The world and what is important from Deni's perspective

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My recent writing about stress and its management

Preface

Stress is a major problem for people today. A simple Google Internet search on the topic of "stress help" resulted in 38,000,000 articles. Not only does stress affect a person physically, it affects one occupationally. There are several things that one can do to prevent and manage one's stress.

Introduction

Physical effects of stress are far-reaching. Muscle tension is something that is most easily recognizable. It leads to such problems as the colon, eyesight, headaches, asthma and backaches.1 A very important muscle affected by stress is the heart. Stress can overwork the heart muscle and lead to high blood pressure. 1 Other cardiovascular conditions include artherosclerosis and vascular headaches (also known as migraine headaches).1 The immune system can be underactive, hyperactive or have misguided activity as a result of stress. 1 Occupational costs have been calculated. "American businesses lose an estimated $200-$300 billion dollars per year to stress related productivity loss and other cost."2 Not only is stress a problem in the United States, but in the United Kingdom: "Stress costs councils around £120 million every year and accounts for about a third of working days lost through sickness absence."3

Stress-reduction Techniques

To reduce stress, one must understand the process of stress. Hans Selye identified this and named it the general adaptation syndrome. The first stage is called the alarm phase. In the alarm phase, a "complex physiological response [is] initiated by [the] presence of stressors triggers release of adrenaline, muscle tension and increased heart rate and blood pressure."1 The second stage is called the resistance phase. In the resistance phase the "body mobilizes to combat [the] stressor." 1 The third stage is called the exhaustion phase. "Resources become depleted; resistance breaks down; [and] disease or death may result"1 during this stage. It is important that the third stage is minimized or prevented altogether.

The first step in reducing stress is to identify the causes or triggers of stress. Answer the question, "What causes me to be stressed?" It is very important to identify it as specifically as you can. For example, if the real source of stress is relationship issues with one family member, the problem is not the entire family.

The second step is formulating a plan to deal with the issue of what causes the stress. Planning and goal-setting are vital in this step. In the example, one would set a goal to have a better relationship with the person in question. How does one form a plan to achieve this goal? Some suggestions would include: 1. developing better communication skills; 2. developing better boundaries with the person; and 3. developing better mutual understanding of each other. Make sure that people and other resources are identified who are qualified to help are included in the plan.

The third step is to execute the plan while using some stress reduction techniques. Stress reduction techniques include basic self-care, journaling, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, deep breathing and involvement in hobbies. Information on each of these will follow in the coming paragraphs.

Basic self-care is very important. To be able to deal with stressful situations, one must be at their best physically. To ensure this, one must get adequate sleep, nutrition and exercise. Most people will do well to get seven to ten hours sleep. One should be eating a well-balanced meal at least three times a day. Even if you only eat an apple or a couple of crackers, try to avoid skipping any meal. Exercise itself is a good stress-reducer. Try to exercise at least twice a week.

Journaling is something that anyone who can write will be able to do. Start by writing about everything that is causing stress. Then, one can go in either of two directions with this. The first option is to write about one is going about dealing with each stressor in order to create a reference book as to what works best. The second option is to write about all the stressors and everything about them. After this is over, then the page(s) can be torn out and destroyed. Methods of destroying them could include burning or shredding. This way, a person is given a chance to vent about it and look at it, but once the list is destroyed the person needs to set it aside.

Progressive relaxation involves a person getting in a very comfortable position while lying down. To begin one will start by tensing the toes for several seconds and then relaxing them. The process should be repeated until they are relaxed. After the toes are relaxed, then the feet are next. The next groups are as follows: calf muscles, thigh muscles, stomach, back, hands, lower arms, upper arms, shoulders, neck and face. Remember not to go to the next group until the one that is being worked on is completely relaxed.

Guided imagery also involves getting in a very comfortable position. Eyes should be closed. Think of the most relaxing place in the world. One will imagine being there. Focus on sights, smells, sensations, sounds, and tastes that are a part of the "relaxing place." Do this for several minutes.

Deep breathing will help one to calm down mentally and physically. To do this, sit in a comfortable chair or lie down in a comfortable place. Inhale slowly to the count of four seconds from the lowest part of the stomach. Hold the inhalation for a count of four seconds. Then, slowly exhale for a count of four seconds. Repeat this process for at least 5 minutes.

Hobbies are very good outlets for stress. They can occupy one's mind fully. Computers, art, music, writing, sports, etc. are all good activities that enrich one's life.

Conclusion

One does not have to let stress consume her life. There are several techniques that she can employ to reduce it in her life. For those who experience chronic stress problems, professional help may be needed to fully deal with their stressors. Stress is a problem, but it can be dealt with effectively.

Numbered references

1 Controlling Stress and Tension, 5th edition; Daniel A. Girdano, George S. Everly, Jr., Dorothy E. Dusek; Allyn and Bacon; Boston; 1997. (chapter 3)

2 http://www.holistic-online.com/stress/stress_introduction.htm

3 http://www.lg-employers.gov.uk/press/2004_news/stress_18_03.html

 

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