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Signs Of Stress Essay Research Paper

Signs Of Stress Essay, Research Paper

"Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health

effects from stress; 75 to 90 percent of all physician office

visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints; stress

is linked to the six leading causes of death–heart disease,

cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver, and

suicide." (Miller, 1993, p.12) "Stress plays havoc with our

health, our productivity, our pocketbooks, and our lives,

but it is necessary, even desirable." (Oxford, 1998, p.29)

In researching stress, one would learn about what stress is,

the early warning signs of stress, the different types of

stress, and how to build resistance to it.

Stress is a combination of physical, mental, and emotional

feelings that result from pressure, worry, and anxiety. These

pressures are called stressors. Some examples of common

stressors are; divorce, death in the family, job change,

pregnancy, a large mortgage, marriage, and retirement. "In

medicine, stress is, a physical, chemical, or emotional

development that causes strains that can lead to physical

illness." (Microsoft Encarta)

The early warning signs of stress include apathy, anxiety,

irritability, mental fatigue, and overcompensation or denial.

Some signs of apathy are feelings of sadness or recreation

that isn?t fun any more. Feelings of restlessness, agitation,

insecurity and a sense of worthlessness are examples of

anxiety. Signs of irritability are feeling hypersensitive,

defensive, and arrogant. Feeling argumentative, rebellious,

or angry are also signs of irritability. Examples of mental

fatigue are feeling preoccupied, having difficulty

concentrating, and trouble thinking flexibly. Working too

hard, denying that there are problems, ignoring symptoms,

and feeling suspicious are all signs of overcompensation or


Some behavioral signs of stress are avoiding things, doing

things to extremes, administrative problems, and legal

problems. Avoiding things includes keeping to one?s self,

avoiding work, having trouble accepting responsibility, and

neglecting responsibility. Examples of doing things to

extremes are alcoholism, gambling, spending sprees, and

sexual promiscuity. Some administrative problems are

being late to work, poor appearance, poor personal

hygiene, and being accident prone. Possible legal problems

are indebtedness, shoplifting, traffic tickets, and an inability

to control violent impulses.

Some physical signs of stress include excessive worrying

about illness, frequent illness, and physical exhaustion.

Reliance on medication including remedies like aspirin is a

physical sign of stress. Ailments such as insomnia, appetite

changes, and weight gain or loss are also physical signs of

stress. Indigestion, nausea, and nervous diarrhea, are also

physical signs, as well as, constipation, and sexual


Stress can be confusing. There are some myths surrounding

stress. Here are a few of them. One myth is that stress is

the same for everybody. This is not true. What is stressful

for one person, may or may not be stressful for another;

each person responds to stress in a different way. Some

people seem to think that stress is everywhere, so there is

nothing a person can do about it. This is not so. A person

can plan their life so that stress doesn?t overwhelm them.

Another myth is that stress is always bad for a person. This

isn?t true because managed stress makes people productive

and happy. Some people think that only the major

symptoms of stress require attention. The minor symptoms

are the early warnings that a better job of managing stress

is needed. Another myth about stress is that people think if

they don?t have any symptoms of stress, they don?t have

stress. People can be affected by stress without having

symptoms of stress.

There are four types of stress. There is acute stress,

episodic acute stress, chronic stress, and traumatic stress.

Each type of stress has its own characteristics, symptoms,

duration, and treatments.

Acute stress is the most common type of stress. "Acute

stress comes from demands and pressures of the recent

past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near

future." (Hanson, 1985 p.17) Acute stress is exciting and

thrilling in small amounts, but too much is exhausting.

Overdoing it on acute stress can lead to psychological

distress, tension headaches, upset stomach, and other

symptoms. Some examples of stressors that can cause

acute stress are; an auto accident that crumpled the car

fender, the loss of an important contact, a child?s

occasional problems at school, and so on. Acute stress

doesn?t have enough time to do the extensive damage that

is associated with long-term stress.

