The Rat Race
Mastering and managing your stress is more challenging than one would ever imagine. As the “rat race” of one’s life introduces more stress (loss of a loved one, divorce or leaving for the university and choosing a career) the challenges and complexity of stress become greater. Moreover, some of the healthiest people experience unexpected stressors and may seek out support or professional help to overcome these issues. Unfortunately, nobody is immune to stress and learning to face the obstacles helps one learn to face the music and be proactive.
Mismanaged stress affects the psychological functioning, immune system, cognitive functioning, heart failures, hormones levels, physiology, and nervous system, resting metabolic rate, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol. Moreover, stress may actually increase your risk to cardiac complications and immunodeficiency diseases.
The good news is to complete an intake and assessment that helps you reach optimal performance for managing your stress. Clearly, there are four levels of stress: environment pressures and satisfaction (career pressures, choosing a career path and leaving for the university), coping responses (situation mastery or adaptability), cognitions and emotions (self-esteem and positive power), signals of distress (physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms).
What exactly is stress? A widely used definition of stressful situations is one in which the demands of the situation threaten to exceed the resources of the individual. It is clear that all of us are exposed to stressful situations at the societal, community, and interpersonal level. The lives of many individuals are marked by daily, chronic stress as one tries to meet the competing demands of school, work, relationships, and leisure time- if there is even room left for this important component of emotional and physical health.
Stress also has a major influence upon mood, our sense of well-being, behavior, and health. The relationship between psychosocial stressors and disease is affected by the nature, number, and persistence of the stressors as well as by the individual’s biological vulnerability, psychosocial resources, and learned patterns of coping. Exposure to intense and chronic stressors puts one at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders. Stressful life events often precede anxiety disorders. In fact, in prospective studies, individuals with anxiety are most likely to develop major depression after stressful life events occur. Furthermore, there is evidence that stressful life events are causal for the onset of depression.
Protective factors that have been identified to reduce the impact of stress on an individual’s well-being include, but are not limited to, coping, social support, self-esteem, optimism, and finding meaning in one’s life. Individuals who are optimistic and have good coping responses may benefit from such experiences and do well dealing with chronic stressors.
Stress takes a great toll on your well-being. A 2007 survey from the American Psychological Association showed that nearly a third of U.S. adults report “extreme stress”.(Web MD- story by Miranda Hitti)
The results include: 32% report extreme stress, nearly one in five (17%) reach their highest stress level 15 or more days per month. Almost half (48%) say their stress level has risen over the last five years. Stress didn’t come as a surprise. Most participants indicated that stress is a natural part of life. But the survey shows that participants are suffering physically, emotionally, professionally, and personally as a result of stress.
Most participants — 82% — say they manage their stress well. But they also admit that stress causes problems with their physical and mental health, relationships, and work.
More than three out of four participants — 77% — said that within the previous month, they had had physical problems due to stress.
Those problems included fatigue, headache, upset stomach, muscle tension, change in appetite, teeth grinding, change in sex drive, and feeling dizzy.
Almost as many participants — 73% — reported stress-related psychological symptoms in the previous month, including irritability, anger, nervousness, lack of energy, and feeling on the verge of tears.
Stress kept nearly half of participants — 48% — awake at night during the previous month. They reported losing 21 hours of sleep during that month.
Almost half of participants — 43% — said they had overeaten or eaten unhealthy foods because of stress in the previous month. Candy and chocolate were their most popular comfort foods.
Two-thirds of smokers said they smoked more when they were stressed, and 17% of drinkers said they drank too much within the previous week because of stress.
Psychological interventions have proven useful for treating stress-related disorders and may influence the course of chronic diseases. Walker Wellness Clinic aims to treat individuals under significant stress using cognitive-behavioral stress management, which has shown to have a positive effect on one’s quality of life. Such interventions decrease perceived stress and negative mood, improve perceived social support, and facilitate positive and adaptive coping. While stress is an inevitable part of life, it does not have define life.