Stress Strikes! Part I

Stress Strikes! The Overview – A Multi-Series Blog Post

The world is more distressed than ever.  According to Gallup’s 2018 annual world poll, people report being more stressed than in any previous year since the poll’s inception.  What is stress, how is it affecting us, and what can we do to help ourselves?

What is Stress?

There is no single definition of stress that everyone agrees on.  In fact, there are two types of stress, positive and negative.  Positive stress is known as eustress and encompasses stress in daily life as a result of criteria such as a marriage proposal, promotion, new baby, winning money, graduating, etc.  Distress, on the other hand, is a result of negative criteria such as breakups, punishment, injuries, negative feelings, financial problems, work difficulties, etc.  When people say they are “stressed”, typically they are referring to distress, not eustress. 

Either way, both forms of stress involve an external component interacting with the internal environment of one’s body resulting in a cognitive “stressed out” response.  In addition to the cognitive response, there are also physical responses including hypertension, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and skin complaints, to name a few.  Finally, an accurate definition of stress should include the role of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenaline secretion in what is known as the “fight or flight” response. 

Clearly, stress is a complicated term to define.  However, those suffering with chronic stress probably don’t need to define the term.  They live from one day to the next feeling overwhelmed, overloaded, out of control, and unsafe; they know all too well they are stressed out.

Stress Statistics

In 2018, the Everyday Health organization surveyed 6,700 Americans ages 18 to 64 and published the United States of Stress special report.  The research emphasized that chronic stress is a national epidemic for all genders and ages.  When chronic stress is not treated, it affects all parts of a person: the body, mind, and spirit.  Sleep is difficult, weight problems ensue, the body becomes more susceptible to illnesses, and existing medical conditions are exacerbated. 

Over time, the chronic stress can result in serious health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, to name a few.  Additionally, mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety occur.

How to Manage Stress

Managing and alleviating stress is possible.  In fact, there are many varied ways to reduce stress.  The key is to find which method(s) work best for you personally, and then make the methods a priority in your daily/weekly routine.  Unfortunately, the Everyday Health survey revealed nearly half of those surveyed respond to their stress with distraction rather than an intention to prevent or reduce it.  The following list is a sample of powerful stress management skills. 

Fast-Fix Short Term Solutions

  • Breathing from the diaphragm
  • View imagery of nature
  • Stretch to relieve muscle tension
  • Make To-do List
  • Use a stress ball or fidget spinner to shift focus

Longer Lasting Self Care Solutions

  • Integrate exercise into weekly routine
  • Avoid alcohol/drugs as coping mechanisms
  • Pursue Yoga or Cognitive Therapy
  • Learn mindfulness meditation
  • Routinely spend time with human and furry friends

Watch for signs of stress and take appropriate actions before stress becomes paralyzing.  There is no quick, easy fix.  However, recognizing you need some self-care and prioritizing your needs can help you stay in control rather than lose control when stress rears its ugly head.

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