Defining the subject matter
As succinctly stated by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (8th Edition), stress falls under various contexts. Under the context of ‘Mental pressure’, stress is defined as ‘pressure or worry caused by the problems in somebody’s life’. On ‘Physical pressure’, stress is seen as ‘pressure put on something that can damage it or make tit lose its shape’.
Under the pretext of ‘illness’, stress is regarded as ‘illness caused by difficult physical conditions’. When one is stressed, he or she is too anxious and tired to be able to relax; it also has to do with the application of a lot of physical pressure.
Facts on stress
Stress has been around for only about sixty years. In the nineteenth century, the concept referred not to human physiology but to the application of pressure to metal. Back then, people feeling overburdened with life’s problems were said to suffer a deficiency in their ‘nerve force’.
However, according to a foreign writer on health related matters, Don Colbert, MD reiterated that, stress is not just a mental problem; it is the cause of many of the diseases and maladies he treats in his practice. He went further to assert that, good stress is healthy, such as a wedding or promotion. Stress is also our body’s natural reaction to a threat or perceived threat.
It causes a sudden release of adrenaline and other hormones that cause your blood pressure to go up, your heart to beat faster, and your lungs to take in more air among other physiological events. These stress hormones that were meant to save your life begin to actually harm you.
They can leave you feeling depressed, anxious, angry with low sex drive, and predisposed to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, and all kinds of illnesses. The same hormones that save your life in an emergency can actually begin to destroy your health. Students in one society were shown to be more prone to catch cold, develop cold sores, or get infections when stressed during final exams weeks.
Causes of stress
The causes of stress are all too familiar to most people. Trouble with finances, relationships, job problems, health or a sudden traumatic experience and events under the same chain of unlikelihood top the list, followed marginally by a myriad of minor stressors like computer freezing troubles, traffic, poor customer service, dirty laundry piling up, cleaning house, driving children to school during their extracurricular activities like, sports and career days, conflicts with friends and family members, loneliness, or even aggravating lights and noise near your home.
Stress comes in two categories;
Things we can and should control
Things we cannot control.
Using Dr. Don Colbert’s techniques, I will help you learn to cope with stress by illustrating with two examples.
For a long time I was king of stress clutter in my home office. I received so much ‘important’ materials- books, articles, magazines, journals, videos, and more- that I felt I had to read it all. I couldn’t bring myself to throw any of it away. I had stacks everywhere of ‘indispensable’ stuff. A normal desk wouldn’t accommodate it, but I had to get a huge table for a desk.
Then my clutter migrated like ‘the blob’ to the kitchen table. I piled books and articles around the house, even in my bedroom, creating knee-high stacks wherever I went. My wife, Mary, or I would walk into the kitchen, my office, or our bedroom and immediately feel stressed out. Neither of us could stand to be in those places.
But the clutter problem was within my realm of control. One day, I took responsibility for my messy domain and tossed out as much stuff as I could bear. What I kept, I filed, I have stuck to that system to this day, and my office, kitchen, and even our bedroom are organized and pleasant. I took action and reduced my stress.
But there are also problems that we cannot control.
In 2004, we went through three major hurricanes within a period of two months, and I was very stressed out. We were without electricity for days, and the weather was extremely hot. My office was closed for a few days after each hurricane.
My roof leaked, and rain poured into our living room. Our beach condo was flooded and most of the carpeting destroyed. The stench of the garbage piling up was terrible because, the garbage truck couldn’t get through due to fallen trees and tree limbs blocking the roads. I would lie in bed thinking, What if we don’t have electricity for weeks and I’m not able to open my office or pay my bills, and then end up in extreme debt? What if I can’t find a roofing contractor since so many roofs are damaged?
After each hurricane these thoughts were running through my mind, and I was actually creating more stress for myself than what the hurricanes caused.
Although each hurricane lasted no longer than a day and left a lot of debris that took a few days to clean up, I continued to stress for weeks afterward. My perceptions were at the root of my stress, and they determined how I saw the situation- positive or negative. Instead of having a grateful attitude, I had a ‘worrywart’ attitude.
