The Stress Experience

Helpful tools for understanding stress and its effects

What is stress?

Stress is the body's reaction to overwhelming demands, or stressors, stemming from everyday life occurrences. An individual's perception of a situation leads to varying levels of pressure, or stress. For those suffering from increased stress on a daily basis, there are several techniques for stress management listed below.

Types of Stressors

Stressors have the ability to present in both negative and positive scenarios, such as:
  • Getting Married
  • Work or School
  • Self-Talk
  • Going to College
  • Buying a House
  • Relationship Difficulties

Stressors are unique to each person and are based upon individual perceptions of certain situations.

Benefits

The term "stress" is often associated with negative outcomes; however, some stress is beneficial in maintaining the body's equilibrium. Picture yourself winning the lottery or receiving a promotion at work; you are most likely thrilled, but realize you must adapt to this major life change. At its best, stress has the ability to push individuals to accomplish tasks and focus on personal goals that otherwise would not be attempted.

Signs and Symptoms

Stress affects everyone differently; however, there are several universal signs and symptoms that may indicate stress overload. These are:
  • Inability to Concentrate
  • Moodiness
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Eating more or less
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Poor Judgment
  • Nausea or Dizziness
Signs and symptoms range from mild to severe, with the risk of heart attack or stroke increasing with elevated stress.

Consequences of Stress

Stress is a natural part of life and may lead to improved performance and satisfaction. In other cases, individuals are not willing or emotionally able to adapt to overwhelming stimuli. The consequences of prolonged stress include, but are not limited to:
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Increased Glucose
  • Increased Respiratory Rate
  • Heart Disease
  • Weight Problems
  • Auto Immune Diseases
  • Depression
  • Digestive Problems
  • Sleep Problems
  • Skin Conditions, such as eczema
  • Physical Pain

Defense Mechanisms

To protect oneself from damages to self- esteem, many people employ defense mechanism techniques, such as:
  • Denial to mask disappointment
  • Rationalization to avoid feelings
  • Conversion (emotional stress in the form of physical ailments)
  • Regression by returning to an earlier stage of behavior
  • Compensation to make up for deficiencies in one aspect of self-image by emphasizing another aspect
  • Repression to hide uncomfortable thoughts or feelings
  • Sublimation to transfer stress into a positive experience
  • Reaction-Formation by acting happy while experiencing an extensive amount of stress

These defense mechanisms are commonly promoted during attempts to cope with daily life stressors.

Prevention of Stress

There are three levels in stress prevention, which are key in avoiding, coping, and relieving stress.
  • Primary Prevention- Includes enjoyable activities to improve well-being while avoiding stress, such as: social gatherings, games, and utilizing self-motivation tools
  • Secondary Prevention- Based upon the initiation of stress; during this time, stress levels are to be monitored and treated with different management techniques to prevent further stress (stress tests may be utilized in severe cases)
  • Tertiary Prevention- Reduces the impact of continuous stress and its effects (support groups and attending coping seminars may help in this case)

Stress Management Techniques

Several techniques are available to lessen the impact of stress and may be effective in the overall management of stress. Some of these techniques include:
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Getting plenty of sleep
  • Face-to-Face Socialization
  • Physical Activity
  • Relaxation Time
  • Meditation
  • Guided Imagery (use of words and music to invoke positive imagery and a sense of calmness)

In Addition...

For a more in depth look at stress and its effects, here are two informative websites to visit:

http://helpguide.org/home-pages/stress.htm

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml