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 outsideâ€”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 badï¿½some 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.
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.
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.