Stress is a state of physiological or psychological strain caused by physical, mental or emotional stimuli that tend to disturb the functioning of an organism. When stress reactions are elicited, and if they are inappropriate or inadequate, they may lead to disease states. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary.
Stress is a part of living. It is determined by your physical and emotional response to a particular situation. Historically, it has been critical to survival. It can be a positive experience when its reaction is geared toward growth and positive change. However, when it affects you adversely, it may compromise your well-being. In today’s world, the psychological threats to that well-being can be prolonged and cumulative in effect. Medical research has shown that long-term stress is associated with the disruption of certain normal body processes.
The “Heart and Soul” study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine showed that “psychological factors, such as depression and anxiety are independently associated with an increased risk of both diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Higher levels of depression, anger expression, hostility and pessimism were significantly associated with increased prevalence of the metabolic syndrome.”
Ohio State University College of Medicine performed clinical trials on a population of women following surgery for breast cancer. The results showed that patients receiving intervention regarding their emotional distress, social adjustment and health behaviors, had an actual improvement in their immune system, as compared to the group that did not address those factors. The patients “were found to have a reduced risk of breast cancer recurrence and death from breast cancer.”
How to Cope
Your reaction to stress is unique to your personal experiences and genetic makeup. Here are some tips for reducing and coping with stress:
– First, identify what causes stress for you.
– Assess which stressors you have some control over, and which ones are simply out of your control. Instead of worrying about a situation, try focusing on what you can do to amend it. Identify the parts of the situation you can change, and work on what you can. As for the parts that you have no control over, it’s important to accept that they will have to work themselves out on their own.
– Reassess your daily responsibilities and take a look at your calendar to see how you might be able to rearrange it in order to lower unnecessary stressors.
Tools for helping you may be found by research, some helpful sites are: www.mayoclinic.com/health/stressmanagement/MY00435 and www.mindtools.com.
When to Seek Help
If you find stress disrupting your day for more than two weeks at a time, seek professional assistance. Visit your primary care physician to discuss the need for help openly and confidentially.