Stress, this word sounds familiar to us all and we are aware in one way or the other of its affects on us. The unfortunate but undeniable fact is that you and I live in a stress filled world. Students or teachers, staying at home or not, professionals or non-professionals. You don’t have to look very far to find the evidence of it. We’ve all known friends or coworkers who suffer from “stress headaches”. Drug companies produce numerous stress-reducing medicines. Retail stores make fortunes selling “stress balls”. Physicians, websites, and employers offer varieties of “stress tests”. Stress is like a virus that just keeps spreading.
Many people have contacted the stress virus but they don’t seem to realize it. Their friends and families, see it. Their bosses and coworkers see it as well. Everyone around them knows that they are stressed out, but they themselves seem unaware of it. They have not learnt to recognize the symptoms of stress. They’re going about their lives each day anxious, upset, worried, frustrated and tensed, and have just accepted it as part of their lives. Stress hurts physically, emotionally, and even spiritually.
There are few things in life that are more stressful than thinking and that’s when we’ve taken it upon ourselves to be in control. If it’s not us then it’s not going to work. What a lay man’s mentality!
It’s up to me to make sure people are satisfied.
It’s up to me to keep the house clean and tidy.
It’s up to me to figure out my future.
It’s up to me to pay for my past.
It’s up to me to change my spouse or correct my co-workers.
It’s up to me! It’s up to me!! It’s up to me!!!
The quickest way to beat any problem is to be aware that the problem exists, know the answer, and implement the solution before the problem gets out of hand.
Stress in most form is a type of panic. It is a jolt to our nervous system that results from a perceived danger. Every stressful situation we face brought on by our minds or emotions has the same effect on our bodies as a real crisis situation. The description of what happens to the body when it reacts to a stressful situation is that the stressor whatever it may be, causes an impulse to be sent to the brain. The brain combines emotions with reasoning. With this process, the person reacting to the stressor analyzes the situation. If he/she perceives any form of threat, the body engages the “fight or flight” response.
The nervous system responds in three ways. First, it directly stimulates certain body systems- the heart, muscles, and respiratory system with electrical impulses to cause a quick increase in heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and respiration.
Secondly, it signals the adrenal medulla, a part of the adrenal gland, to release the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline which alert and prepare the body to take action. This reaction begins a half-minute after the first, but lasts ten times as long.
And third, the nervous system stimulates the hypothalamus in the brain to release a chemical that stimulates the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases a hormone that causes the adrenal glands to continue releasing adrenaline and noradrenaline and to begin releasing cortisol and corticosterone, which affects metabolism, including the increase of glucose production. This third, prolonged reaction helps maintain the energy needed to respond in a threatening situation. Nearly every system of the body is involved, some intently than others, in the response to the stressor.
Every time we become excited, stimulated, or upset, even though we may not realize it, our entire system is gearing up for either fight or flight to defend itself from the perceived threatening or dangerous situation. Then when we calm down, our body comes out of that emergency state and begins functioning normally, in the way it supposed to function most of the time. The next time we face a stressful situation or become upset, the whole process starts all over again.
Stress keeps people away from living their best life. It is an indiscriminate thief. Stress can take whatever it can from whom ever it can. Health, peace, rest, relationships, laughter – stress wants to take it all. There are studies too numerous to count that show we are a society overrun with stress and this stress we face is having an alarming effect on the way we feel and act each day. Let’s take a look at some of the effects stress has on us according to Mayo Clinic:
• Muscle tension or pain.
• Change in sex drive.
• Upset stomach.
• Lack of motivation.
• Irritability or anger.
• Sadness or depression.
• Angry outburst.
• Drug or alcohol abuse.
• Tobacco use.
• Social withdrawal.
And as bad as those effects are, they aren’t even the most dangerous effects of stress. The National Institute of Mental Health says that “the continuous strain on your body from routine stress may lead to serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorder, and other illness.”
If you have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have numerous health benefits. Steps such as:
• Get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
• Regular physical activity.
• Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage.
• Keeping a sense of humor.
• Socializing with family and friends.
• Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music.
• Avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine and alcohol intake, and the use of illicit substances.
• Have confidence in God.
• Learn to laugh. It helps a lot.
By Agbo Ene.