What is Stress?
Stress is simply the body's non-specific response to any demand
made on it. Stress is not by definition synonymous with nervous
tension or anxiety. Stress provides the means to express talents
and energies and pursue happiness; it can also cause exhaustion and
illness, either physical or psychological; heart attacks and
accidents. The important thing to remember about stress is that
certain forms are normal and essential.
As the body responds to various forms of physical or
psychological stress, certain predictable changes occur. These
include increased heart rate, blood pressure (systolic and
diastolic), and secretions of stimulatory hormones. These responses
to stress will occur whether the stress is positive or negative in
nature. In lay terms, it is known as the "fight or flight"
mechanism. Continual exposure lowers the body's ability to cope
with additional forms of psychological or physiological stress.
The results of continuing stress may cause disruption in one or
more of the following areas of health: physical, emotional,
spiritual and/or social.
The following are indicators that you may be experiencing
stress: 1) General irritability, 2) Elevated heart rate; increased
blood pressure, 3) Increased accident proneness, 4) Floating
anxiety-anxious feeling for no specific reason, 5) Trembling, 6)
Insomnia, 7) Headaches, 8) Indigestion, 9) Pain in neck and/or
lower back, 10) Changes in appetite or sleep pattern.
Stress is a process that builds. It's more effective to
intervene early in the process rather than later. Try to become
aware of the signs that suggest the process has begun.
Stress Management Strategies
The following are tips on how to maintain a healthier lifestyle
and to prepare you to cope with the stress of everyday living.
1.Structure each day to include a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic
2.Eat well balanced meals, more whole grains, nuts, fruits and
vegetables. Substitute fruits for desserts.
3.Avoid caffeine. The substance may aggravate anxiety, insomnia,
nervousness and trembling.
4.Reduce refined sugars. Excess sugars cause frequent fluctuation
in blood glucose levels, adding stress to the body's physiological
5.Reduce alcohol and drugs. These substances may add to headaches
and swelling, decrease coping mechanisms and add to depression.
6.Get a least 7 hours of sleep nightly.
7.Spend time each day with at least one relaxation technique -
imagery, daydreaming, prayer, yoga or meditation.
8.Take a warm bath or shower.
9.Go for a walk.
10.Get in touch! Hug someone, hold hands, or stroke a pet. Physical
contact is a great way to relieve stress.
4/97 ;Indiana Univ. Health
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