Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand. Stress is primarily a physical response. When stressed, the body thinks it is under attack and switches to ‘fight or flight’ mode, releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine to prepare the body for physical action. This causes a number of reactions, from blood being diverted to muscles to shutting down unnecessary bodily functions such as digestion.
Through the release of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, the caveman gained a rush of energy, which prepared him to either fight the tiger or run away. That heart pounding, fast breathing sensation is the adrenaline; as well as a boost of energy, it enables us to focus our attention so we can quickly respond to the situation.
In the modern world, the ‘fight or flight’ mode can still help us survive dangerous situations, such as reacting swiftly to a person running in front of our car by slamming on the brakes.
The challenge is when our body goes into a state of stress in inappropriate situations. When blood flow is going only to the most important muscles needed to fight or flee, brain function is minimized. This can lead to an inability to ‘think straight’; a state that is a great hindrance in both our work and home lives. If we are kept in a state of stress for long periods, it can be detrimental to our health.  The results of having elevated cortisol levels can be an increase in sugar and blood pressure levels, and a decrease in libido.
When we are stressed the following happens:
Blood pressure rises
Breathing becomes more   rapid
Digestive system slows down
Heart rate (pulse) rises
Immune system goes down
Muscles become tense
We do not sleep (heightened state of alertness)
The following are also common causes of stress:
Becoming a mother or a father
Conflicts in the workplace
Driving in bad traffic
Fear of crime
Stress from work
Losing your job
Noisy neighbors
Too much noise
Uncertainty (awaiting laboratory test results, academic exam results, job interview results, etc)
It is possible that a person feels stressed and no clear cause is identified. A feeling of frustration, anxiety and depression can make some people feel stressed more easily than others.
Maternal stress and bullying later on at school
If a mother experiences severe mental stress during her pregnancy, there is a greater risk that her child will be bullied at school later on, researchers from the University of Warwick, England, reported in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
The researchers had gathered and examined data on 14,000 moms and 8,829 children. They evaluated mothers’ post-natal period, family adversity, anxiety and depression during pregnancy, as well as bullying incidences among their children aged from 7 to 10 years.
They found that mental stress during pregnancy impacted on the child’s chances of being bullied later on.
Diagnosis of stress
A good primary care physician (GP - General Practitioner) should be able to diagnose stress based on the patient’s symptoms alone. Some doctors may wish to run some tests, such as a blood or urine, or a health assessment.
The diagnosis of stress depends on many factors and is complex, say experts. A wide range of approaches to stress diagnosis have been used by health care professionals, such as the use of questionnaires, biochemical measures, and physiological techniques. Experts add that the majority of these methods are subject to experimental error and should be viewed with caution. The most practicable way to diagnose stress and its effects on a person is through a comprehensive, stress-oriented, face-to-face interview.
How to deal with stress
There are three broad methods you can follow to treat stress, they include self-help, self management, and medication.
Self help for treating stress
Exercise - exercise has been proven to have a beneficial effect on a person’s mental and physical state. For many people exercise is an extremely effective stress buster.
Division of labor - try to delegate your responsibilities at work, or share them. If you make yourself indispensable the likelihood of your feeling highly stressed is significantly greater.
Assertiveness - don’t say yes to everything. If you can’t do something well, or if something is not your responsibility, try to seek ways of not agreeing to do them.
Alcohol and drugs - alcohol and drugs will not help you manage your stress better. Either stop consuming them completely, or cut down.
Caffeine - if your consumption of coffee and other drinks which contain caffeine is high, cut down.
Nutrition - eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Make sure you have a healthy and balanced diet.
Time - make sure you set aside some time each day just for yourself. Use that time to organize your life, relax, and pursue your own interests.
Breathing - there are some effective breathing techniques which will slow down your system and help you relax.
Talk - talk to you family, friends, work colleagues and your boss. Express your thoughts and worries.
Seek professional help - if the stress is affecting the way you function; go and see your doctor. Heightened stress for prolonged periods can be bad for your physical and mental health.
Relaxation techniques - meditation, massage, or yoga have been known to greatly help people with stress.
Stress management techniques
Stress management can help you to either remove or change the source of stress, alter the way you view a stressful event, lower the impact that stress might have on your body, and teach you alternative ways of coping. Stress management therapy will have the objective of pursuing one or more of these approaches.
Stress management techniques can be gained if you read self-help books, or attend a stress management course. You can also seek the help of a counselor or psychotherapist for personal development or therapy sessions.
Many therapies which help you relax, such as aromatherapy, or reflexology, may have a beneficial effect.
Doctors will not usually prescribe medications for coping with stress, unless the patient has an underlying illness, such as depression or some type of anxiety. If that is the case, the doctor is actually treating a mental illness. In such cases, an antidepressant may be prescribed. Bear in mind that there is a risk that all the medication will do is mask the stress, rather than help you deal and cope with it.




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