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You are here : home > Health > General Health > Making Stress Work for You

Making Stress Work for You

So you always thought stress was bad. Here are some reflections that might make you sit up and even welcome the pressure.

What is Stress?

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain. According to one definition in psychology, stress is "a particular pattern of disturbing psychological and physiological reactions that occur when an external event threatens important motives and taxes our ability to cope". In plain English, stress is the 'wear and tear' we experience, mentally and physically, as we adjust to our continually changing environment.

Negative Effects of Stress

Stress is inevitable. If you simply ignore your stress, it can have harmful mental and physical consequences. Medically, stress is a vasoconstrictor. Vasoconstriction is a narrowing of blood vessels. This can be hazardous to your health if it is chronic. Most heart diseases are related to stress and the related constriction of the blood vessels. In fact, some authorities believe that up to 90 percent of all illnesses are stress-related.

The Positive Side

The following factors are commonly believed to cause stress: pressures of work life, living with a partner, children, providing for a family, finance, investments, relationships, and death in the family. Even trivial events such as burning your supper, hosting a party, receiving a promotion, moving house, or going on vacation could give way to stress. Your children experience stress when faced with homework, examinations, changing schools, unsatisfactory physical development, quarrelling parents, loneliness, or competition from peers.

However, contrary to popular belief, stress is not the pressure from the outside—the divorce, the death, the burned supper, the vacation, the isolation. Those are pressures. Your negative response to these pressures constitutes stress.

Not all pressures are bad�some pressures are good. In fact, everyone needs pressure in their lives. Without it, life would be dull and unexciting. Pressure adds flavour, challenge, and opportunity to life. It can pump you up, give you energy, and supply that zest for life. The challenges of pressures that cause stress are meant to help to develop new skills and behaviour patterns.

Productive Balance

If we give in to stress only occasionally, the harm may not be immediately apparent. The problems occur when stress becomes excessive. It can then become destructive and turn into distress. Too much stress, or chronic stress, on your mind or body can make you feel miserable, worried, sad, and ill.

The solution is to learn how to handle pressure. Stress is unproductive, while well-handled pressure is highly productive.

The Chemical Equation

Chemically, pressures trigger the release of noradrenalin. Noradrenalin makes us feel energised. It thus helps us cope with the task associated with the pressure. Once the task has been completed or the pressurising problem has been resolved, serotonin is released. Serotonin induces feelings of calmness, peace, and relaxation, and thus restores balance to our system. Pressure turns into stress when it is left unresolved. Stress-related problems arise when the stress is chronic and the release of noradrenalin is not regularly neutralised by serotonin.

The Way Out

The best way to prevent stress is to start addressing the pressure-causing factors immediately. If your child's pressure is caused by exams, tell her to start by writing out the study plan immediately. If she cannot make the time right away, tell her to add the planning activity to her task list and set a definite time for it. If your pressure is caused by the party you need to organise, start by making the first phone call immediately. Again, if you cannot do it immediately, add the task to your task list, taking care to set a definite time for the activity. Find out what causes the greatest stress for you. If it is your work, identify the exact causes. If it is your relationship with your boss, list the steps you can take to sort out the relationship, and then set the time to initiate the steps. If the only solution is to step out of the relationship, plan the steps for stepping out.


If you are already a victim of some stress-related disease, it is still not too late to reverse it. This is where de-stressing techniques come into play. Many people counter chronic stress by using techniques like relaxing massages, frequent breaks, vacations, charitable activities, meditation, and prayer. Such techniques maintain the balance between noradrenalin and serotonin. Consequently, we receive just the required amount of pressure to perform well at a task without it turning stressful.

Pressure Tolerance

Individuals vary in their levels of pressure tolerance. People with high levels of pressure tolerance reach higher levels of performance in a greater number of activities. If your child can successfully handle the pressure level of public exams, she will be ready to learn how to handle the pressures of college life and so on. We also find that we can raise our level of pressure tolerance. We can do this by learning how to manage various tasks and by learning to de-stress using the various de-stressingtechniques available.

If we raise our level of pressure tolerance, we can open ourselves to greater pressures in life. We can take on greater challenges in academics, work life or in business. Greater challenges faced successfully translate into greater achievements. We can thus make stress-causing pressures work for us in living life to the fullest. Tough times do not last, tough people do. When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

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Discussion Forum - Recent Posts
What pressures do you face in your life? How do you cope with them? Have you experienced any stress-related illnesses in your family? Do you think it is wise to invite more pressures? Do your stress-relieving techniques allow you to welcome greater pressures in your life?
Everyone reacts differently to stress. What is normal for one may be stressful for another. We first need to know our own limits....
Eventually even if stress can give you an edge you fill find that stress wears you out. The amount of time it will take for you to de-stress your self and the cost may offset the extra stress you took...
Yes you are right. People who have stressful work such as stock dealing experience so much stress that they have serious health problems such as early heart attacks and blood pressure.It' s better to ...
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