Some of the most common symptoms of stress are

emotional distress, muscular problems, stomach problems,

and transient over arousal. Emotional distress includes

anger, irritability, and anxiety. Muscular problems such as

tension headaches, upper and lower back pain, and jaw

pain (TMJ), are symptoms of stress. Muscular tensions that

lead to pulled muscles and tendon and ligament problems,

are symptoms of stress as well. Other symptoms of stress

are stomach, gut and bowel problems. Heartburn, acid

stomach, ulcers, flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and

irritable bowel syndrome are examples of these problems.

Transient over arousal is another symptom of stress. It

leads to elevation in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and

sweaty palms. Heart palpitations, dizziness, and migraine

headaches can also result from transient over arousal.

Symptoms like cold hands or feet, shortness of breath, and

chest pain are also common.


Episodic Acute stress is what people who suffer from acute

stress frequently have. These people?s lives are so

disorderly that they are constantly in a state of chaos and

crisis. They are always in a hurry, but they are always late.

If something can go wrong in their life, 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." (Miller, 1993 p.18) Often,

these people describe themselves as having "a lot of

nervous energy." Another form of episodic acute stress

comes from non-stop worry. The people who worry too

much are always thinking that something bad is going to

happen. These people tend to be over aroused and tense.

The symptoms of episodic acute stress are the symptoms

of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches,

migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. "The

treatment of episodic acute stress requires intervention on a

number of levels, generally requires professional help, and

may take many months." (Eliot, 1989 p.59) Sufferers are

usually very resistant to change of any kind.

Acute stress can come up in anyone?s life but it is highly

treatable and manageable. A more serious type of stress is

chronic stress. Chronic stress is not thrilling or exciting like

acute stress can be. "Chronic stress is the grinding stress

that wears people away day after day, year after year."

(Battison, 1997 p.19) It destroys minds, bodies, and lives.

Chronic stress comes when a person doesn?t see a way out

of a miserable situation. The worst part of chronic stress is

that people get used to it and forget that it?s there. Chronic

stress kills by means of suicide, violence, heart attack,

stroke, and, perhaps, even cancer. The symptoms of

chronic stress are hard to treat and could require a lot of

medical and behavioral treatment, therapy, and stress


Traumatic stress is a special kind of chronic stress, known

as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It is caused by

trauma that is not handled correctly. Some examples of

traumatic experiences are; accidents, rape, verbal, physical,

psychological, or sexual abuse, being in the presence of

extreme violence, a brush with death, natural disasters,

death of a loved one, and imprisonment. The symptoms of

PTSD are flashbacks, over arousal, emotional numbness or

loss of feeling, along with extreme emotional outbursts to

minor things. People with PTSD suffer from problems with

concentration, controlling impulses, and decision making.

The long term consequences of PTSD are depression,

anxiety, behavioral disorders, multiple personality disorder,

and suicide.

There are three basic strategies for dealing with stress at

the source. The first strategy is altering situations to make

them less stressful. Avoiding stressful situations is the next

strategy. Accepting stressful situations is the other basic

strategy in dealing with stress at the source. Each strategy

has it?s disadvantages and it?s advantages. It?s up to every

person to decide which one to use with which situation.

"The tougher a person?s resistance to stress is, the more

stress they can take." (Hanson, 1985 p.52) There is a lot

people can do to maximize their resistance to stress.

People have resources to help them handle stress. These

resources include familial and financial resources, social and

spiritual resources, as well as personal resources. They can

also develop good health habits and get rid of bad health

habits to help build up a resistance to stress.

