Emotional causes of stress and tension are numerous and varied. While many people associate the term stress with psychological stress, scientists and physicians use this term to denote any force that impairs the stability and balance of bodily functions. If stress disrupts body balance and function, then is all stress bad?
Not necessarily. A mild degree of stress and tension can sometimes be beneficial. For example, feeling mildly stressed when carrying out a project or assignment often compels us to do a good job, focus better, and work energetically.
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Likewise, exercising can produce a temporary stress on some body functions, but its health benefits are indisputable. It is only when stress is overwhelming, or poorly managed, that its negative effects appear. An important goal for those under stress is the management of life stresses. Elimination of stress is unrealistic, since stress is a part of normal life.
It's impossible to completely eliminate stress, and it would not be advisable to do so. Instead, we can learn relaxation techniques and other methods to manage stress so that we have control over our stress and its effects on our physical and mental health. Who is most susceptible to stress? Stress comes in all forms and affects people of all ages and all walks of life. No external standards can be applied to predict stress levels in individuals -- one need not have a traditionally stressful job to experience workplace stress, just as a parent of one child may experience more stress related to parenting than a parent of several children.
The degree of stress in our lives is highly dependent upon individual factors such as our physical health, the quality of our interpersonal relationships, the number of commitments and responsibilities we carry, the degree of others' dependence upon and expectations of us, the amount of support we receive from others, and the number of changes or traumatic events that have recently occurred in our lives.
However, certain factors can enhance our susceptibility to stress or act to reduce its severity. People with strong social support networks consisting of family, friends, religious organizations, or other social groups report less stress and overall improved mental health in comparison to those without these social contacts.
People who are poorly nourished, who get inadequate sleep , or who are physically unwell also have reduced capabilities to handle the pressures and stresses of everyday life and may report higher stress levels. Some stressors are particularly associated with certain age groups or life stages. Children, teens , college students, working parents, and seniors are examples of the groups who often face common stressors related to life transitions. People who are providing care for elderly or infirm loved ones may also experience a great deal of stress as caregivers. Having a loved one or family member who is under a great deal of stress often increases our own stress levels as well.
Marks, MD. Most of our lives are filled with family, work, and community obligations, and at some point we feel as though we are "running on empty. What are the symptoms and effects of excess stress or "out-of-control" stress? Manifestations of excess or poorly managed stress can be extremely varied. While many people report that stress induces headaches , sleep disturbances, feelings of anxiety or tension, anger, or concentration problems, others may complain of depression , lack of interest in food, increased appetite , or any number of other symptoms.
In severe situations, one can experience overwhelming stress to the point of so-called "burnout," with loss of interest in normal activities. Scientific studies have shown that psychological stress may worsen the symptoms of almost every known medical condition. Examples of conditions in which stress may worsen the intensity of symptoms include cardiovascular diseases, asthma , multiple sclerosis , chronic pain , acne , fibromyalgia , and depression.
While stress alone is not a cause of cardiovascular disease nor high blood pressure , it may actually worsen the progression of these diseases in many people. Stress also has effects on the immune system. While some studies show that acute short-term stresses may actually be able to boost the body's immune response, chronic long-term stress has the effect of "wearing down" the immune system, leading to an increased susceptibility to colds and other infections.
Scientific studies have also shown that stress can decrease the immune response to vaccinations and prolong wound healing. What can I do to better manage stress? In general, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include your physical environment, your job, relationships with others, your home, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations you're confronted with on a daily basis.
Internal factors determine your body's ability to respond to, and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors.
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Internal factors which influence your ability to handle stress include your nutritional status, overall health and fitness levels, emotional well-being, your ability to control stress through relaxation techniques or other strategies, and the amount of sleep and rest you get.
Managing stress, therefore, can involve learning tips to change the external factors which confront you or the internal factors which strengthen your ability to deal with what comes your way. Exercise can be a key, central method to compensate for stressors. Physical exercise not only promotes overall fitness , but it helps you to manage emotional stress and tension as well. Exercise can also aid in relaxation and improve sleep.
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For one thing, exercise can emotionally remove one temporarily from a stressful environment or situation. Being fit and healthy also increases your ability to deal with stress as it arises. Relaxation techniques and meditation. There are many ways to use structured relaxation techniques to help control stress and improve your physical and mental well-being.
While some types of meditation and relaxation therapies are best learned in a class, it's also possible to learn meditation techniques on your own. There are literally hundreds of different types of relaxation methods ranging from audio CDs to group martial arts and fitness classes. The following are only examples of the types of structured programs available that can increase our capacity for relaxation:. Other stress-management strategies; Time management. Good time-management skills are critical for effective stress control.
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In particular, learning to prioritize tasks and avoid over-commitment are critical measures to make sure that you're not overscheduled. Always using a calendar or planner and checking it faithfully before committing to anything is one way to develop time-management skills.
You can also learn to identify time-wasting tasks by keeping a diary for a few days and noticing where you may be losing time. For example, productivity experts recommend setting aside a specific time or multiple times each day to check and respond to email and messages rather than being a continual slave to incoming information.
Banishing procrastination is another time-management skill that can be learned or perfected. Organizational skills. If your physical surroundings office, desk, kitchen, closet, car are well organized, you won't be faced with the stress of misplaced objects and clutter. Make it a habit to periodically clean out and sort through the messes of paperwork and clutter that accumulate over time. Support systems.
People with strong social support systems experience fewer physical and emotional symptoms of stress than their less-connected counterparts. Loved ones, friends, business associates, neighbors, and even pets are all part of our social networks. Cultivating and developing a social support network is healthy for both body and mind. How can I get help with stress management? If you feel you can't cope with or manage stress on your own or you are faced with unbearable stress, remember that there are resources to help.
I also agree to receive emails from MedicineNet and I understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet subscriptions at any time. Stressed out? Take the quiz and learn the stress definition, stress relief, symptoms, and stress management. Stress effects everyone differently. Please describe your symptoms associated with excess stress. Procrastination can make stress worse. Please share time-management skills that have helped you cope.
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Your health, school performance and social life can all suffer when stress becomes too much to handle. It can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick. Chronic stress can lead to — or worsen — serious health problems, including high blood pressure, autoimmune illnesses, digestive issues, depression and anxiety.