Stress can be defined as the non-specific response of the body to any demands made upon it. In other words, is the interaction between the coping skills of the individual and its environment. When talking about stress, the first question that comes to my mind is, what causes stress? Well, there are two factors that cause stress. At first, is a stressor and second is what we call the stress-reactivity. A stressor is any stimulus which has the potential of triggering flight or fight response. Stressors are those, for which our body is evolutionary trained, when there was a threat to our safety, consider the example, early humans see a sabre-tooth tiger looking for its next meal, had to react quickly. These “cavemen” who were not strong enough or fast enough to fight the tiger, so our ‘inbuilt’ flight or fight response was necessary, and its rapidity was vital for survival.
Modern day men and women also react to stressors with the same response, for example, when you step off a curb, not noticing a car coming down the street, you hear the car’s horn, you quickly jump back on the curb. Your heart beats faster, breathing changes, you perspire. These are all manifestations of your response to the stressor, which is the threat of being hit by the car. We encounter different types of stressors. There are environmental stressors like heat, cold, toxins. Some psychological stressors like threat to self-esteem, depression. And other sociological stressors like death of a loved one, unemployment and then there are other philosophical stressors like use of time and purpose of life. We encounter stressors everyday and in every walk of life.
The flight or fight response to a stressor is termed as stress reactivity. It includes increase in muscle tension, heart rate, elevated blood pressure, less saliva in mouth, etc. these reactions prepare us for swift response. When we buildup stress products and do not use them, this stress reaction becomes unhealthy.
Some stress is natural and necessary part of life. It is inevitable and also desirable. At low level of stress arousal you are not motivated to try very hard so you don’t perform well. At another extreme, too high level of stress arousal disrupts your performance on all your tasks. Hans Selye (a researcher in stress) summarized stress reactivity as a three stage process termed as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS).
What are the 3 stages of General Adaptation Syndrome?
Phase 1: alarm reaction- the body shows the changes characteristic of the first exposure to the stressor. A burst of energy is made available to you.
Phase 2: stage of resistance- resistance ensues if continued exposure to the stressor is compatible with the adaptation. The bodily signs of alarm reaction have virtually disappeared, and resistance rises above normal.
Phase 3: stage of exhaustion- following long continued exposure to the same stressor, the adaptation energy is exhausted. The similar symptoms of alarm reaction reappear, but now they are irreversible, and this could be fatal.
Stress has many effects on our health. If not given proper attention could lead to hypertension, stroke, ulcers, migraine headaches, coronary heart disease, tension headaches and asthma to name a few. Have you ever noticed that some people are more prone to stress than other? Some people tend to react to stressors with an all-out physiological reaction that takes a toll on their health. We call these people ‘hot reactors’ if you notice people who get angry easily, are often anxious or depressed, urinate frequently, experience constipation or diarrhea more than usual, experience vomiting or nausea, there is a good chance they are hot reactors. People who are perfectionist, obsessive compulsive, etc. are more prone to stress.
The Management of the Five Components of Stress in the Way to Reduce Stress:
1) Changing stressors: Identify the regular or predictable stressors in your life. Commonly they are career, relationships, and unreasonable demands. You can change the stressor, quit it, improve it, or tolerate it.
2) Changing your physiological responses: Lifestyle modifications, healthy diet, relaxation, exercise.
3) Changing behavior: An important part of managing stress effectively involves changing your behavior so as to replace old, stress increasing and self defeating behaviors with more successful behaviors.
4) Changing your perception: Interpretation of your situation as a threat makes it a stressor for you. Your expectation whether or not you will be able to cope with it influences your level of stress and your expectations of your not coping also influences your levels of stress.
5) Changing your feelings: How you think is how you feel. Learn to handle your bad feelings. Denying your feelings and pretending they don’t exist will only make things worse.
These are just a few suggestions understand and start working on the stressors you feel in your life. Rare is a person who doesn’t experience any stress. The first step is to be aware. Observe and introspect to identity the stressors in your life. As a starting point think of all the stressors in your life and the level of stress they bring to you.
Stress and Meditation
At Stanford University, an analysis of 146 meditation studies was done. The conclusion was that meditation was not only beneficial at the time of practice, but that it significantly reduced anxiety as a character trait. Most of the studies focused on transcendental meditation, but it’s probable most methods have similar results. (Reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology 45: 957974, 1989.)
In other words, meditation really can help you defend yourself against stress and anxiety. Deeper meditation probably has the most beneficial effects, but what if you’re short on time, or uncertain about learning to meditate? No worries. There are two simple techniques you can learn in a few minutes, and start using today.
