Thank you for your question! While stress can make you feel as though
you're out of control, there are actually many things you can do to
keep it in check.
Stress, simply put, is arousal in response to a perceived threat. For
our cave-dwelling ancestors, stress served an important purpose ? the
classic example is that of the sabre-toothed tiger. If a man was
confronted by a tiger, his body would respond with a "fight or flight"
reaction ? fear and anxiety would raise their respective heads and
adrenaline would surge, providing the increased reaction time, sensory
acuity, speed and agility needed to run or fend off the attack.
This is obviously a useful and appropriate reaction when confronted by
a man-eating tiger. The problem is that modern-day stress isn't
usually caused by carnivorous predators, and doesn't require the same
physical response. Unfortunately, however, our modern minds and bodies
don't distinguish between various types of threats to our well-being ?
thanks to our origins, we react to any perceived stress, say, looming
work deadlines, in much the same way as we would to a tiger: our heart
beat speeds up, our breathing quickens and our blood pressure
Our bodies can handle short-term stress; in fact, it's essential for
things like avoiding fender-benders. A chronically-stressed lifestyle,
however, can wreak havoc on body and mind. People who live in ongoing
poverty, in a dysfunctional family, or who work in a job they despise,
for example, may experience chronic stress; their fight-or-flight
reaction essentially never shuts off and allows them to recover. Such
long-term stress buildup can contribute to a host of illnesses
including heart disease, digestive disorders and cancer.
Stress has numerous physical, emotional and mental symptoms. The
following list comes from the bible of all things psychological, the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric
Association. I found it reproduced on the University of Minnesota
Health Services website
( http://www.d.umn.edu/hlthserv/counseling/stress_symptoms.html ).
- heart pounding
- sweaty palms
- skin breaks out
- shortness of breath
- holding breath
- cold hands
- sleeplessness/sleeping too much
- tight stomach
- tight muscles
- lack of sense of humor
- loss of concentration
- poor judgment
- fuzzy perception
- lack of interest (in things in which you once took an interest)
- math errors
- diminished fantasy life
- negative self-talk
The Helpguide website's section on stress
( http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm) mentions these
- exacerbated PMS
- hair loss
- weight fluctuations
- high blood pressure
- periodontal disease, jaw pain
- drinking too much
- development of phobias
- isolation from social activities
- conflict with co-workers or employers
- frequent job changes
- road rage
- domestic or workplace violence
Stress can be caused by any number of factors; examples include world
events, work or school deadlines, family conflict, or even something
as seemingly minor as the relentless noise of a jackhammer in your
environment. More obvious causes are traumatic events such as rape,
accidents, the death of a loved one, hospitalization or participation
in a war; the severe stress caused by such experiences can lead to
full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which can be
debilitating and usually requires professional intervention.
That said, what is stressful to somebody else may not affect you in
the least, since we all have different triggers and vulnerabilities.
Outlook is key; by honing in on the negative, a pessimist will likely
experience more stress than an optimist when faced with an identical
stressor. Similarly, a perfectionist or somebody with exceedingly high
expectations will experience more stress as a result of their
difficulty with accepting imperfection. Poor diet and lack of exercise
can also wear us down and make us less equipped to handle stress.
Even the smallest of choices in our daily routine make the difference
between a stressful and a peaceful experience. Helpguide offers this
"Your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry
that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip
relaxing because they allow more than enough time to get there, thus
can enjoy listening to music or books on tape."
Now that I've deluged you with the bad news :), here are some
tried-and-true suggestions for managing stress:
Cultivate a support network ? research shows that people who have
close friends and family to turn to and confide in are less likely to
experience anxiety and depression as a result of stress
Get organized ? getting organized gives you a sense of control and
increases your efficiency, giving you more control over your time
Exercise ? one of the most effective strategies for releasing tension
and increasing stress immunity
Reduce or eliminate caffeine ? the stimulant effect of caffeine can
Unburden yourself in a journal ? simply pouring your heart out on
paper can give you some relief and open your mind to potential
These websites offer an abundance of strategies for managing stress:
Coping with Stress from the Canadian Mental Health Association
< http://www.cmha.ca/english/coping_with_stress >
Managing Stress: A few simple techniques
Stress Coping Skills on about.com
< http://stress.about.com/od/copingskills >
Stress Management and Stress Relief
< http://www.helpguide.org/mental/stress_management_relief_coping.htm >
Finally, if you feel depressed, anxious or hopeless, have trouble
sleeping, lose your appetite or find yourself drinking excessively,
stress may be adversely affecting your physical or mental well-being.
If this is the case, professional help may be warranted.
Here are two good resources for further information on stress:
A Guide to Stress from Reuters Health
< http://www.reutershealth.com/wellconnected/doc31.html >
Stressbusting Stress Relief Portal
< http://www.stressbusting.co.uk >
I used the following search combinations to find your answer:
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance ? all the best!
Clarification of Answer by
20 Dec 2004 16:46 PST
Happy to provide the clarification!
While exercise of any form helps to protect against stress, the
effects of aerobic exercise are superior. A study at the University of
Southern Australia explored the role of aerobic exercise in preventing
heart disease by alleviating stress. Here's an excerpt from a news
"Mental stress causes coronary artery disease and hypertension due to
the hyperactive autonomic response it produces. Although
hyper-reactivity can be reduced through drug therapies, aerobic
exercise (e.g., running, walking) is a more attractive strategy. It is
inexpensive and has few negative side effects."
An article on CNN.com explains the function of aerobic exercise in reducing stress:
"Regular aerobic exercise releases endorphins, your body's natural
painkillers. Endorphins also reduce stress, depression and anxiety."
< http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/library/EP/00002.html >
Caffeine exacerbates stress by stimulating the nervous system. Here's
an explanation from "The Facts on Caffeine," an About.com article:
"Caffeine has a number of physiological effects on the body. Among
these are a generalized excitability with a slight increase in blood
pressure and pulse, enhanced reaction time, increased urine
production, tightening or constricting of superficial blood vessels
(sometimes resulting in cold hands or fingers), increased amounts of
fatty acids in the blood, and increased production of stomach acid."
< http://stress.about.com/cs/substanceabuse/a/aa070202.htm >
Here's more on stress and caffeine from the Stress Education Center:
"Regarding diet and nutrition, executives who find themselves
suffering from the symptoms of stress should consider reducing, if not
eliminating, caffeine from their diets. Caffeine acts as a stimulant
and can increase symptoms of stress. Caffeine can negatively impact
your sleeping patterns and reduce your prductivity on future days.
With the increase of coffee and expresso [sic] shops in the past 15
years, we have noticed an increase in symptoms of stress."
< http://www.dstress.com/ExecutiveStressArt.htm >
I used the following search strings to clarify your answer:
aerobic exercise stress
best exercise managing stress
All the best!