Stress 3 Essay, Research Paper
March 2, 2000
What is stress? Basically, it is anything that changes us, either for good or bad. Traditionally, stress is considered to be a negative thing, something that can either physically or mentally unbalance us. In order to deal with stress, we have to be able to identify how it affects us, and then find ways to cope with it.
Many different things can cause stress, from your job, your home, and even your surroundings. It is often about increased responsibilities, having too many changes going on, and even with how you are feeling emotionally. The more stress that comes into your life, the bigger the effect it will be on you.
Perhaps the most misunderstood part about stress is its symptoms. Too often people have numerous symptoms, but they are unaware that these have anything to do with stress. The general signs that someone is experiencing stress include trouble concentrating or sleeping, irritability, being easily upset or crying, using alcohol or drugs, lack of energy or fatigue, and numerous physical complaints. Many of these symptoms cause the body to react in certain ways, such as increasing the pulse and blood pressure, being tense or nervous, and even raising cholesterol levels. But once you deal with the stress and find a way to either reduce or get rid of it, your body will return to normal.
There are many ways that people can manage their stress, and numerous books and authorities will give differing views of coping. The most common are meditation, exercise, nutritional balancing, confiding in others, getting your priorities straight, and of course, seeking professional help.
Meditation is probably one of the most effective ways to reduce stress, but too often, it is debunked as being a waste of time. However, if one is truly serious about reducing the stress in their life, it might be beneficial to explore this avenue. Depending on your beliefs in meditation, there are several ways to go about this. Normally, you would focus on something relaxing, hopefully in a quiet setting where your body is comfortable also. Some proponents of meditation say to imagine a tranquil scene, such as a meadow or a lake, and to actively imagine yourself there. In the process, you should try to slow your breathing, take deep breaths, think about loosening up your muscles, and notice the beauty around you. Others say that by focusing on a sound or an object can also help you relax.
Exercise is another great way of coping with stress, but not enough people realize this. Many people believe that exercise is only for those hardcore athletes with great bodies, or people trying to lose weight. But even moderate exercise can be beneficial to relieving stress. Something as little as walking for twenty minutes a day can make you feel better, because you are taking time out for yourself. Aerobic exercise releases chemicals in your brain that can bring about a feeling of well-being, and this will in turn lead to better sleep habits. Weight lifting is usually overlooked as another valuable exercise for stress relief, and this is not the bodybuilding type, either. A weight lifting program of at least thirty minutes, three days a week where you lift weights can also lead to a good feeling about yourself, because in the process, you are toning your body, and not only working your muscles, but also your heart.
Having good eating habits can also reduce stress. Following guidelines such as those put out by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can do this. The USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid is a suggestion of serving amounts for different types of foods that most people consume. By balancing our foods, we will be getting the correct amount of nutrients, which can in turn reduce our tendency to become stressed. There are several foods that can add to our stress, such as caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. Caffeine is consumed by many people to keep themselves alert, but too much caffeine can make people agitated and nervous. Cutting back or even switching to a decaffeinated product can do much to reduce the feeling of hyperactivity. Alcohol in small amounts can relax you, but in reality, it is a depressant, and high levels of consumption can have a detrimental effect on your body. Sugar can raise your energy levels for a brief time, but again, overindulgence can have a negative effect on your body, and actually drain your energy.
Talking to others about your day and about things that might be worrying you is another effective way to deal with stress. In our fast paced society, too often, we are told and we believe that we must keep all our thoughts and problems to ourselves, but by doing this we fail to use a great system of stress relief. Talking with our families, friends, and even co-workers is a great way to let off some steam, and not just to get a response from them. Sometimes all you need is someone to listen to you. It can be eye-opening to realize that there are others out there who might have gone through the same thing you are going through, and can actually relate to what you are talking about. Whether or not someone can help you with your situation is another thing entirely. Still, as long as you know that you can talk about your concerns can be an excellent way to relieve stress. Keeping things inside might only magnify the problems. We have to understand that we are social beings, and everyone needs support from someone else at some point in their lives.
There are many programs and books out now that deal with time management and prioritizing. Having a schedule, making priorities, and putting not just your work but also your life in order is another way to cope with stress. Many times, we have projects or decisions that are weighing down on us, and sometimes it can be hard to figure out just what has to be done first. This can be stressful by causing a feeling of worry that there just is not enough time in the day to get things done. But deciding what is most important and necessary to you can actually begin to relieve your stress. It is the “one less thing to think about.” By prioritizing and scheduling, you should also start to realize that you do not have to do everything, and certainly not all today. Along this same line, you should include things to do that will be just for you, such as time alone to do things that you like. You do not always have to please everyone.
A final way to reduce stress is to seek professional help. Unfortunately, some of society has placed a stigma on seeking professional help, to the point of saying that you are somehow incompetent if you are not strong enough to deal with your problems on your own. But there are times and there are problems that we just are not equipped to deal with by ourselves, or even with our loved ones. Professional help might be the only way to find some kind of resolution. There are many resources available, from job related organizations, to hospitals, Internet web sites, and of course, the church. Depending on the scope of your stress-producing problem, any one of these approaches can be helpful.
In summary, stress that is viewed as negative can be controlled effectively by many different coping methods, depending on your own beliefs and resources. No one should ever feel that she does not have a recourse for a problem that might be weighing heavy on her mind. Instead, everyone needs to realize that there is help available, whether it is achieved individually such as changing eating habits or taking time to prioritize your everyday tasks or even exercising, or in the company of others, such as by talking things out or seeking professional help.
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National Agricultural Library. “The Food Guide Pyramid.” http://www.nal.usda.gov:8001/py/pmap.htm