

Is this an appropriate thing to do in this situation?  Meditating by chanting mantras may help you calm down, but may not be the best choice if you are in an interview!

Get enough rest and sleep

Use relaxation techniques-yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or massage

Time management-do essential tasks and prioritise others. Consider those who may be affected by your decisions, such as family and friends. Use a check list so you will receive satisfaction as you check off each job as it is done

Watch your diet-alcohol, caffeine, sugar, fats and tobacco all put strain on your body’s ability to cope with stress. A diet with a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and foods high in protein but low in fat will help create optimum health.

People with stress and anxiety tend to have higher blood cholesterol, Experience increases in blood pressure, have blood platelets that are more likely to clot (clump together inside blood)

Further, it is known that stress-filled lifestyles make it difficult for a person to make or maintain resolutions to lead a healthy life. Instead of exercising to relieve stress, some people respond by overeating, eating unhealthy foods, excessive alcohol consumption or smoking. Such negative reactions to stress merely increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. Becoming aware of your stressors and learning how to deal effectively with them will enable you to get on the right track for a healthier lifestyle.

Tips for Dealing with Stress and Tension

Stress and tension are normal reactions to events that threaten us. Such threats can come from accidents, financial troubles and problems on the job or with the family.

The way to deal with these pressures has a lot to do with our mental, emotional and physical health.

The following are suggestions to get you started on managing stress in your life;

Is this going to help in the long run? We don’t always need a long- term solution. However, if you choose a short- term solution, then it is important to decide

Is this a positive way of coping? Not everything that we do to take the stress away is good for us. Drugs and alcohol are obviously coping strategies that will cause problems. Also if you use anything to excess, even if it appears positive, then it can have negative effects (e.g. excessive exercising or dieting)

Effects on Health

Many people suffering from excessive stress have symptoms of poor health. People with very high stress levels have feelings of being tense or anxious. In addition, headaches, stomach complaints or symptoms that mimic old illnesses are common.

In an attempt to cope with stress, some people drink too much alcohol, abuse drugs, blame others (e.g. spouse or parent), and may become physically violent, most often with family members.

Mental Health Problems

Depression and anxiety may be the result of chronic stress. If mental health problems are ignored, they can develop into serious mental illnesses. Clinical depression, left untreated, leads to suicide in 15% of cases. Anxiety disorders take a variety of forms, ranging from general anxiety to panic attacks. Anxiety can become severe and disabling.

Cardiovascular Disease

Although the relationship between stress and heart disease is still being investigated, preliminary evidence suggests that stress may contribute to the development of heart disease and stroke.

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