October 2, 2006
While most people's lives
are not consumed by severe stress, the day-to-day stressors can
lead to health problems, as well. What are those day-to-day "stressors"?
"stres-sor [stres-er, -awr] łnoun an activity, event, or other
stimulus that causes stress"
What might be considered
a major stressor by one person, may not bother another person at
all. For different people, the causes of -- and reactions to --
the stressors in their lives are unique.
"Some teens become
overloaded with stress. When it happens, inadequately managed
stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness,
or poor coping skills such as drug and/or alcohol use. When we perceive
a situation as difficult or painful, changes occur in our minds
and bodies to prepare us to respond to danger. This 'fight,
flight, or freeze' response includes faster heart and breathing
rate, increased blood to muscles of arms and legs, cold or clammy
hands and feet, upset stomach and/or a sense of dread. The same
mechanism that turns on the stress response can turn it off. As
soon as we decide that a situation is no longer dangerous, changes
can occur in our minds and bodies to help us relax and calm down.
This 'relaxation response' includes decreased heart and breathing
rate and a sense of well being. Teens that develop a 'relaxation
response' and other stress management skills feel less helpless
and have more choices when responding to stress."
Sometimes the day to day
stressors seem so much a part of life that people don't realize
the that the negative effects they are experiencing are a result
of stress. Different people deal with stress differently, but in
order deal with it at all one first needs to consciously acknowledge
that it exists, identify the causes, and then try to deal with those
"The main causes of
stress are psychological. The effects of stress are both physical
and psychological. As you react to stress your body undergoes changes.
Early signs of stress include lip biting, nail nibbling, tooth grinding,
and palm sweating. You may feel 'butterflies' in your stomach, and
your throat may become dry, making it hard to speak. Your heart
rate and blood pressure may rise. Stress victims often feel grouchy
and restless, are unable to concentrate, and lose sleep. Under too
much pressure, many people wheeze, ache, sneeze, or break out in
rashes. Repeated tensing of the head, face, and neck muscles can
narrow blood vessels and trigger headaches. Doctors report that
well over half of all patients seeking treatment have no physical
problems. The aches and pains are real, but they are caused by built-up
emotions. Long-term stress can damage your physical and mental health
and produce troubling behavior."
Even if the symptoms have
been identified, just treating the symptoms will not solve the problem.
"* Take a stand against overscheduling. If you're feeling stretched,
consider cutting out an activity or two, opting for just the ones
that are most important to you.
* Be realistic. Don't try to be perfect - no one is. And expecting
others to be perfect can add to your stress level, too (not to mention
put a lot of pressure on them!). If you need help on something,
like schoolwork, ask for it.
* Get a good night's sleep. Getting enough sleep helps keep your
body and mind in top shape, making you better equipped to deal with
any negative stressors....
* Learn to relax. The body's natural antidote to stress is called
the relaxation response. ... [build] time into your schedule for
activities that are calming and pleasurable: reading a good book
or making time for a hobby, spending time with your pet, or just
taking a relaxing bath.
* Treat your body well. Experts agree that getting regular exercise
helps people manage stress. (Excessive or compulsive exercise can
contribute to stress, though, so as in all things, use moderation.)
And eat well to help your body get the right fuel to function at
* Watch what you're thinking. Your outlook, attitude, and thoughts
influence the way you see things....
* Solve the little problems. Learning to solve everyday problems
can give you a sense of control...."
While people can make changes
in their lives to remove or reduce some stressors, others are unavoidable.
In such cases, how one reacts to the stressor will determine the
level of stress it is able to cause. If a "stressor" is
a person, then the situation can be a little more complex.
"Underlying all constructive
conflict management is understanding. Feeling that you are understood.
And understanding the situation from the other perspective. Knowing
that you are understood creates respect for you and your position.
Understanding a situation from the other perspective creates an
environment that fosters formulation of mutually beneficial solutions.
This is much easier said than done. Any thing that creates common
understanding contributes positively to constructive conflict management.
Forcefully stating your case isnt one. Stephen Covey says
it best. 'Seek first to understand. Then be understood'."
Questions of the Week:
What stressors in your life are avoidable? What stressors are unavoidable?
What can you do to reduce the number of stressors in your life?
What can you do to reduce the severity of stress caused by the stressors
that are unavoidable or unexpected (those for which you are unable
to prepare)? What can you do when another person is the cause of
your stress? How is this different from how you would deal with
stress that is caused by a situation (and not people or a particular
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum