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Stress Management

What is stress? Stress is a response to change or an event that challenges one’s inner balance and harmony. Stress is a normal part of life and can be a motivator. Everyone has some stress in their life, like having to be at work at a certain time, keeping appointments, taking care of your family and financial responsibilities. These are normal and keep us going.

We maintain our balance and harmony by having a sense of control, consistency, commitment and ability to cope. Stress becomes a risk factor for heart disease as well as other diseases when our usual life has a new challenge (good or bad) or our coping skills are challenged for some reason. Stress affects everyone differently. What may stress you out may be motivating for others.

Three Components of Stress

  1. Cognitive- How we interpret events. What is their significance to us? What consequences does this have? Is it relevant to what is happening in our life at that time?
  2. Emotional- We feel stress when we feel threatened, vulnerable, overwhelmed and unable to cope.
  3. Physiological- Fight or flight syndrome. The hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands. Heart rate and BP increase, pupils dilate and you may break out in a sweat. Cortisol and other hormones are triggered by stress.

Acute and Chronic Stress

Acute stress is a reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the fight or flight syndrome. Some examples of acute stress are: noise, crowding, hunger, danger, infection, remembering a threat or event.

Under most circumstances, once the threat has passed, the response becomes inactivated and the level of stress hormones return to normal called the relaxation response.

Chronic stress is an on-going stressful situation. Some examples of chronic stress are: loneliness, financial worries, job stress, relationship problems or health issues.

Stress and Illness

Stress can contribute to illness or even produce illness. Several studies have shown that prolonged stress, hostility and low social support are risk factors for coronary artery disease. Stress can precipitate migraines, increase symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, contribute to skin conditions, cause flare ups in rheumatoid diseases such as rheumatoid disease, fibromyalgia and lupus. Stress can cause blood sugars to elevate. It can compromise immunity, cause weight gain and lead to depression.

Download a PDF file for ways to manage stress.