• December 26, 2014

Understanding stress is first step

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Posted: Monday, May 6, 2013 4:30 am

Stress is the inability to cope with the demands of a situation. Stress usually occurs when you are frustrated, interrupted or encountering new and challenging situations. The level of stress depends on the damage a person thinks a situation can do to him or her.

Stress acts like a slow poison and can result in an inferiority complex, and loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. It is the result of undue expectations on ourselves or trying to live to the image created by others. We sometimes try to change ourselves so we can be accepted by others.

Stress is a depressing situation involving painful mental pressure. Genetics partly govern the endorphin levels (natural pain reliever) that help us deal with stress. Stress is created by our reactions to situations, rather than the events themselves.

Two types of stress

“Eustress” is positive stress (jubilation over birth of a child). Positive stress can initiate change, help us focus on the task at hand, even save our life. Positive stress can help us perform better (examples: athletes gearing up to perform, energy before public speaking).

“Distress” is negative stress (“Will I wake up at 2 a.m. when he begins to cry?”). Negative stress can cause us to spin our wheels, keep us from concentrating, and can cause bodily injury and even loss of life.

Biological response

The individual’s fight or flight response (stand firm or retreat) to stress causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, fat and sugar in the blood, hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and sweating.

This in turn, increases oxygen and fuel to prepare the body for physical action — to fight or take flight.

Long-term exposure to stress creates elevated stress hormones causing toxicity, increased levels of fat, cardiovascular problems, lowered immunity and infectious diseases including cancer, physical and mental exhaustion.

Consequences

Prolonged exposure of stress can cause diseases and a weakened immune system.

Stress has been the consequence for 50 to 80 percent of diseases, including cancer.

Other consequences to stress include:

  • Physical disorders — Headaches, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue, aches and back pain.
  • Psychological disorders — Anxiety, depression, phobias, aggression, obsessions, paranoia and withdrawal.
  • Substance abuse — Alcohol and drugs.
  • Insomnia — The inability to fall asleep.
  • Hypertension — High blood pressure.
  • Aging — People age faster when they experience more stress.

It is essential that we learn to manage stress in order to prevent negative consequences and lead happier and more fulfilling lives.

To learn more about mental health services, contact Cedar Crest Hospital & RTC in Belton at (254) 939-2100 or Cedar Crest Outpatient Clinic in Killeen at (254) 519-4162.

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