Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stress Management Tips and Identifying Its Symptoms

What is Stress? Definition of stress
Stress is a common problem that affects almost all of us to some degree or the other. It is our body's way of responding to demands placed on it. Further down in this article you can read about various causes of stress and symptoms of stress.

In most stressful situations, our body usually prepares for either "fight or flight" response. The body pumps out stress hormones and the following things can happen:

Short-Term Symptoms of Stress

1. Increase in heartbeat
2. Muscle tension increases
3. Breathing becomes rapid
4. Your digestion might stop for a short period of time
5. Dryness of mouth
6. Anxiety and fear
7. Sweating increases and in some people palms of the hand too sweat
8. Fatigue and shortness of breath
9. Hands and body becoming cold
10. Churning stomach
11. Anxiety

In some situations, this flight or fight response might be essential as it can provide us with extra strength and become highly alert with strong reflexes. But in most day-to-day scenarios, such kind of response is not needed and infact it can be harmful for our health if we keep on experiencing such stress symptoms.

Infact, if you do not handle stress properly in your life, you might start finding other problems developing, the most notable being depression. Depression can affect people of any age, sex or race. The signs of depression include:

  • Low self esteem
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Becoming hostile or angry easily
  • Poor concentration
  • Low energy
  • Feeling of boredness

Stress can cause serious physical and emotional disturbances in your body. Other symptoms of stress include:

1. Insomnia

2. Headaches

3. Backaches

4. Constant worrying

5. Racing thoughs and anxiety

6. Chest pain

7. Loss of sex drive

8. Moodiness

9. Restlessness

10.Being unable to relax

11.Feelings of isolation and loneliness


13.Neglecting responsibilities and duties

14.Sleeping too much or not enough

15.Eating disorders - eating more or eating less

16.High blood pressure

17.Skin problems

18.Heart problems

19.You will feel constantly tired and may even indulge in nervous habits like nail biting, fiddling, etc.

Other long term effects of stress on our body might be ulcers, obesity, sleep problems, heart problems, depression, diabetes and host of other problems. If stress is so dangerous, you might like to know what exactly causes stress.

What Causes Stress?
Many things can cause stress and this varies greatly from person to person. Fear of something, worrying etc. can result in stress.

The things and pressures that can cause stress are called stressors. Any event that forces us to make changes that strain our coping skills can cause us stress, whether the event is positive or negative. And what causes stress to one person might not cause any stress to another.

Some common stressors can be:
1. Environmental Stressors - like being unsafe, noise or pollution etc. can also be a cause of stress.

2. Work Related Stressors - like too much work, over-demanding boss, bad colleagues, politics at workplace, insufficient salary etc. Work related problems are a common cause of stress for most people.

3. Family related Stressors - like family conflicts, problems with relatives or friends, disobedient children, serious illness of somebody etc.

4. Social Stressors - like harassment, unemployment, financial problems, debts etc.

Sometimes, the cause of stress is not external but our own internal attitudes, beliefs or habits might become the cause of stress. Some examples might be - excessive self-criticism, pessimistic attitude, perfectionism, unrealistically high expectations, lack of self esteem, unresolved emotional issues etc.

If something makes you angry frequently, then that can also be a stressor in your life. The adrenaline increases in our body when we are angry. High levels of adrenaline and other such similar stress hormones can raise our blood pressure as well as cholesterol. This can increase the chances of heart diseases in us. You need to learn how to control your anger too if you want less stress in your life.

Some quick on-the-spot stress reduction techniques you can try out are:

1. Relaxed Deep Breathing: Deep breaths can slow down your heart rate and enable you to think more clearly. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position and place one hand over your belly button. Take a deep breath through the nose. Hold it for a few seconds and then exhale through the mouth. Feel with your hands the abdomen going up and down as you take deep breaths.

2. Relaxing your muscles: Stretch your neck and do some other mild stretching to relax your body and get the tension out of it. Also do some mental relaxation exercises to relax the whole body. Other forms of relaxation exercises are mentioned in this page - and this page -

3. Do something you enjoy and find pleasurable like indulging in your favorite hobby or going out and spending some time in the nature watching plants and trees, observing birds, or sitting by the seashore watching the waves. Spending time in nature can be a really excellent stress reduction technique.

Reading, relaxing bath etc. can also be good for stress management as they can take your mind off for some time from immediately feeling the effects of stress and can make you cool off so that the thinking becomes clearer. If you have difficulty controlling worry, then this can be an excellent resource to help you conquer your fear habits - Conquering Fears, Phobias, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

4. Sleep can be an excellent stress management technique at times. A good night's sleep can be such an excellent stress reliever. Even short naps during day can be good for stress management. You can feel refreshed and your energy renewed to combat the effects of stress.

More tips to relieve stress are:

  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Get sufficient sleep
  • Learn mental and physical relaxation techniques like guided imagery, muscle relaxation etc.
  • Try to do things that involve using your hands like knitting, gardening etc.
  • Spend some time in nature
  • Take breaks from work.

These are some general stress management tips to help you manage and relieve stress. However if you suffer from excessive anxiety or worry about something, phobias, get panic attacks, or suffer from OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), then you its good to get professional help.

What is the difference between stress an anxiety?

Any situation, thought etc. that makes you feel angry, frustrated or anxious can be called as stress. So stress is a broader term which can include situations or thoughts can make you anxious.

While anxiety refers to feelings of fear or worry about something. Sometimes you may not know the cause of this uneasiness.

Anxiety generally results from excessive worrying. Another difference can be that anxiety is usually short term while stress can last from weeks to sometimes upto years.

Anxiety disorders refer to problems where patients suffer from excessive anxiety. It can be generalized anxiety or specific anxieties or phobias like social phobia etc.

Usually the symptoms for anxiety and stress are same like - sweaty palms, churning stomach, increased heart rate and similar such symptoms.

Anxiety and Stress can be caused even by imagined scenarios too:

Do you know that the human body responds in similar fashion to imagined or real dangers. So if you keep worrying or thinking about some perceived problem, you will experience upto some degree the same symptoms of anxiety and stress as if you are actually really facing that threat now.

So overcome the worrying habit if you want to get over stress. Worrying will make your brain to focus on the problems or dangers as you perceive them and what is worst is that our active imagination can really make a monster of a small problem and cause us undue stress over trivial things too.

Have you noticed how worrying can cause uncomfortable feelings and physical symptoms to develop in you even though you might at that moment not be facing any real danger, just thinking about it in your mind. See the help at hand section below.

Help At Hand:

If you suffer from depression, mood swings then here is a software that can help you with overcoming this problem and regain better mental health. This software is called as 'Finding Optimism' Software.

How can this software help you?
The program is basically an advanced health and mood diary. It helps you discover your depression triggers, the symptoms that they produce, and based on this knowledge, effective strategies for staying mentally well. Its great strengths are its charts and report, which together
give you a visual "birds-eye view" for identifying the important cause and effect relationships. Here is the link for the software - Overcome Depression Software

Other useful resources on the internet related to stress management tips and techniques are:

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