It is a fact that all human beings will feel some stress in one or another moment of their lives. Actually, in any healthy and normal adaptation process to their environment, human beings will experience a dose of positive stress which will help and move them to work out the due task. On some occasions, such stress will circumscribe itself to a short period or a relevant situation, but on other occasions people will feel stress during a longer, more complex and deeper period of time, such as the death of or a chronic disease suffered by someone close to us, a complicated work relationship or a conflictive partner situation.
In certain situations our body reacts by being on guard. This is a natural mechanism whose aim is our “survival” enabling us to react physically, physiologically, and congnitively in dangerous or threatening situations in a more efficient manner. The problem arises when the situation causing stress is persistent or of a great intensity. On such occasions, stress can interfere in our capacity to work out a normal life. It can overwhelm, block, or alter us in our cognition or motor skills rendering us unable to handle even trivial situations.
Stress prolonged in time causes permanent fatigue, inability to concentrate, or excessive irritability
Even in trivial situations, where there is not a true cause for stress to arise, the living of past traumatic events may make a person to experience it, although at the present moment there is no real basis for such an association.
The conclusion is that stress is dangerous, and it also affects our physical health. The human body reacts to stress by activating some inner response mechanisms. These indeed are natural and beneficial reactions. Sometimes, a shocking or unexpected situation makes our heart skip a beat, or we get sweaty palms in a job interview. Science has elucidated these reactions. Our ancestors lived in an unfriendly world full of danger. These reactions, caused by some specific hormones, helped them to survive.
For both the temporary cause of our stress and its physical effects are relevant, the latter cease when the cause disappears. However, a mind under stress over a long period of time makes the physical reactions activated by stress to also prolong in time. For as long as the cause of stress persists, our body will remain active and on the alert. This persistence over time may result in health problems.
It is a matter of fact that stress ages. The aging of a person looking after a chronic or a handicapped patient is exponentially greater than that of a person of the same age and characteristics not undergoing such circumstances. The hormones that help us to survive and give a quick response when facing a threat do not allow us to regenerate our body back to a normal level while all at once alter our immunological system. When they are at work, we turn weaker, our capacity for motor response and our functionality decline, and the possibility of developing affections like coronary illnesses, diabetes, arthritis, and some kinds of cancer rises. They even impede the blocking of certain toxins that can harm us.
Violent and hostile reactions in persons under stress increase the risk of suffering coronary illnesses
In case of an intense and unexpected shock, one could experience severe heart dysfunctions. This is so even in persons that were healthy before the happening of such event. Even though we ignore whether prolonged chronic stress can cause by itself a heart illness, what we certainly know is that long-lasting sustained stress has some incidence over the existing risk factors thus deepening hypertension, as well as the cholesterol, cortisol, and noradrenalin levels with all the logical consequences that this entails. Violent and hostile reactions in persons under stress increase the risk of suffering coronary illnesses.
Desperation, one of the emotions that can arise in sustained stress situations, can lead us to a chronic depression, to neglecting our diet, quitting healthy habits, or abusing alcohol, tobacco, and sweets, thus running the risk of suffering obesity, a heart attack, and other related affections.
All these reasons evidence the importance of developing tools for stress management which will help us to prevent or reduce the risk of certain illnesses and to recover more quickly after suffering any of them, for example, a heart ailment. Learning how to manage those stressing situations, those situations that manifest at any time in our lives and have the capacity to knock us out or exceed our limits is an “investment” in our health and ‘why not?’ in our happiness.
The most common and recurrent stressing situations unexpectedly occurring along our lives are the long-lasting illnesses of a close relative, the recovering from an accident, some pressure at work, a time of mourning, and the like. Being alert and identifying the causes of our stress is an important step to take when it comes to correcting them and to reducing their effects.
We must define and analyse these stressing situations to be able to lay out a plan of action and a strategy, strengthening skills and useful tools that help us to eliminate or minimize the risks.
A routine including watching our mood and meditating what triggered our stress and the thoughts that we have had while experiencing it can help us to realise that our response has been out of proportion and that the situation is much less serious, worrying, and stressing than we had thought.
Taking care of ourselves and saving some time for ourselves during the week will help to “open a window to let some fresh air in” on the vision of our problems.
Manage rationally your time and go objectively and efficiently through your daily plan setting real priorities, learning to delegate tasks, sharing responsibilities, and leaving out all that is not indispensable.
Taking care of ourselves and saving some time for ourselves during the week will help to “open a window to let some fresh air in” on the vision of our problems. This allows us to arrest or reduce our physical responses when under stress. Switch off the cell-phone, turn off the television, the computer, and the tablet, practice loneliness, silence, exercise, go walking, meditate, or listen to music. Take physical and mental distance from those situations that annoy and worry you; in other words, that stresses you. When you feel that stress activates, breath in and out, count up to ten, hold your emotions under control, make use of those tools that lead you to calm, and release the pressure. Above all, allow yourself to be, forgive and accept yourself, and let the inevitable be. Life itself, as well as people and yourself are all just not perfect. Do not be a “slave” to perfection!