Following these guidelines in a person?s life is a good way

to increase their resistance to stress. Eat at least one hot

balanced meal per day. Improving a person?s nutritional

habits makes them much less susceptible to stress. Limiting

a person to less than three caffinated drinks per day helps

to improve their health and increase their susceptibility to

stress. "Caffeine can stay in a person?s system generating

adrenaline release for hours, creating and artificial stress

response that can keep a person wired and tense for hours

and interfere with their sleep." (Perloe, 1998, p.62)

R. Coyle (lecture, February 1, 1999) Practice the calming

reflex regularly. The calming reflex is a quick exercise a

person can do to keep their stress level from reaching their

threshold for stress. When a person reaches their threshold,

they begin to experience symptoms. Use this whenever

something comes up that would cause you stress. The first

step in the stress reflex is to notice the stressor. That?s your

cue. Then you say silently to yourself, "Sparkling eyes,

smiling face; alert, amused mind, calm body." Next, take a

deep breath in through imaginary holes in the bottom of

your feet; hold 2-4 seconds, and while exhaling very slowly

let your jaw hang loose, let your lips part and allow your

shoulders to drop. Notice a feeling of warmth follow the air

as it leaves your body out the imaginary holes in the bottom

of your feet. Take another breath and resume your activity.

Give and receive affection regularly. Research has shown

that people who give and receive affection regularly, live

longer and are healthier. Have at least one relative within

50 miles. Family is one of the best ways of reducing stress.

Regularly attend social activities. Friends a person meets

can provide a support network for good and bad times.

Have a network of friends and acquaintances. A strong

social network helps fight off feelings of loneliness,

isolation, and despair. Have one or more friends to confide

in about personal matters. Close friends boost a person?s

mental health just by being there.

Exercise to the point of perspiration at least three times a

week. Exercise leads to fitness and people who are fit

handle stress better. Being the appropriate weight for a

person?s height is important for their self esteem. Be in

good health because a person?s health is the first line of

defense against stress. Get seven to eight hours of sleep

four nights per week. Lack of sleep leads to exhaustion that

harms the quality of a person?s life, health, and productivity.

It also decreases your ability to handle stress.

A person should have an income or allowance that they can

meet their basic expenses with. Money can be a big help

when coping with stress and life. Be able to organize your

time effectively. People who manage their time effectively,

have less stress. Take quiet time for yourself during the

day. It can recharge a person?s mind and body, increase

their energy level, and raise their level of efficiency.

Do something fun at least once a week. Doing something

just for the fun of it, improves a person?s resistance to

stress. Have an optimistic outlook on life. Optimists handle

stress better that pessimists because they get things done

quicker. Be able to speak openly about your feelings when

you are angry or worried. Letting the emotions of stress

stay bottled up inside a person is harmful. A person can get

strength from their religious beliefs. Spiritual beliefs help a

lot with resistance to stress.

As one can see, stress is a combination of feelings that have

different effects on peoples? health, and also there are many

different ways to build resistance to it so it will not conquer

your life. "Exciting or challenging events such as the birth of

a child, completion of a major project at work, or moving

to a new city generates as much stress as does tragedy or

disaster. Without it, life would be dull." (Eliot, 1989, p.39)


Battison, T.(1997). Beating stress. New York: Macmillan.

Bradley, M.(1997). The 21st Century Stress Manual.

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Eliot, R. S.(1989). Is it worth dying for?. New York:

Bantam Books.

Hanson, P. G.(1985). The Joy of Stress. New York:

Andrews, McMeel, & Parker. .

Miller, L. H.(1993). The stress solution. New York:

Pocket Books.

Moir, A.(1998). Like a lolling stone. Forbes 161 (9), 55.

Oxford, M.(1998, April). Stress and the body. Harvard

Health Letter : 41+.

Perloe, M. M.D.(no date). Stress management [Online].

Available: www.ivf.com/stress.html [1999, March 23].

Microsoft Encarta. [Computer software]. (1994). Funk &

Wagnalls Corporation.

Talan, J.(1998). Sick or stressed out. Psychology Today 4


Zuzanek, J.(1998). Time use, time pressure, personal

stress, mental health, and life satisfaction. Journal of

Occupational Science , 52+.

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