WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress management is a set of learnable techniques that you can use to cope with the psychological effects of the pressures in your daily life. Stress means different things to different people. You are unique, and you may thrive on the situations and the pressures that stress your best friend out. Stress is accepted to mean your body’s physiological reaction to a situation or stimuli that triggers a fight or flight response within you. The stimuli can come from outside forces or from within yourself.

Stress includes feelings of anxiety, apprehension, and even dread. You may not be aware of it, but your body has gone on alert. In response to stress, your brain sends out a wave of adrenaline. Your heart beats faster and your muscles tense in defense. Once the stress is relieved the body resumes its normal functions.

If the stress continues for a period of time, your body begins to adapt to the stress. Your body makes changes in an attempt to cope with the stressor. Glucose levels for energy and blood pressure rise. If the stressor is not relieved, fatigue, lethargy, lapses in concentration and irritability can occur.

Prolonged stress eventually wears out your body’s ability to cope. Your immune system may be nearly disabled. This can happen gradually or in a sudden collapse. Individuals at this stage may have a sudden heart attack or develop a serious disease like high blood pressure which increases the risks of a heart attack. Stress in its most extreme form can lead to mental and physical exhaustion.

You feel stressed when you think you are unable to cope with an event or situation. If you know you can manage the event, you will just get to work dealing with it. But, if you feel the situation demands more social and/or personal resources than you have or can summon, your body will answer with the stress response. Under these circumstances, stress is a negative experience. It is important to remember that you can learn to cope with stress in a more positive way. You can learn to mobilize your internal resources to overcome challenges and reach your goals.

The fight or flight response is an instinct for survival. Animals and humans both release hormones that help them survive when they encounter a threat. These hormones cause many changes inside you that prepare you for a confrontation or flight. Also, under the influence of these hormones, primarily adrenaline, the threat becomes the focal point of your attention. You will effectively block almost everything else out. This response is great for survival, but it also makes working with others incredibly difficult because you are anxious, irritable, and jumpy.

With everything focused on the perceived threat, you may find it difficult to think other situations through. Poor decisions usually result. One of the physiological effects of stress is a pounding heart which increases oxygen and blood flow to your muscles in preparation for the fight or battle. You may be prone to accidents because your normally precise command of motor skills is affected.

Research shows that this reaction can occur inside of you even in response to something as simple as an unexpected event. A new and challenging situation, frustration, or an interrupted task can all trigger the fight or flight response inside you. The response is subtle. Day to day pressures set it off over and over, and you probably aren’t even aware of it.

It is not just a matter of instinct though. Exactly which situations or feelings provoke the response in you depends a lot on your individual thoughts about a situation and your real ability to cope with it.

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