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Stress Management

Stress: It Is Deadly

Irrespective of what you do, you have and will experience stress at some time in your life. In a recent survey 89% of respondents described experiencing "high levels of stress".

Impact of Stress

Stress is very expensive. Let's look at the statistics:

  • Stress is recognized as the number one killer today. The American Medical Association stated that stress was the cause of 80 to 85 percent of all human illness and disease or at the very least had a detrimental effect on our health.

  • Every week, 95 million Americans suffer some kind of stress related symptom for which they take medication.

  • American businesses lose an estimated $200-$300 billion
    dollars per year to stress related productivity loss and other cost. To put this in perspective, this amount is higher than the total cost related to all strikes and the net profit from all Fortune 500 companies!

The American Institute of Stress in Yonkers, New York, estimates that 90 percent of all visits to doctors are for stress-related disorders. In women, stress has been linked to fatigue, hair loss, bad complexion, insomnia, disruption of the menstrual cycle, low libido and lack of orgasm, among others. There's even evidence that it can increase your risk of more serious problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Be HappyStress speeds up your entire system and produces conditions in younger people that are more commonly associated with growing old. Virtually no part of your body can escape the ravages of stress.

Studies show that stress can reduce the power of our immune systems. A study in the U.K. exposed 266 people to a common cold virus and then tracked who became sick. 28.6 percent of those with few signs of stress caught the cold. However, the figure jumped to 42.4 percent for those who were under high stress.

Other studies show that women who have trouble coping with stress may be at risk of building up dangerous abdominal fat. A study at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, of 42 obese women found that those with abdominal fat (apple shaped) secreted more stress hormones than those who carry extra weight on their hips (pear shaped). It is known that apple-shaped people are more at risk of heart disease.

Nurthure NightsStress increases heart rate and blood pressure. It changes the inner lining of our blood vessels, making our blood more likely to clot. Stress may change the way cholesterol is handled by our blood vessels and, in doing so, may increase plaque formation.

A study of 5,872 pregnant women in Denmark showed that women who are under moderate to high stress in the last trimester are 1.2 to 1.75 times more likely to give birth prematurely.

Origins of Stress

Stress can often originate from sources we hardly ever associate with it. Let me illustrate:
Imagine that you just bought your dream car. It is that Jaguar. You had to scrape everything you had to buy it. You wanted to take it for a spin. It is a sunny spring day. You turned the stereo on, the top down and cruise merrily on the interstate. Isn’t life wonderful ?

You suddenly hear screeching noises in front. On no! The drivers in front of you are all slamming on their brakes. You see that each car is coming within split seconds of rear ending the one in front.
Within seconds the stress of the situation enters your mind through your eyes and ears. Your mind or brain immediately takes over (Before you can even say Oh No! Not my new car!) The middle and lower part of your brain electrically triggers a massive fight or flight response.

Your legs slam on the brake. You grip the steering wheel and try to straighten it. Your body dumps sugars and fats into your bloodstream for quick energy and strength. Other chemicals released by the brain prepare your blood to clot more quickly, to reduce the possible blood loss in case of an anticipated accident. You feel your heart pounding in your chest and temples. Your brain is receiving more oxygen to sharpen your senses and coordination.

The loud screeches around you haven’t stopped yet. In your rearview mirror, you see a car approaching your car fast. You know the driver won’t be able to stop the car in time to avoid hitting your vehicle. You go through a sudden anxiety and helpless feeling. You cannot do anything about it. Your brain sends more chemicals to your bloodstream. These chemicals help you to keep alert for an extended period of time. Finally it all stopped. Thank God, you have escaped with minor injuries. But your brand new Jaguar is totaled!

What you had just undergone is how stress works and how we cope with it. This is an example of a stress that was triggered by events or stimuli from outside your body. Other examples of stress that results from outside events are job related stress (such as when your boss gives you unreasonable jobs, working with unreasonable customers), relationship induced stress (such as marital problems, death of a spouse, divorce), money problems (such as when all bills come due in January and you don’t have money to pay for it), etc.

In the example cited above, when you think of the accident, you get stressed. Some people get a stress attack when they drive near the spot of the accident. This type of stress is called mind stressor. The origin of the stress, in this case, is within you.

You go home finally. You are so upset you cannot sleep. Your muscles are very tense. Now you start worrying about your inability to sleep or about you body aches and pains. This creates more stress. See how this is triggering a domino effect. If you don’t do something about it soon enough you can die.

Stress can also originate from emotional and psychological causes. For example, thinking of such an accident or a pending IRS audit will make people anxious; many find it difficult to sleep. Then they worry about not getting enough sleep and how they will go to work without sleep. And so on. One stressful event leads to another and, if we don't control it, the domino effect kicks in.

Even joyous events, such as a wedding, a job promotion, buying a new home, or the birth of a child, can cause much stress. You also might get stressed out if you cannot achieve a particular goal or satisfy a certain wish. For instance, you may want very much to have a child but cannot conceive. Fertility tests can't elucidate any reasons for this, and you feel very frustrated-why is this happening to you? Certainly this is a very emotional issue-and one that you do not have much control over-that can cause much stress in your life.

Stress also exists in tandem with the pressure you feel when you perceive that negative consequences are attached to your actions. For instance, you might feel pressured to maintain a certain level of performance at work or else risk getting fired. If you find yourself thinking in this way, you should stop and consider whether the threat is real or if you are just being too hard on yourself. You might be able to control and even eliminate this kind of stress from your life.

