TODAY -

Stress without distress

Dr (Prof) MA Razaque *



Many of us are constantly exposed to a variety of unwanted situations such as anxiety, worries, fears, failures, illnesses, death etc. In most instances we get used to these things. However, on prolonged exposures, results in the appearance of irreversible disturbances and stressful and distressful symptoms.

Stress cannot be defined exclusively by situation because stress reactions depend on the individual’s characteristics.

A workable definition of stress is provided by Cofer and Appley (1964): “Stress is defined as the state of an organism where his/her general well being is threatened and where no readily available response exits for the reduction of the threat”.

No one can avoid stress. Everyone’s life is filled with small stressful episodes. It will be with us in one form or another, everyday of our life at home, work place, with friends, family relationships school, hospital, crowded market places, games & sports etc.

Stressors, great or small surround us at every turn. Taken individually, none of them rarely kills, but over time the cumulative stress leads to wear and tear on the body such as keeping us on edge, heart burn, sleep disturbances at night etc.

Sometimes, a certain amount of stress is useful and necessary for our survival. It gets us physically prepared during times of real danger. But stress is not meant to be a long term condition of daily life.

Too much stress can be a ticket for early onset of heart attack, stroke, type-2 diabetes, emotional instability and depression, and these individuals may experience shortness of breath, heart palpitation or irregular heart beats, chronic headache, a knot in the stomach and sleep disturbance etc.

During stressful times, many people may also experience more negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, grief and anger and become more irritable and edgy.

Changes that occur during stress

When the body perceives a stressful situation, a number of chemical reactions place-
1. The body increases production of chemicals like adrenaline glucose, endmorphine etc, as a result: blood pressure rises and the heart beat faster and harder.
2. Stress lowers the efficiency of our immune system making us more susceptible to serious illnesses.
3. A constant state of stress suppresses bodily functions so that its energies can be directed elsewhere.
4. Stress hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and insulin are released leading to over eating and weight gain.
5. Long term stress also makes us vulnerable to developing high cholesterol including LDL cholesterol ( Bad Cholesterol): narrowing the small arteries of the heart, brain etc.
6. Cortisol, which causes mental alertness during body’s response to stress, also kills brain cells responsible for memory.
7. Studies have shown increased frequency of breast cancer among women who have experienced traumatic life events and stress eg death of a spouse, social isolations marital problems etc.
8. According Dr. Stefhen Collines there is a casual link between stress and inflammatory bowel disease

Coping strategies

The first thing towards managing stress is to indentify the areas in our life where we are most valuable to stress.

No one can eliminate stress 100 percent, but can always decrease the stress load by modifying the factors that are contributing to the stress.

The following easy to follow practices will be helpful so reduce distress:

1. Age old practice of repeated prayers and mantras regulate a slow rhythmic breathing which in turn, improves blood oxygen level and cardiovascular responsiveness.
The physiological state achieved during prayer and meditation reduces heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism, thereby producing a calming effect.
2. Indentify the things in your life that do not belong there. Once you have identified which things in life are not responsible for you can start dissociating yourself from them one by one.
3. Many of us do not realize how often we are addicted to solving other peoples problems. It uses up our energy reserves and causes us stress. It does not help anyone anyway.
One of the most constructive things we can do for others (family, friends, co-workers) is to allow them to make their own decisions, their own choices, their own mistakes and to experience their own joys and victories.
We can surely reduce our own stress by not assuming responsibilities for the stress of others.
4. The stress of a toxic relationship can make us physically sick.
We are at our happiest and healthiest when we have loving people in our life. These individuals have strong immune system and live longer. So cultivate healthy and loving relationship.
5. Researches have shown interesting differences between the manner in which men and women respond to stress.
Men usually respond to stress with the classic “Fight or Flight” behavior because of more production of male hormone testosterone. Women more often manage stress by seeking out bonding activities as a result of release of female hormone oxytocin--producing a calming effect.
Developing close social ties reduces a person’s risk of disease. Now researches have shown that the more friends a women have the more likely she is to lead a joyful life.
6. Regular exercise is one of the most important lifestyle changes that can help in the management of stress. Exercise strengthen the body while stress weakens it.
7. In this fast-paced stress-filled world, we must develop our own stress management skills. Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi and slow deep breathing will keep us calm.
8. When faced with conflicts, do not judge before you know the facts.

In conclusion, our life is what our thoughts make it. Ninety percent of the things we worried about never happened.

To break the worry habit, keep yourself busy. When faced with a problem, find out- (a) what are the facts and causes of the problem.
(b) what are the possible solutions.
(c) act on the selected solution.
(d) prepare yourself mentally to accept the worst, if necessary.
(e) then try to improve upon the worst.

Lastly, life is a journey, not a race. Enjoy it.


* Dr (Prof) MA Razaque wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on February 07 2023.



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