Stress has become an inevitable part of daily life in the United States for the majority of Americans. The longer I am in practice, the more I realize that almost all of my patients are subjected to what they interpret as stress. Taking care of a newborn infant is just as stressful as an executive working for a major corporation that is constantly concerned with the bottom line. I will attempt to define the effects of stress on the body. I will also offer some advise on how to manage stress.
Physiological Effects of Stress
The human body reacts to stress with a "fight or flight" response. This response evolved over the years when our ancestors came face to face with a hostile situation such as an encounter with a tiger. The body has a surge of adrenaline which prepares the body for a physically challenging event. This physiologic response was intended to be infrequent. Unfortunately, many people today interpret their environment as hostile the majority of the time. This causes numerous physiologic changes to occur in the body. The blood pressure increases, the pulse rate increases and over a long period of time, the immune system begins to falter. This would explain why individuals who are under a lot of stress become ill more frequently than usual. An example would be college students studying for finals. They tend to have a high incidence of colds and other infections. This is because they stay up late at night and put their bodies through a lot of stress. Stress can also play a part in the development of heart disease. The high adrenaline state accelerates the development of heart disease. The blood tends to clot more rapidly. This would explain why individuals subjected to an acute stressful event can have a heart attack. They almost always have underlying heart disease.
Symptoms of Stress
First of all, try to identify the factors that create stress in your
life. Consider options to avoid the stressful situation altogether.
If your job is the cause of most of your stress, consider a job change.
This seems like a dramatic step, but it is an option that can really
help. If you are unable to avoid certain stressful situations, then
you will need to learn to cope with the situation. Avoid committing
yourself to every project that comes your way. It is important to know
your limitations. Learn how to say "no." Sometimes, taking
a vacation can be rejuvenating.
Townsend, M. C. (1993). Psychiatric / Mental Health Nursing. Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Co.
The information provided above is offered as a community service about health-care issues and is not a substitute for individual consultation. Advice on individual problems should be obtained from your personal physician. This information is based on research by the author and represents his interpretation of the literature.
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