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Stress is a term that is often used but little understood.
Stress generally refers to the affects a situation has on a person's body and mind through the release of certain chemcial, to prepare the body for the stressor (stressful situation / event).
Stressful situations or events are different for everyone - what one person feels is stressful (public speaking) may not cause the same stress in another person.
The extent of stress felt, is propertional to the ability to cope with the stressful situation / event (or the perception of being able to cope with it).
If stress builds up over time, it can often produce tensions and adverse health problems that can affect a person's normal life - anxiety disorders, panic, tension, irritability. Many causes of suspected heart arrhythmia or heart attacks are simply a person being over-stressed and having a panic attack.
Stress is seen as contributing to other conditions such as heart disease, and recent studies implicate stress as a factor in the clinical course of coronary heart disease.
Stress-relief activities are always recommended to help people cope with any build-up of tensions. Some good stress relief strategies and activities are:
- Exercise - this is an excellent way to release all the tension and stress in the body and mind; exercise releases endorphines, which are nature's opiates and make you happy, dispelling the symproms of stress; in order to be effective, exercise needs to be done on a regular basis
- Laughter - this is an another great way to reduces the effects of stress, by reducing levels of stress hormones
- Massage - a relaxation massage is a perfect way to unwind and relax, especially if essential are used; an hour of having your body massaged into a state of relaxation is a perfect way to release tension and stress
- Meditation - this works by calming and focusing the mind by stopping all the negative thinking, so reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body; meditation relaxes both the body and mind and should be performed regularly to get the best benefits
- Social interaction - enjoying interaction with other people on a regular basis is an excellent way to reduce stress, as it allows you to have fun, feel connected and socialise with other people in a healthy manner to helps to reduce stress
- Warm bath - a warm bath with lavendar and rock salt is an excellent way to unwind after a stressful day(s); the lavendar and the rock salt help to relax the body and what a great way to pamper yourself for half an hour
- Yoga - this is a type of exercise and meditation therapy that comes from the east and which is an excellent way to help the body and mind de-stress through the effects of the physical activity or by stilling the mind and stressful thoughts of meditation
- Some stress is actually good for you, as it allows the body to become more focused and mentally alert
- Stress can become a health problem if it continues unabated for a long period of time
- Stress can cause a variety of symptoms in the body if it is allowed to continue too long and unabating
- Stress is part of the "flight or fight" reaction when the body produces the chemicals adrenaline and cortisol (which are both neurotransmitters)
Good stress is essential for helping to keep the body alert and the mind focused to prepare for certain activities, such as exams, driving.
When stress becomes problematic by continuing too long unabated, it can cause a variety of heath problems and symptoms, such as:
- Anger and aggression
- Heart palpitations
- Muscle tension (especially jaw and neck)
- Poor concentration
- Sexual difficulties, including lack of desire
- Tremor (involuntary shaking)
- Daly MG, Willcock SM. Examining stress and responses to stress in medical students and new medical graduates. MJA 2002 177 (1 Suppl): S14-S15, accessed 30 Sep 07
- Tennant C. Experimental stress and cardiac function. J Psychosom Res 1996; 40: 569-583
- Van der Kolk BA, McFarlane AC, Weisaeth L. Traumatic stress: the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body and society. York: Guilford Press, 1996
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