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Stress and Your Health - How Stress Affects Your Health
Special Contribution
By Shalini Asrani
What is Stress?

Look around. One of ten people you see at work, at the store, and wherever you go in your daily life is over stressed at any given moment. Scientists agree that stress causes actual chemical changes in the brain, and these changes can influence the state of your health.

What is Stress?

Stress is any change in your normal routine or health. Stress occurs when bad things happen, as well happy things. Getting a raise or promotion is stress, just as getting fired from your job is stress.

Speculative changes cause just as much stress as veritable changes. Pensiveness or anguish about whether you will get that new job is stress the same as being offered a new position is stress.

What Causes Stress?

Women are particularly susceptible to stress caused by hormonal changes.

During puberty, your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause your hormone levels fluctuate consistently and cause stress.

Emotional and physical changes that happen in your life, illnesses, and environmental components such as extreme heat, cold, or altitude, and toxins cause stress. Pushing your body too hard at work or at play will soon deplete your body of the energy it needs to restore it and result in your becoming over stressed.

Stress Related Illness

Science is constantly learning about the impact that stress has on your overall health. Stress is or may be a contributing factor in everything from backaches and insomnia to cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome (many people believe that CFS and fibromyalgia are the same illness).

Stress is often a key factor when women experience either absence of menstruation or abnormal bleeding. Hormonal imbalances caused by stress may proliferate the symptoms of fibroid tumors and endometriosis, as well as make pregnancy difficult to achieve for couples with fertility problems.

Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. High blood pressure, heart attacks, heart palpitations, and stroke may be stress related cardiovascular conditions. Some women experience changes in their sexuality and encounter various sexual dysfunctions such as loss of desire and vaginal dryness as a result of stress.

Often people feel the effects of stress as fatigue, various aches and pains, headaches, or as emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. Stress affects others by causing gastrointestinal disorders such as ulcers, lower abdominal cramps, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Frequently people under the effects of over stress will have more colds and infections due to lowered immune system responses. Stress can initiate dermatological conditions such as itchy skin and rashes.

The Physiology and Symptoms of Stress:

Stress experts agree that the physiological changes within the body seem to be almost identical in reaction to different sources of stress. All types of stress produce a chemical response within the body, which in turn produces a shot-term physiological reaction. Among the most familiar reactions are an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, pupil size, perspiration, skin temperature blood glucose and blood clothing. If stress is continuous, certain annoying and life threatening condition can occur. Among tem are heart attacks, essential hypertension, increased cholesterol level, migraine headaches, ulcers allergies and colitis. The right amount of stress reaction however prepares us for meeting difficult challenges and spurs us to new heights of performance

Stress and Job Performance:

An optimum amount of stress can improve job performance whereas an overload to stress can impair performance. When stress has positive consequences for an individual, job performance will most likely to be improved.

Source of Job Stress:

Almost anything can be stress full for some employees, depending to some extent upon how they perceive a situation. McGrath uses these categories which can be stressful to individual:

i) Task based stress:

The job itself might be too difficult, too ambiguous or too demanding and so forth.

ii) Role based stress:

The role itself might lead to unfavorable interactions with other people. Many doctors suffer from distress because of their frequent contact with pain.

Stress inherent in the behavior setting. Conditions might be overcrowded or under staffed making the job uncomfortable.
Stress arising from characteristics of the physical environment itself e.g. extremes in temperature, excessive noise and so on.

Stress within the personal system, which people bring with them to the work setting. An anxious or suspicious person will tend to experience more distress than a released and trusting person.

Steps to Reducing Stress and Improving Your Health...

Keeping in view the potential consequences of stress, it is important that both people and organizations should be concerned about how to limit its more damaging effects. Numerous ideas and approaches have been developed to help manage stress.

One way that people manage stress is through exercise. People who exercise regularly feel less tension and stress are more self-confident and are more optimistic. Their better physical condition also makes them less susceptible to many common illnesses.

People, who don't exercise regularly, on the other hand, tend to feel more stress is more likely to be depressed. They are also more likely to have heart attacks and of their physical conditions they are more likely to contract illnesses.

Another method people use to manage stress is relaxation. Relaxation allows individual to adapt to and therefore better deal with their stress. Relaxation comes in many forms such as taking regular vacations. A recent study found that people's attitudes towards a variety of work place characteristics improved significantly after a vacation. People can also learn to relax while on their jobs.

People can also use time management to control stress. The idea behind time management is that many daily pressures can be reduced or eliminated if individuals do a better job of managing time. One approach to time management is to make a list every morning of the things to be done that day. The items are then on the list grouped into three categories. Critical activities that must be performed, important activities that should be performed and optional things that can be delegated or postponed.

People can manage stress through support groups. A support groups can be as simple as a group of family members or friends to enjoy leisure time with. Going out after work with a couple of coworkers to a basket ball game or a movie can help relieve stress that builds up during the day. Family and friends can help people cope with stress on or ongoing basis and during times of crises.

Another method to prevent stress is to strengthen your personal qualifications. Many stress that you might face in your career steam from the face that you can readily be replaced by another individual or that there are a limited number of jobs for which you qualify. A person may have to endure a frustrating, dissatisfying job for many years unless he or she can find another more satisfying job. A person with strong qualifications is much less to subject to threats of job security than is his or her less qualified counterpart.

Now-a-days the important method to prevent stress is coming up that is meditation. Through meditation you concentrate and go in physiological state of deep rest.

Finally, to prevent stress, it is very important to take constructive action. Until you take constructive action about reducing stress itself or removing the causes of stress, you will continue of suffer. Medication calms down a person enough that he or she can deal constructively with the sources of stress.

References: - 32k

Jeff, Harris Jr. 1976. Managing People at Work: Concepts cases in Interpersonal behaviour A. Wiley. Hamilton Publications.

Kritres, Robert, 1999. Management, AITBS, Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi.

Jucius, Michael, J. 1975. Personal Management D.B. Tarapore Wala Sons and Co. Bombay.

Shalini Asrani
Department of Extension Education
College of Home Sciences
CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar -125 004 (Haryana) India

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The above writer, Dr. Shalini Asrani, serves as assistant professor at the Department of Home Science Extension and Communication Management of CSK Himachal Pradesh Agriculture University in Palampur, India. She contributes her research papers and articles to world's newspapers as well as to academic journals. She can be reached at






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