Stress defined

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Stress: Management and Relief

Everyone experiences stress at some point in life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But too much stress, or enduring it for too long, can hurt your health. The Web has many sites to help you learn what stress is, how it affects the body, how to find stress relief, how to manage stress, and what researchers are learning about it.

Stress defined

There’s too much to do at work, and as usual, no time to do it. Whenever you think about the next big deadline, you begin to worry, your stomach starts aching, your heart rate speeds up; it’s the unmistakable feeling of stress. This stress response has its roots in human evolution. Its physical symptoms are part of the fight-or-flight response, a biological process designed to aid you in hazardous situations. But the human body isn’t built to withstand those reactions for long, and when it does, stress becomes harmful.

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  • Even positive events can lead to stress. A new job, a wedding, or a baby means adjusting to changes, which can be stressful, no matter how happy someone is about them.
  • Symptoms of stress vary widely, and no two people will respond exactly the same. One of the important things to keep in mind is whether the symptoms are interfering with your daily life and relationships. If they are, it’s time to seek counseling or other help to cope with your stress.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can seriously affect a person’s life after a harrowing event, is very different from acute or even chronic stress. To learn more about post-traumatic stress disorder, see our findingDulcinea Mental Health Web Guide.

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Stress effects on the body

How many times has this happened to you: a big event like a move or wedding is on the horizon, and you’re scrambling to get all the details sorted out. You feel stressed, and at the worst possible time (although not so unexpectedly), you get sick. What is it about stress that makes it so damaging to the body? Stressors trigger reactions that can impact several different bodily systems. In this section, there are sites that illustrate the short-term and long-term effects of stress on your body.

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  • The stress reaction involves the release of different types of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These same hormones have roles in other bodily systems, too, which is why stress can affect so many different parts of your body.

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Management of stress

Although many factors in life can cause stress, there are many practical, at-home ways of managing it. In addition to techniques such as yoga, meditation, and even just sitting down with a good book, you can take steps to reduce the level of stress you experience, and prevent the onset of further stress reactions. This may require you to turn down that request to bake cookies for your kid’s soccer team, or it may be as simple as keeping track of project and paper deadlines so you don’t get nasty surprises. This section has links to help with stress reduction and management.

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  • Although there are many popular techniques to reduce stress, experts also say that not every method works for everyone. If you find a technique that works for you but isn’t as popular, go ahead and use it. But keep in mind that using alcohol or drugs is not considered a valid stress management technique, and does more harm than good.
  • Stress management tips generally focus on what a person can do on his/her own. But chronic stress can develop into an anxiety disorder, which can require professional treatment and sometimes medication. If you suspect stress is starting to become more of an anxiety issue, try taking tests developed by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Find tests for parents to assess children, and for people to get an idea of whether they may have other anxiety disorders.
  • Many Web sites devoted to stress agree that it’s not possible to entirely eliminate stress, given the demands of modern life. But these sites have tips to reduce stress or minimize its impact.

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News and research on stress

Since the body’s reactions to danger were first identified in the early 20th century, scientists have learned a great deal about stress, and its short- and long-term effects on our physical and mental health. Despite the developments that have been made, scientists continue to pursue a deeper understanding of stress. New findings are frequently published in journals, magazines, and newspapers; use the resources in this section to find them. 

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  • Searching online for journal articles involving stress is a challenge as many results are actually about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychological problem even more severe than chronic stress.
  • Some sites, like Topix, search thousands of online news sites for articles on a particular subject. These sites can also help you keep track of news on stress.

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