Stress also stems from conflict, which is not always negative, For instance, a conflict could occur in having to choose between two positive goals of equal value, such as choosing between two excellent job offers. Or your conflict could involve a choice that has both a positive and negative outcome, such as you're getting married but it necessitates your moving across the country away from family and friends.

Numerous life events-such as: the death of a family member or friend, the loss of a job, buying a house or moving, and having a child, cause stress. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, developed a list of major life stressors. These are listed in descending order below, beginning with the most stressful event: 

  • Death of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Marital separation
  • Death of a close relative
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Marriage
  • Fired from a job
  • Marital reconciliation
  • Retirement
  • Illness of a relative
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual problems
  • Birth or adoption
  • Business readjustment
  • Change in financial status
  • Death of a close friend
  • Change to different work Increased arguments with spouse
  • Mortgage or loan for major purchase
  • Foreclosure on mortgage or loan
  • Change in job responsibilities
  • Child leaving home
  • Problems with in-laws
  • Outstanding personal achievement
  • Spouse begins or stops work
  • Begin or end school
  • Change in living conditions
  • Changing personal habits
  • Problems with your boss
  • Change in work hours/conditions
  • Change in residence or school Recreation
  • Church or social activities
  • Mortgage or loan for smaller purchase
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Change in family gatherings
  • Change in eating habits
  • Vacation Festival Minor law violations
Our Body's Reaction to Stress (General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS))

When a person experiences stress, the brain responds by initiating 1400 different responses including the dumping of a variety of chemicals to our blood stream. This gives a momentary boost to do whatever needs to be done to survive. If left unchecked, however, the person can have a heart attack or stroke. Many people start drinking alcohol. They get depressed, find it difficult to sleep, experience chest pain. The body runs out of the immunity to fight diseases. So, very often, these persons die of disease such as cancer, pneumonia, etc. The stress will never be identified as the cause of the death. I call the stress the proxy killer. Some other disease always takes the blame for it.

Doctors call the body’s reaction to stress as General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). There are three stages to GAS.

In the first stage of GAS called alarm reaction, the body releases adrenaline and a variety of other psychological mechanisms to combat the stress and to stay in control. This is called fight or flight response. The muscles tense, the heart beats faster, the breathing and perspiration increases, the eyes dilate, the stomach may clench. Believe it or not, this is done by nature to protect you in case something bad happens. Once the cause of the stress is removed, the body will go back to normal.

If the cause for the stress is not removed, GAS goes to its second stage called resistance or adaptation. This is the body’s response to long term protection. It secretes further hormones that increase blood sugar levels to sustain energy and raise blood pressure. The adrenal cortex (outer covering) produces hormones called corticosteroids for this resistance reaction. Overuse by the body's defense mechanism in this phase eventually leads to disease. If this adaptation phase continues for a prolonged period of time without periods of relaxation and rest to counterbalance the stress response, sufferers become prone to fatigue, concentration lapses, irritability and lethargy as the effort to sustain arousal slides into negative stress.

The third stage of GAS is called exhaustion. In this stage, the body has run out of its reserve of body energy and immunity. Mental, physical and emotional resources suffer heavily. The body experiences "adrenal exhaustion". The blood sugar levels decrease as the adrenals become depleted, leading to decreased stress tolerance, progressive mental and physical exhaustion, illness and collapse.

The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) chain of command has served humans well as a means of survival for thousands of years. However, for those suffering from chronic anxiety and depression this process malfunctions. Continual stress early in life disrupts the cycle. Instead of shutting off once the crisis is over, the process continues, with the hypothalamus continuing to signal the adrenals to produce cortisol. This increased cortisol production exhausts the stress mechanism, leading to fatigue and depression. Cortisol also interferes with serotonin activity, furthering the depressive effect.

Continually high cortisol levels lead to suppression of the immune system through increased production of interleukin-6, an immune-system messenger. This coincides with research findings indicating that stress and depression have a negative effect on the immune system. Reduced immunity makes the body more susceptible to everything from cold and flu to cancer. For example, the incidence of serious illness, including cancer, is significantly higher among people who have suffered the death of a spouse in the previous year. Fortunately, this immune-suppression process can be corrected with psychotherapy, medication, or any number of other positive influences that restore hope and a feeling of self-esteem. The ability of human beings to recover from adversity is remarkable.

Thus, very often, those under severe, prolonged stress may contract diseases related to immune deficiency and may even die of these diseases. The death does not come from stress itself. What happens is that the body loses all its resistance in its effort to ward off the stress. Thus the persons die of immune deficiency causes such as infection, cancer etc. So, it is very important that we recognize the cause for stresses and remove the causes to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Another result of stress is the clogging of the arteries by the fat and cholesterol released by the body during the attempt to fight stress. This may result in a heart attack or you may suffer a stroke by losing blood supply to the brain. Many people start drinking to combat the stress. Stress can also manifest itself into a number of diseases – depression, headaches, insomnia, ulcers, asthma, and more.

Early warning Signs of Stress
  • Menstrual problems
  • Speech difficulties
  • More impatient
  • Headaches
  • Infertility
  • Ulcers
  • Nail biting
  • Grinding teeth
  • Low blood sugar
  • High blood sugar
  • Need more sleep
  • Tired but can't sleep
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Low blood pressure
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of coordination
  • Repeated influenza
  • Repeated colds
  • Muscle aches
  • Hair loss
  • Chest pain
  • Forgetfulness
  • Nervous talking
  • Lower back pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased appetite
  • High cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Gastric disturbance
  • Withdraw from social life

For more information on Stress Management- R & D is going on, result will be coming soon.

Om Shanti !