Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life and has been present around us from time immemorial. The modern life increasingly produces more pervasive and persistent type of stress. The interest is related to the scientific research which substantiates reports about the role of stress in heart diseases as well as post of other disorders ranging from common cold to cancer. Various studies now conformed that stress increases the production of hormones known to cause direct cardiac damage and sudden death. Still the other stress related mechanisms depress the immune system defenses leading to ulcers, colitis and cancers. Stress related headaches, backaches, insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and coronary heart diseases are estimated to account for 90% of visits to General Practitioners.
Changes in the external environment and changes in the mental or emotional outlook of the individual are equally likely to produce stress. Besides the ordinary daily tensions –such as experience in America – e.g., street robbery, extreme of temperatures, divorce, or even a seemingly minor stressor as car breakdown – all can have a cumulative effect on an individual. There are fundamental crisis which we all go thorough when we start for school or leave home. And then there are major life events in our life when we are threatened by serious illnesses or when we take the plunge to get married or construct a new house.
At home many strains such as getting married or divorced, coping with the death of a close friend or family member, injury, illness, pregnancy, family conflicts, moving house, etc. all add to the stress.
At work – a change in the level of responsibility, a change in job specification, getting promoted or fired or being forced to retired, all produce stress. Going on a holiday, leaving college and financial loss are other obvious causes of stress.
Uncertainty is one of the major causes of stress while waiting for examination results of court verdicts is worst than the actual bad news. Suspense is the genuine killer.
The effects of stress on any individual inevitably depends upon a number of factors as age, health and intelligence, but social standing, past experiences and learned values are also relevant.
The effects of potential stressor on the body depend on the attitude of the victim. Stress research tells us that it is not the external event but our perception of it that produces stress.
The Cost of Stress
The human cost is enormous. Estimated annual cost to industry as a result of absence from work, health charges and diminished productivity could run billions of dollars. In USA it runs close to $75 billions. The term “stress burnout “is no longer a meaningless clichés. It has become an established medical entity.
If the stress is left untreated it will lead a person to the following adverse physical and mental effects.
· Chest pain
· Diarrhoea persisting for more than a few days
· Inability to relax at any time
· Intolerance to noise or other disturbing stimuli
· Irritability and short temper
· A poor memory
· Inability to concentrate
· Lack of confidence
· Uncontrolled emotions, particularly frequent crying
· Leaving jobs unfinished
· Impulsive behavior
· Over reacting to little things
Identify the Factors which Cause Stress:
Before the problems causing stress can be solved, they must be recognized. To identify the factors causing stress:
· Right down problem which you think applies to you – at work and at home. Work on priorities. First worry about one thing at a time.
· What are your hobbies and leisure time activities?
· Do you feel rested and refreshed after spending time on your hobby or do you feel worst than ever.
· Do you have problems in personal relationship?
· Do you have financial problem?
· How much does your immediate environment affect you?
How do you Cope with Problems?
Each person’s life has the four pillars – and if these are damaged or changed frequently the quality of life may be irreversibly harmed. These four pillars are family, work, leisure and friends. When vital changes are being made to the structure of one pillar do not make changes in the others for example building a house and moving to a new job should not be done simultaneously. One should have a “Stability Zone” at work or at home.
There are times when we are needed to call on extra sources of help and support to back up our own resources. The danger lies in emotional props as substitutes for this sort of support and becoming over reliant on them.
The support, encouragement and advice we can get from close friends, spouse and those whose opinion and judgment we value and respect, are the most valuable supports.
Dependence on drugs, cigarette, alcohol and certain comfort food can lead to addiction and ill health.
Hans Selye’s Tips on Stress Reduction:
Don’t waste your time on people who don’t want to be recipients of your friendship, help or love.
Don’t be a perfectionist
Don’t underestimate genuine pleasure which comes from simple things like talking to a friend, going for a walk and playing with your children.
Only fight for which is really worth it.
Look at the sunny side.
Face defeat with counting your success and accomplishments.
Don’t procrastinate, get over with unpleasant task.
Realize that people are unequal in many ways from there birth.
(Suzanne M. Crampton, John W. Hodge, Jitendra M. Mishra, Steve Price, 1995).
Stress Reduction Insights
Tolerate: learn to except some pressures – whether at word or at home. Sometimes early warning signs of stress are deliberately ignored because of the possible advantages which can be gained are sufficiently attractive e.g., building a house or working on special projects at work.
Fight back: work hard if failed in examination. Improve self esteem if misses a promotion by joining courses or improving qualifications and practicing good management. Keep trying to be hopeful.
Retreat: at times knowing one’s limitation, one could look for new avenues instead of banging head on a brick wall.
Dealing with Stressful Situation
Tune down: balance work and rest/ leisure activities, and schedule your time according to priorities.
Regular exercise: may be a brisk walk, or sports as tennis, squash etc.
Regular meals: balanced diet; more fruits, vegetables and cereals; avoid fats, caffeine or alcohol.
Adequate sleep: sleep is a natural renewing system. Even under extreme stress the old saying “sleep on it” quite often helps – at least one is refreshed physically and mentally or things can change the next day.
Be assertive: learn to say “NO”, delegate work both at work and at home.
Practice good management: organize time (long term planner, monthly listings and weekly diary)
Share problems: share problems with friends and colleagues who are trust worthy and loyal. Communicating and sharing stress-full situation at work with colleagues and at home with spouse or friend, communicator releases stress, enables them to be helpful and understanding.
Faith in religion: regular prayers give strength, inner peace and tranquility
Relaxation exercises: Breathing exercises, massage and acupuncture can help an acute muscle tension. Meditation and yoga are also helpful
Music: listening or playing instrument can distract mind from worrying thoughts and can be extremely relaxing. Music on tapes can be used with visualization (imagine your self in idyllic surroundings watching the wide expense of blue ocean or walking through a green forest or a rose garden). These techniques can be useful in anti stress treatment plan. Positive imaging is increasingly used by psychologists as part of treatment for phobias and anxiety states also.
Hobbies: as gardening, painting, carpentry, decorating house, reading or writing also can be self absorbing and relaxing.
Vacations: take a break. A change of place, no matter how short, gives a new outlook on your situation. Even a weakened away from work can do wonders.
Avoid self-medication: tranquilizers should not be takes without a doctor’s prescription.
Boredom: Loneliness and uncertainty could be counteracted by doing something different and interesting – visit a museum, go for shopping, see a movie or go to theatre. Get into a physical fitness program or self grooming course. Learn a new language or learn to play a musical instrument.
Consult a Specialist/Psychiatrist: In chronic stressful situations or in acute stress reactions as panic attacks. Formal psychotherapy or brief counseling session at times may be vital in evading noxious stress or stress related illnesses.
Suzanne M. Crampton, John W. Hodge, Jitendra M. Mishra, Steve Price (1995). Stress and Stress Management; SAM Advanced Management Journal, Vol. 60