First, there is a breathing meditation. It starts with just closing your eyes, and letting the tension drain from your muscles. Then let go of your thoughts, as much as you can, and breath deeply through your nose, paying attention to your breath. When thoughts and sensations arise, acknowledge them and return your attention to your breath as it goes in and out. That’s it. Just do this for five or ten minutes.
The second technique is a mindfulness meditation. When you are feeling stress and anxiety, stop whatever you’re doing, and take three deep breaths. Then watch your mind until you identify what is bothering you. Maybe you’re worried about something? There could be a letter you need to write, or your neck could be sore. Try to identify every little irritation.
Then do something with these stressors. Make a call that’s on your mind, take an aspirin, put things on tomorrow’s list. Maybe the best you can do is recognise that there’s nothing you can do right now – so do that. Take care of each irritation, so you can let it go. Your anxiety will diminish immediately.
Practice, and you’ll get better at finding what’s just below the surface of consciousness, bothering you. Once you address these things, close your eyes, take three deep breaths, and you’ll feel more relaxed and able to think clearly. Try it now. It’s a powerful way to reduce your stress and anxiety.
10 Proven Techniques to Reduce Stress
There’s no such thing as a stress-free life. We face challenges every day, and our bodies are designed to react automatically, equipping us to achieve more than we thought possible. But we were also designed to deal with stressful events quickly and then recuperate during a period of rest before facing the next threat. Many of the things that cause us stress today are not easily handled by fighting or fleeing. As a result, our bodies are trapped in a constant state of alert, and it’s killing us.
Stress management tips can be found everywhere, but which ones really do the trick? After compiling and comparing the favorite techniques of experts from around the world, a tally of the votes revealed the list that appears below: ten proven techniques guaranteed to stop stress.
Improve your diet.
Eat more fruits and vegetables. By increasing your antioxidant intake, you’ll also be fueling your immune system. Choose high-fiber carbohydrates like whole grains or sweet potatoes. The slower acting carbohydrates will help you relax without the sugar “crash.” Cut down on caffeine and drink more water.
Get enough rest.
Our bodies are designed to repair, recharge, and refresh while we sleep. Without enough sleep, our bodies can’t keep up with the daily damage of stress. In fact, researchers have discovered that the amount of sleep we get predicts how long we’ll live.
Put events in perspective.
When you are being stressed by some event or situation, consider its true importance. Is it really a matter of life or death? How important will it be a month from now? Or even tomorrow?
Think in terms of solutions, not problems. Evaluate each day by reviewing progress and accomplishments instead of difficulties and setbacks. It probably wasn’t really the worst day of your life.
Take a time out.
When you’ve been doing battle for a few hours, it’s OK to call time out. Step away from whatever is getting to you. Give yourself a few minutes to take a deep breath, say a prayer, listen to music, or do nothing at all. The few minutes of work you give up will be more than compensated by the fresh perspective you get from your change of focus.
Exercise prepares us for the battle with stress. It helps us look and feel better, increases our energy levels, and improves our general mood. Exercise enhances our self-esteem and confidence, and helps us think more clearly. A health club or home gym is not required. Just do something that’s fun and gets you moving.
Simplify your life.
Not everything in our life needs to be in our life. We all accumulate excess baggage. Simplify by clearing out the physical clutter. Give things you no longer need to people who could use them. Evaluate your everyday tasks and commitments, and delegate what you can. Keeping your life simple may mean saying no to some things so you can concentrate on what’s valuable.
Do the stuff you hate first.
Try to tackle your most difficult or stressful tasks early in the day. We are most resilient to stress after a good night’s sleep. Hitting these tasks early puts the source of our stress behind us. Don’t procrastinate and let tasks accumulate. Learn how to break big projects up into manageable bits and get started.
Do something that you love.
Find something you love doing, something just for you, and do more of it. At least once a week spend some uninterrupted time doing something that makes you happy. Hike in the forest. Write a poem. Take up a hobby. Time spent doing something you love will refuel your sense of enjoyment and refresh your peace of mind.
And finally, the number one stress management technique: Laugh.
There’s no other way to say it: laughter really is the best medicine. Studies have confirmed that laughter actually changes our brain chemistry. It reduces the levels of at least four stress hormones. A good belly laugh produces the same cleansing effect as deep breathing exercises. Laughter strengthens our immune system and alters our perception of pain. Develop your sense of humour. Look for the humorous side of every situation. Think of ways to inject more humour into your day. Laugh!
There are numerous ways to manage stress, but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. You need to discover what works best for you. These top ten techniques are a good place to start your quest for a happier, healthier and longer life.