Coping with stress

Coping with stress is important but the definition of stress varies depending on whom you ask, that's because stress is subjective and can be difficult to evaluate. One person's fun may be another person's stressor. 

Test your stress level here, identifying the stressors is of prime importance.

From a physical perspective, one definition of stress is how your body reacts to any situation that requires that you change or adjust.

Stress symptoms are wear and tear on the body in response to stressful agents, that could be physical, physiological, psychological or sociocultural. And stress is not an anxiety disorder and it is not a normative concept.

A person typically is stressed when positive or negative (e.g., threatening) experiences temporarily strain or overwhelm adaptive capacities. Stress is highly individualized and coping with stress can depend on variables such as the novelty, rate, intensity, duration, or personal interpretation of the input, and genetic or experiential factors.

Effects of Stress on Your Body

Stress is difficult to avoid, young children, professional people, women, men and the elderly are all subjects to varying degrees of stress level.

We need stress to thrive, excel and enjoy life, but even positive stress can easily turn to negative stress.

The effects of stress on the body are part of the fight or flight response. Basically, when you encounter a dangerous situation, your body prepares you for two choices: fight or run. This preparation includes:

  • Tensing your muscles for action
  • Increasing your heart rate and blood pressure to send more blood to muscles to help them work
  • Constricting surface blood vessels to limit bleeding if you are wounded
  • Dumping sugar from the liver into the blood stream for quick energy
  • Pumping adrenaline into your system from your adrenal glands
  • Shutting down systems that are not needed for your immediate survival, such as digestion, the kidneys, and the reproductive system.s

You then have a successful fight or flight with a lot of intense exertion that lets your body return to normal when you are again safe. One way the body returns to normal is by releasing cortisol to help shut off the fight or flight response. While cortisol is beneficial for this purpose, continual stress causes a buildup of cortisol that kills cells important for immunity, increasing your risk of illness.

With many of the stressors of modern life, from obnoxious people to dealing with traffic jams, it’s not acceptable to either fight or run. Without that exertion, your body does not as easily return to a normal state of balance and over time, the cumulative physical effects of stress can lead to a wide range of potential health problems, including chronically:

  • tense muscles,
  • heart problems,
  • high blood pressure,
  • high blood sugar,
  • and digestive, kidneys and reproductive problems.

In fact, research suggests that as many as 75 to 90 percent of visits to primary care doctors are for stress-related problems.

Massage for Coping with Stress

Massage therapy is an excellent stress relief technique. Massage induces the opposite of the fight or flight response: the relaxation response. Your muscles relax and your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood pressure all decrease. Massage also increases the blood supply to all parts of the body, helping with optimal functioning.

By testing levels of cortisol in a person's saliva before and after massage, some studies have show that massage decreases cortisol levels, while other studies don't support this finding. Studies do consistently show that people feel less stressed after a massage.

Other Techniques for Coping with Stress

One of the best ways of coping with stress is to redefine what you consider stressful. The stress response to any situation depends almost entirely on your attitude about the situation. You can choose whether to curse the person who cut you off in traffic or wish them a wonderful day. While changing attitudes and developing new ways of thinking may be challenging, it can also lead to a much more relaxed and fun life.

Of the many other ways of coping with stress, you need find only one or two techniques that really work for you. Stress management techniques include:

  • Being flexible. Few things have to be done in one set way; let other people do their own thing.
  • Biofeedback
  • Breathing exercises
  • Nutritious eating to support your body in taking care of itself
  • Exercise, tai chi, yoga, or any physical activity you enjoy
  • Engaging in fun hobbies
  • Hypnosis
  • Laughter
  • Meditation
  • Sharing your feelings with someone who supports you in your life.
  • Simplifying your life by picking and choosing what you want and learning to say no.
  • Visualizing how you want to manage a stressful situation more effectively and taking appropriate steps to do so.

If, at any time, you feel overwhelmed by stress and unable to cope, seek professional help.

Receiving a weekly aromatherapy massage is one of the best antidote to stress.

Lavender essential oil is frequently used to treat stress symptoms such as insomnia. In Japan, a research has also shown that Lemon essential oil vapor has both anti-anxiety and anti-depressant effects.

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