This emotional habit was triggering a continued release of stress hormones. You see, even through the traumatic experiences of the hurricanes that had passed, I was reliving the stress in my mind over and over, and spewing out stress hormones in the process.
Everybody has to deal with unwanted, uncontrollable stress in their lives- natural disasters, unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, an accident, an illness. All of these lie mostly in outside of our realm of control. They require us to change our perception and reactions.
It should be noted that, stress can be bad (like experiencing a financial setback), but it can also be good (like getting married). Stress generally falls into two categories; situations we can control, and situations that are uncontrollable and beyond our skill or knowledge. If we don’t learn to manage stress well, it eventually affects every part of us, from inside out.
Practical suggestions on how to deal with stress
Susan Smith Jones in her newest book, The Joy Factor offers seven suggestions of a cost-free stress relief solution. These solutions are outlined below;
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
Meditate and breathe deeply–
Your first 40 minutes in the morning should set the tone for your day. Combined with breath work, meditation can balance the flow of stress hormones.
Eat a diet that takes stress off your digestive system-
That means, seven servings of colourful fruits and vegetables a day.
Keep your body hydrated– Maintain proper fluid balance to support your brain functions and kidney’s ability to rid the body of waste and toxins.
Get enough sleep–
Six or fewer hours of sleep a night leaves you irritable and stupid. It also subtracts from your life span and adds pounds- Talk about stressful!
Laughter releases endorphins (happy hormones) in your body that act as natural stress busters, and it gives the heart muscle a good workout. Research has shown that 30 minutes of laughter is equivalent to spending 3 hours in a gym working out and blowing off steam, so I would rather laugh to relieve stress.
Cultivate an attitude of ‘gratitude’- To keep it constant, Susan Smith was encouraged by Fritzie her grandmother to write down in a ‘gratitude journal’, at least three things for which she was grateful just before bed, and think about those things as she fell asleep.
These steps if practiced consistently, would go a long way in reducing the adverse health effects of stress and add to the longevity of life of individuals who brace themselves to live a stress free life. It is attainable.
On the whole, stress conditions increase the chances of contracting bacterial infections such as, tuberculosis and certain streptococcal diseases; you are more likely to catch a cold due to lowered immune system response. In fact, the list of conditions that stress has been shown to precipitate is frighteningly extensive, including sleeplessness, lack of energy, backaches, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, cramping, changes in appetite, listlessness, irritability, likeliness to develop asthma, rashes, hives, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Stress is certainly taking a toll on the society as a whole. The Times of London had this to say; ‘the depressing obsession with work stress is symptomatic of a culture that prefers to define the human condition by vulnerability rather than resilience. The ‘happiness’ that the stress industry seeks for us seems to be a sort of lobotomized existence in a disinfected bubble with soothing piped music. Some of us, however, would rather live in a state of gormless serenity. A stress-free life sounds like a living death’.
Author: Victoria Umoreen
The author had her early education in Elias International Nursery and Primary School, Alimosho, Lagos.
She then attended Elias International Secondary School, Alimosho, Lagos (2008-2014).
She is currently studying at the University of Uyo awaiting her first degree in Law.
Victoria G. Umoren is a writer for the renowned Ray of Thought platform; a website that is vested with intelligent articles and publications from well seasoned writers across the world.
She hails from Edem Ekpat in Etinan Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, Nigeria.
HAUNTED is her first novel, although she has several other articles credited to her in the Ray of Thought website.
They include; “Abortion: An Option or A Last Resort.-Women And Their Right To Conception”, “Segregation: The Untold War Between The Haves And The Haves Not”, “You And Suicide”, “Religion And Its Etymology”, and a host of others yet to be published.
She is the eldest daughter in a family of five; born to Mr. and Mrs. Godwin Umoren. She loves cooking, singing, meeting new friends and knitting when she has time to spare.
Her favourite colour is Purple. She is a very nice young lady with a charming personality.
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