WE live in a dog-eat-dog world. It’s a busy life: daily chores, multitasking, several appointments at one time, too many parties to attend, business meetings and family affairs. If all of those happen within a day, the result is stress.
“Adults, children and apparently even pets are susceptible,” Megan Othersen Gorman wrote in an article that appeared in Reader’s Digest. “No one is immune to the ill effects of stress—not even scientists schooled in how to prevent it.”
According to Gorman, stress results when our bodies react to a challenge—mental or physical—by increasing metabolism, elevating blood pressure, boosting heart and breathing rates, and pumping three to four times more blood to the muscles than normal. “This fight-or-flight response works fine when we do just that—fight or flee. But most often, we do neither. And that’s what gets us into trouble,” Gorman wrote.
Dr. Paul Rosch, president of the American Institute of Stress, said you should do something to beat stress. “Stress is not only something you can beat but a force you can turn to your advantage,” he explained. “You don’t have to run from it, and you don’t have to go to a special stress-management seminar to find out how to manage it.”
Health experts urged that stress should be monitored because its effects can cause damage and can even lead to fatality. “Stress has an influence on various diseases, and the state of imbalance caused by bad stress weakens the mind and the body to face these situations,” wrote Julian Melgosa and Michelson Borges, authors of The Power of Hope.
Thoughts, the two authors claimed, also feel the effects of excessive stress: difficulty thinking correctly, faulty memory, lack of concentration and mistaken concepts, to name a few.
Emotions are also affected: constant tension, fear of contracting some type of disease (hypertension, stroke and heart attack), impatience and irritability, and insecurity, among others.
Not to be discounted when it comes to stress is a person’s behavior: a decline in verbal flow, a risk of the use of dangerous substances, habitual absence from school and from work, difficulty sleeping and relationship problems.
Getting rid of stress is easier said than done. “The treatment for stress has to be complete and holistic,” Melgosa and Borges wrote. “It should encompasses all social aspects of one’s life [work, family, friends, etc.]. In periods of a stress crisis, choose the amount of work that can be reasonably carried out, and do not be concerned about anything else. Give attention to your relationships, forget about yourself, seek to be pleasant and offer your friendship to others. Help someone, be friendly, and make a contribution to humanity. The reaction of others will help you.”
According to the two authors, the best way to protect yourself against stress is to adopt a healthy and balanced lifestyle, in relation to the body, as well as the mind. “Maintaining good physical and mental health is within the reach of everyone,” they maintained.
Meanwhile, the following doctor-tested tips culled from various sources—mostly from the Doctors Book of Home Remedies—show you how to combat stress—and win:
• Work on your attitude.
“I think the single most important point you can make about stress is that in most cases, it’s not what’s out there that’s the problem, it’s how you react to it,” Rosch said. And how you react is determined by how you perceive a particular stress.
“Watch people on a roller-coaster ride,” Rosch explained. “Some sit in the back, eyes shut, jaws clenched. They can’t wait for the ordeal in the torture chamber to end and to get back on solid ground. Up front are the wide-eyed thrill seekers who relish every steep plunge and can’t wait to get on the very next ride. And in between are those who are seemingly quite nonchalant or even bored.
“They are all having exactly the same experience—the roller coaster ride—but they’re reacting to it very differently: bad stress, good stress and no stress,” Rosch said.
In short, changing the way you think—viewing a difficult assignment at work as a chance to improve your skills, for example—can change a life of stress and discomfort to a life of challenge and excitement.
• Think about something else. “Anything that will help you shift your perspective instantly is useful when you’re under the gun,” said Dr. Emmett Miller, medical director of the Cancer Support and Education Center. “You want to distract yourself—to break whatever chain of thought is producing the stress. And thinking about almost anything else will do that.”
• Think positive. “Thinking about a success or a past achievement is excellent when you’re feeling uncertain—before a presentation, for instance, or a meeting with your boss,” Miller said. “You’re instantly reminded that you’ve achieved before, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t achieve this time.”
•Look away. “If you look through a window at a far-distant view for a moment—away from the problem that’s producing the stress—the eyes relax, and if the eyes relax, the tendency is for you to do the same,” said Dr. Roland Nathan, associate professor in the departments of Family Practice and Psychiatry at Albany Medical College in New York. “Take a pot off the burner and it quits boiling.”
• Get up and leave. “Leaving the scene can do the same as looking away,” Dr. Nathan said.
• Take out troubles. The old adage “a trouble shared is a troubled solved” has a lot of truth in it. Gloomy, angry, unkind and selfish thoughts bottled up in your mind result in exhaustion, depression, aches and pains, and upset stomachs. On the other hand, a calmed mind restores health and relaxation.
• Get plenty of sleep. Sufficient sleep is vital for nervous stability. “The amount required varies, but you will know if you are getting enough by the way you wake up in the mornings,” Martin Bell wrote in his article which appeared in Health and Home. A simple tip is: go to bed regularly at the same time and not too late. Sleep is one of nature’s most effective restorers. It sweeps away mental and physical fatigue.
• Exercise with care. But sleep is denied in most people with stress because of insomnia. This too could be due to the buildup of adrenaline in the system, and a little regular exercise, which stresses the big muscles, could be the answer. Choose an exercise or sport that you enjoy and can continue in good or bad weather
• Get away from it all. If you recognize that you are a stress sufferer, one of the best things you can do is take a complete break from normal. Be sure to plan your annual holidays ahead of time so that you can return refreshed.