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Stress

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Stress is a body’s way to react to a challenge. Stress affects both the mind, body and impacts overall health. Un-managed stress can lead to an increased risk of both mental and physical problems, such as infection, diseases, depressive and anxiety disorders. There are both healthy and unhealthy ways that people deal with stress. Learn and adapt healthy ways to manage your stress and avoid the negative consequences of stress.

Quick Facts
  1. The term “stress” derives from the Latin stringere (to draw tight).
  2. The term stress was first employed in a biological context by the endocrinologist Hans Selye in the 1930s.
  3. Stress has been called “the silent killer” and can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, chest pain, and an irregular heartbeat.
  4. Scientists suggest that stress is part of the evolutionary drive because it has enabled humans to survive. Specifically, stress temporarily increases awareness and improves physical performance.
  5. While it is a myth that stress can turn hair gray, stress can cause hair loss. In fact, telogen effluvium (hair loss) can begin up to three months after a stressful event.
  6. Stress can alter blood sugar levels, which can cause mood swings, fatigue, hyperglycemia, and metabolic syndrome, a major risk factor for heart attack and diabetes.
  7. Stress alters the neuro chemical makeup of the body, which can affect the maturation and release of the human egg. Stress can also cause the fallopian tubes and uterus to spasm, which can affect implantation. Stress in men can affect sperm count and motility and can cause erectile dysfunction. In fact, stress may account for 30% of all infertility problems.
  8. The stress hormone cortisol not only causes abdominal fat to accumulate, but it also enlarges individual fat cells, leading to what researchers call “diseased” fat.
  9. Stress is linked to the six leading causes of death:
    1. Heart disease,
    2. Cancer
    3. lung ailments
    4. Liver cirrhosis
    5. Depression and
    6. Suicide.
  10. Pupils dilate (mydriasis) during stress much the same way they dilate in response to attraction: to gather more visual information about a situation.
  11. Chronic Stress:
    1. Chronic stress can impair the developmental growth in children by lowering the production of growth hormone from the pituitary gland.
    2. Chronic stress floods the brain with powerful hormones that are meant for short-term emergency situations. Chronic exposure can damage, shrink, and kill brain cells.
    3. Chronic stress worsens irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that irritates the large intestine and causes constipation, cramping, and bloating.
    4. Chronic stress decreases the body’s immune system’s response to infection and can affect a person’s response to immunizations.
    5. Chronic low-level noise and low-frequency noise below the threshold of human hearing provoke stress hormones that can interfere with learning and can also elevate blood pressure, degrade the immune system, and increase aggression.
  12. Post-traumatic stress physically changes children’s brains; specifically, stress shrinks the hippocampus, a part of the brain that stores and retrieves memories.
  13. Studies show that HIV-infected men are more likely to progress to AIDS if they are under high stress than those with lower levels of stress.
  14. Men are more likely than women to develop certain stress-related disorders, including hypertension, aggressive behavior, and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
  15. Some studies suggest that the top most stressful jobs were a surgeon, commercial airline pilot, photojournalist, advertising account executive. The least stressful jobs were actuary dietitian, astronomer to name few.
Symptoms

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimistic approach or thoughts
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

Physical symptoms

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Indigestion
  • Changes in blood glucose
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Irregular periods.

Behavioral symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)


Healthy ways to manage stress

  1. Laughing lowers levels of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system.
  2. Identify the source(s) of your stress – Try to solve the problem that is causing you stress, or learn to cope with it positively. Don’t avoid, deny, or withdraw from the problem, because it will continue to exist and affect you.
  3. Access social support – Talk to someone you trust, whether it be a friend, spouse, family member, or counselor. Social support has been found to reduce stress and improve mental and physical well-being.
  4. Learn and practice relaxation techniques – Take the time to slow down and relax. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and yoga reduce stress and improve health.
  5. Be physically active – Exercise reduces stress and improves health and well-being. Do something that you enjoy doing (like walking, jogging, swimming, biking, yoga, or playing the Wii) and you will reap the stress-reducing benefits immediately.
  6. Yoga and Meditation have great positive impact on releaving stress and improving well being. Though these ancient practices were ignored for quite some time, modern man has realized and approach has been a significant good.
  7. Ancient Greeks found relief from stress by chewing a gum made from a resin.• Get enough sleep – Sleep helps the body to repair itself and reduces stress. A lack of sleep can give you more stress.
  8. Chinese stress balls (Baoding balls) were created during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in Baoding, China. Originally made of iron, the balls are thought to relieve stress because they touch pressure or acupuncture points on the hand.• Balance your time – Time management skills can help you find balance, order, and control in your life – all of which reduce stress. Procrastination increases stress.
  9. Don’t use drugs or alcohol – Drugs temporarily numb you to stress, but in the long term they undermine health, well-being, and can worsen stressful problems, rather than fixing them.
  10. Avoid caffeine & energy drinks – Stimulants keep the body from relaxing and can overtax your body. It is also important to know that you can overdose on caffeine!
  11. Eat Chocolate : Having a bad day? A piece of dark chocolate might be just the nibble you need to brighten your outlook and reduce stress. In fact, a daily dose of dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or higher) is a proven antidote to stress (Plus, it can lower your risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease.). Cocoa beans are rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant, which counteract the anxiety-producing hormone, cortisol.
  12. Reach for Soothing Scents: To calm those nerves in an instant, try inhaling aromas from bergamot, lavender or peppermint oils. Have a tension headache? Put one drop of lavender oil on your fingertips and massage your temples. To get the scent to permeate the room, add a few drops of essential oil to an unscented candle and light it. Not only will your space smell heavenly, this relaxation technique will calm your spirit in no time.
  13. Taking bath: Since ancient times, hydrotherapy has been practiced for its healing and restorative powers. To make your tub-time extra therapeutic, sprinkle in a handful of bath salts, turn down the lights, turn on some relaxing music and light an aromatherapy candle.
  14. Picture Peacefulness: When you feel tension throughout your body, calm those nerves by closing your eyes and picturing the most peaceful place you can imagine. Whether it’s curling up by the fire, lying on the beach or staring at a moonlit lake with only the sounds of lapping waves and crickets, just the thought can bring you some measure of peace.

Reference(s):

  1. Healtheducation.uci
  2. Wikipedia

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