Stress is an everyday fact of life. You can’t avoid it. Stress is any change that you must adapt to, ranging from the negative extreme of actual physical danger to the exhilaration of falling in love or achieving some long-desired success. In between, day-to-day living confronts even the most well-managed life with a continuous stream of potentially stressful experiences. Not all stress is bad. In fact, stress is not only desirable but also essential to life. Whether the stress you experience is the result of major life changes or the cumulative effect of minor everyday hassles, it is how you respond to these experiences that determines the impact stress will have on your life.
Sources of Stress
You experience stress from four basic sources:
- Your environment bombards you with demands to adjust. You must endure weather, pollens, noise, traffic, and pollution.
- You must also cope with social stressors such as deadlines, financial problems, job interviews, presentations, disagreements, demands for your time and attention, and loss of loved ones.
- A third source of stress is physiological. The rapid growth of adolescence, menopause in women, illness, aging, injuries, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, and inadequate sleep all tax the body. Your physiological reaction to environmental and social threats and changes can also result in stressful symptoms such as muscle tension, headaches, stomach upset, and anxiety.
- The fourth source of stress is your thoughts. Your brain interprets complex changes in your environment and body and determines when to turn on the “emergency response.”
Researchers have been looking at the relationship between stress and disease for over fifty years. They have observed that people suffering from stress-related disorders tend to show hyperactivity in a particular “preferred system”, such as the skeletal-muscular, cardiovascular or gastrointestinal system. It can result in muscle tension, migraine headaches or ulcers, as well as, muscles tension and fatigue for some people. Researchers and clinicians are now asking how stress accelerates the aging process and what can be done to counteract this process.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor first and then ask for a referral to a qualified psychologist or counsellor.
Source: Davis, M., Robbins Eshelman, E. & McKay, M. (2000). The relaxation and stress reduction workbook. Boobook, Australia.