Improve your ability to handle Stress

The term “stress” is the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change” - Hans Selye.

Stress is our body’s response to any kind of situation. There is always a ‘fight and flight’ response as which our body response. Generally, we consider stress is bad, but it’s not. Sometimes, stress is also beneficial for us; it helps us to perform under pressure and motivates us to do our best. Stress can be related to finance; work, relationships, family and other situation, anything that poses a real or perceived challenge or threat to somebody’s lives can cause stress. Our body reacts differently to a different type of stress.

Stress can also help you to face the challenges.  It keeps us alert during a presentation at work, keeps us motivated when we are attempting the game-winning, or to study for an exam. Over-stress is not good for our physical and psychological health, it can affect your mood, our work and even our quality of life. The body6 produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These trigger an increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. All these factors improve the ability to respond to a hazardous or challenging situation.

Factors that affect this reaction are known as stressors. More of the stressors, the more stress we tend to feel. Any kind of noises, aggressive behavior, horrible situation etc could be the example of stressors.

Stress is not always caused by external factors, it can also be internal or self-generated, and when we excessively worry about something that even does not require much attention causes stress. It is also depending on the perception of perception. A particular situation may be stressful for you, but the other person may even enjoy it. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate. And while you may enjoy helping care for your elderly parents, your siblings may find the demands of caretaking overwhelming stressful. 

According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, these are the top ten stressful life events for adults that can cause stress:

1.    Death of a spouse

2.    Divorce

3.    Marriage separation

4.    Imprisonment

5.    Death of a close family member

6.    Injury or illness

7.    Marriage

8.    Job loss

9.    Marriage reconciliation

10.    Retirement


Common external causes of stress include:

•    Work or school

•    Relationship difficulties

•    Children and family

•    Major life changes

•    Being too busy

•    Financial problems

Common internal causes of stress include:

•    Inability to accept uncertainty

•    Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility

•    Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism

•    All-or-nothing attitude

•    Pessimism

•    Negative self-talk

How does our body react to stress?

Stress distracts us from our physical and mental activity. It slows our normal bodily function, such as the digestive system and immune systems. Other than this our blood pressure and pulse rate rise, breathing becomes faster, and the muscles become tense less sleep.

The reaction of our body depends on how we react to a particular situation. A person who feels that they do not have enough resources to cope will be more likely to have a stronger reaction of the body.

Types of Stress

Acute stress

This type of stress is short-term and is the most common way that stress occurs. It’s our body’s reaction to any new challenge, event or anything that demands our fight or flight response. Acute stress is often caused by thinking about any certain of event or situation over and over that have recently occurred or upcoming demands in the near future. Like for example, near-miss automobile accident, an argument with a family member or at the workplace, you have seen any haunted scene or movie.

Acute stress does not cause the same amount of damage as chronic stress. It isn’t always negative, but it leads to a certain illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress disorder.

The most common symptoms of acute stress are:-

•    Emotional distress- includes anger or irritation, anxiety and depression.

•    Muscular problems including a tension headache, back pain, jaw pain and the muscular tensions that lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems.

•    Stomach, gut and bowel problems such as heartburn, acid stomach, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.

•    Transient over arousal leads to an elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dizziness, migraine headaches, cold hands or feet, shortness of breath and chest pain.


Episodic acute stress

People, who frequently experience acute stress, or whose lives present frequent triggers of stress, have episodic acute stress. This type of stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

When acute stress happens frequently, it’s called episodic acute stress. People who always seem to be having a crisis tend to have episodic acute stress. They are often short-tempered, irritable, and anxious. People who are “worry warts” or pessimistic or who tend to see the negative side of everything also tend to have episodic acute stress. They're always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can't organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention. They seem perpetually in the clutches of acute stress. It is common for people with acute stress reactions to be over aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious and tense. Often, they describe themselves as having "a lot of nervous energy."

The symptoms of episodic acute stress are the symptoms of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. Treating episodic acute stress requires intervention on a number of levels, generally requiring professional help, which may take many months.

Often, lifestyle and personality issues are so ingrained and habitual with these individuals that they see nothing wrong with the way they conduct their lives. They blame their woes on other people and external events. Frequently, they see their lifestyle, their patterns of interacting with others, and their ways of perceiving the world as part and parcel of who and what they are.

Chronic stress

Chronic stress is the most harmful stress; this kind of stress can last from months or years. Poverty, disputes in the family, unhappy marriage cases can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a person never sees a possible way or the solution of the stress. It comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It's the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions.


Some chronic stresses stem from traumatic, early childhood experiences that become internalized and remain forever painful and present. Some experiences profoundly affect personality. A view of the world, or a belief system, is created that causes unending stress for the individual (e.g., the world is a threatening place, people will find out you are a pretender, and you must be perfect at all times). When personality or deep-seated convictions and beliefs must be reformulated, recovery requires active self-examination, often with professional help.

The Symptoms of chronic stress lead to suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke and even cancer too. The symptoms of chronic stress are difficult to treat and may require extended medical as well as behavioral treatment and stress management.

The common symptoms of stress:- 

Cognitive symptoms

•    Memory problems

•    Inability to concentrate

•    Poor judgment

•    Seeing only the negative

•    Anxious or racing thoughts

•    Constant worrying

Emotional symptoms

•    Depression or general unhappiness

•    Anxiety and agitation

•    Moodiness, irritability, or anger

•    Feeling overwhelmed

•    Loneliness and isolation

•    Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical symptoms

•    Aches and pains

•    Diarrhea or constipation

•    Nausea, dizziness

•    Chest pain, rapid heart rate

•    Loss of sex drive

•    Frequent colds or flu

Behavioral symptoms

•    Eating more or less

•    Sleeping too much or too little

•    Withdrawing from others

•    Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities

•    Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax

•    Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)



A doctor will get to know about the stress by asking the patients about the symptoms. It may depend from factor to factor. Questionnaires, biochemical measures, and physiological techniques have been used, but these may not be objective or effective.

Ways to cope up with stress

To live a happy and stress-free life, you may want to begin with the following ways:

•    Keep a positive attitude.

•    Accept that there are events that you cannot control.

•    Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.

•    Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga.

•    Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.

•    Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.

•    Learn to manage your time more effectively.

•    Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.

•    Make time for hobbies and interests.

•    Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.

•    Don't rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.

•    Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you love.

•    Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn more healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.

Stress management techniques can help you in removing or in changing the source of stress, it may help in reducing the impact of stress and can also help in alter the way you view a stressful event. Self-help books, online resources, or by attending a stress management course or a counselor all these can help to manage the stress.