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Stress and Stress Management

Stress and Stress Management

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Published by Bhawna Garg

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Published by: Bhawna Garg on Dec 14, 2010
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05/12/2014

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Understanding Stress
Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects
Modern life is full of hassles, deadlines, frustrations, anddemands. For many people, stress is so commonplace that it hasbecome a way of life. Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, itcan help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do yourbest. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode,your mind and body pay the price.If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed,it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back intobalance. You can protect yourself by learning how to recognizethe signs and symptoms of stress and taking steps to reduce itsharmful effects.
The Body’s Stress Response
When you perceive a threat, your nervous systemresponds by releasing a flood of stress hormones,including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rousethe body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, bloodpressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses becomesharper. These physical changes increase your strengthand stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus –preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
What is stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feelthreatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sensedanger – whether it’s real or imagined – the body's defenses kickinto high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the
stress response
.
 
 The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. Whenworking properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert.In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving youextra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you toslam on the brakes to avoid an accident. The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stressis what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work,sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam whenyou'd rather be watching TV.But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and startscausing major damage to your health, your mood, yourproductivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.
The type of stress matters
Stress can affect you both instantly (acute stress) and over time(chronic stress).
 Acute (short-term) stress
is the body's instant response toany situation that seems demanding or dangerous. Your stresslevel depends on how intense the stress is, how long it lasts, andhow you cope with the situation.Most of the time, your body recovers quickly from acute stress.But stress can cause problems if it happens too often or if yourbody doesn't have a chance to recover. In people with heartproblems, acute stress can trigger an abnormal heartbeat(arrhythmia) or even aheart attack.
Chronic (long-term) stress
is caused by stressful situations orevents that last over a long period of time. This could includehaving a difficult job or dealing with a chronic disease. If youalready have a health problem, stress can make it worse.
Effects of chronic stress
 
 The body doesn’t distinguish between physical and psychologicalthreats. When you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argumentwith a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of responsibilities and worries, your emergencystress response may be “on” most of the time. The more yourbody’s stress system is activated, the easier it is to trip and theharder it is to shut off.Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems.Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It canraise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase therisk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speedup the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain,leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
How much stress is too much?
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, it’simportant to know your own limit. But just how much stress is“too much” differs from person to person. Some people roll withthe punches, while others crumble at the slightest obstacle orfrustration. Some people even seem to thrive on the excitementand challenge of a high-stress lifestyle. Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, includingthe quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, youremotional intelligence, and genetics.
Things that influence your stresstolerance level
Your support network 
A strong network of supportivefriends and family members is an enormous buffer againstlife’s stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolatedyou are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.

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