Stress Management and Creating Balance

The World Health Organization calls stress "the health epidemic of the 21st century." Stress resulting in illness is the causative factor underlying more than 70% of all visits to the family doctor, medical doctors suggest. What is stress? We all talk about it but what does 'stress' mean and how does it affect our bodies?

Dr. Hans Selye, who first noted and described the concept of stress, defines stress as "the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it." Stress is neither good nor bad. The effect of the stress is not determined by the stress itself, rather it is determined by how we handle the stress.

Effects of Stress

1. "Emergency Response" The emergency response mechanism activates with a physiological change when people believe they are in physical or mortal danger. Pupils dilate, blood pressure increases, and the production of stress hormones increase. The body prepares within seconds to respond, which is known as the 'fight or flight' syndrome. The adrenal glands pour out adrenaline and the production of other hormones is increased by the quickly reacting pituitary-adrenal-cortical system of the brain.

This is a healthy, adaptive response to immediate danger but if continually activated, this emergency response may cause a constantly higher-than-normal level of hormone production that can eventually cause physical wear-and-tear on the body. Health problems related to this constant high level of response include hypertension, headaches, ulcers, heart disease, and increased vulnerability to diabetes and colitis.

2. "General Adaptation Syndrome" In studies, Selye came to believe that diseases of adaptation such as hypertension could be produced by abnormal or excessive reaction to stress. The body would increase its supply of hormones in order to be ready for action to stress. Over a prolonged period of time, excessive stress leads to distress and the accompanying physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health problems.

Contributing factors to distress include a) your attitude to life and b) your mood (optimistic or pessimistic). Both help to create the atmosphere that assists your defence system in repairing small wounds, bruises, and infections. This is also the system that tries to destroy strange cells such as those of cancer, including leukaemia.

In mastering stress, you have to figure out what you are doing that contributes to your problem/challenge and change it. The four categories of change include: change your behaviour, change your thinking, change your lifestyle choices, and/or change the situations you are in. Symptoms of overstress include fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety, problems sleeping, depression, and lack of joy in your life

Practical Steps to Stress Management and Creating Balance

1. Make your life regular like 'clock work.' Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

2. Give yourself a break today.

3. Say 'No' more often when other people want your time. This includes social engagements, the family dinner on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.

4. Postpone making any changes in your living environment if you have been coping with undue stress. Change of any kind is stressful and limiting it until later is a good strategy if you are under a lot of pressure.

5. Reduce the number of hours you spend at work or school. If you are a work-a-holic or school-a-holic you need to reduce the energy drain on your body. TAKE SOME TIME OFF.

6. Nutritional eating habits and eating small meals helps to keep your blood sugar stabilised. Many people reach for something high in sugar content when feeling stressed which compounds the problem. Eat more vegetables.

7. Rest your mind, as mind activities alleviate stress. These mind activities include reading, working on a craft, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, meditation, self-relaxation, dancing, and biofeedback.

8. Have a worry time if you must worry. When you find yourself worrying over a problem, set aside a time (I suggest to my students 7:30pm on Tuesday night) and then put off worrying until that time. Chances are you will not even remember what you were stressing yourself about.

9. Book time for yourself. In your daily or weekly schedule book time first for yourself and then the other activities you are involved in. Don't let anything, except an emergency, usurp your commitment to yourself.

10. Have a massage or another form of self-care activity.

Gwen Nyhus Stewart, B.S.W., M.G., H.T., is an educator, freelance writer, garden consultant, and author of the book The Healing Garden: A Place Of Peace ? Gardening For The Soil, Gardening For The Soul. She owns the website Gwen's Healing Garden where you will find lots of free information about gardening for the soil and gardening for the soul. To find out more about the book and subscribe to her free Newsletter visit http://www.gwenshealinggarden.ca

Gwen Nyhus Stewart © 2004 ? 2005. All rights reserved

In The News:

Stress Management for Nurses  www.oncnursingnews.com/
The true cost of stress?  Halifax Courier
WAITE | The Cost of Peak Performance at Cornell  Cornell University The Cornell Daily Sun
Meeting in Atlantic on December 4th to Cover New Farm Bill  The Audubon County Advocate Journal
A different kind of bond | Features | mtexpress.com  Idaho Mountain Express and Guide

7 Unique Stress Relievers

Too much driving, too much shopping, too much rushing around,... Read More

Those Deceiving Emotions

Deceiving? You bet they are. How? Without your even knowing... Read More

Conquering Stress and Depression with Exercise

One of the best ways to combat stress and depression... Read More

4 Steps to Teaching Your Family to Treat You Better

Case #1- Elizabeth, a 40 year old homemaker was always... Read More

Stress Management: Declare Your Freedom To........................

1) Create the life you desireTwo of our most underdeveloped... Read More

Stress Management and Mastery: Shake It Off and Step Up

The moment I read the story I'm about to share... Read More

Journal Your Stress Away

Writing down our thoughts and feelings, as in keeping a... Read More

Stress Management: 9 Universal Laws for Problem Solving

1. The Law of GiftsRichard Bach, author of "Illusions" says... Read More

Stress Mangement and Mastery: How to Defeat Sunday Night Syndrome

Picture the following scene:It's Sunday evening, the weekend is winding... Read More

Stress Management: How to Take Off Those Masks We Wear

The Mask of "I've Got It All Together"It's so easy... Read More

Are You Leap-Frogging from Vacation to Vacation? Try Lily-Padding...

It's summertime and chances are you can remember a summer... Read More

Life Happens

Shit happens. I know this to be a fact, because... Read More

[Emotional Health] Are You Feeling In Control?

When it is all said and done, do you feel... Read More

Stress Management: 3 Rules for Dealing with Difficult People

Seems like more and more they are all around us.... Read More

Coping as a Tool of Enchantment

Many of my readers write to me about the tensions... Read More

Secrets to Aromatherapy II - Psychological Complaints

Aromatherapy is very therapeutic when it comes to healing emotional... Read More

Managing Stress

Do you ever feel stressed? Is stress a regular component... Read More

Stress Managment: 12 Universal Laws for Managing Anger

1. The Law of EveryoneIt is not neccessarily wrong to... Read More

How to Recognize Stress Before it Turns Into Anger

After a stressful day as a computer programmer, Jim pulled... Read More

Aromatherapy Candles Release Stress

Have you been feeling so stressful and almost losing your... Read More

Mental and Physical Stress

All people experience stress and anxiety in one form or... Read More

Coping With Stress

When something happens in our lives, we automatically assess the... Read More

Stress Managment and Mastery: 6 Stress Busting Tips

In a hectic world, it's all too easy to reach... Read More

Easy Elimination Of Worry & Stress!

It is very true that, unfortunately, many people look to... Read More

Emotional Freedom - At YOUR Fingertips!

What would you say if I told you I know... Read More