November 29, 2007

ASUH- Coping with stress

Coping with Stress

There's no doubt about it, in the run-up to Christmas, each and every one of us will feel 'stressed out' at some time. Its important to recognise the symptoms of stress and more importantly, how we can deal with it effectively. Stress can be defined as the way you feel when you're under too much pressure. Research suggests that a moderate amount of pressure can be positive, making us more alert, helping to keep us motivated, and making us perform better. However, too much pressure, or prolonged pressure, can lead to stress. Stress can cause illness and physical and emotional problems. Research has shown that around 12 million adults see their GP with mental health problems each year. Most of these have anxiety and depression, much of it stress-related. When you are stressed, your body produces more of the so-called 'fight or flight' chemicals, which prepare your body for an emergency.

Adreneline and noradrenaline raise your blood pressure, increase the rate at which your heart beats and increase the rate at which you perspire. They can also reduce blood flow to your skin and reduce your stomach activity. Cortisol releases fat and sugar into your system. All of these changes make it easier for you to fight or run away, which was extremely useful to the human race in past times. Unfortunately these changes are less helpful if you are stuck in a busy office or in a busy supermarket. You cannot fight or run away, and so cannot use the chemicals your own body has produced to protect you. Over time these chemicals and the changes they produce can damage your physical and mental health. Some of the symptoms we may experience include headaches, nausea, chest pains, constant tiredness, dizziness, fainting spells, lack of appetite, restlessness, sleeping problems, and a tendency to sweat. Longer term you may be putting yourself at risk from high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and/or impotence. When you are stressed you may experience many different feelings, including anxiety, fear, anger, frustration and depression. You may start to behave differently. For example, you may become withdrawn, indecisive or inflexible. You may not be able to sleep properly. You may be irritable or tearful all the time. There may be a change in your sexual habits, and even if you were previously mild-mannered you may suddenly become verbally or physically aggressive.


All sorts of situations can cause stress. The most common involve work, money matters and relationships with partners, children or other family members. Stress may be caused either by major upheavals and life events such as divorce, unemployment, moving house and bereavement, or by a series of minor irritations such as feeling undervalued at work or dealing with difficult children. Sometimes there are no obvious causes. Some people seem to suffer from stress more than other people. Psychologists call these people 'type A'. Type A people tend to be impatient, driving and sometimes aggressive. They also seem to suffer a higher than average incidence of heart attacks. People who abuse alcohol or drugs are also more likely to suffer from stress. The important thing is to seek professional help if you feel that you are no longer able to manage things on your own. Many people feel reluctant to seek help as they feel that it is an admission of failure. This is not true and it is important to get help as soon as possible so you can begin to get better. The first person to approach is your GP. He or she should be able to advise about treatment and may refer you to another local professional such as a counsellor. Treatment can involve talking your problems through with someone trained to deal with stress conditions and may also mean the use of medication for a short period. There are also a number of voluntary organisations which can help you to tackle the causes of stress and advise you about ways to get better. Try to keep things in proportion and don't be too hard on yourself. After all, we all have bad days. For more detailed advice contact your local GP's surgery.