Chapter: Diseases of The Brain and Nervous System(A Health Education Guide): Stress and its Management

Stress and its Management

What is stress? Stress is the strain on any system of the body and its consequences. The reaction of our mind and body towards environmental and social challenges in our life is called stress.



What is stress?

Stress is the strain on any system of the body and its consequences. The reaction of our mind and body towards environmental and social challenges in our life is called stress. Stress is pot always negative or harmful; at times it can have positive effects too. Stress increases the capacity to deal with unexpected situations. In challenging situations like competitions or exams, stress makes a person alert and strengthens the performance.


What is the reaction “to fight or run away”?

In stressful situations, our body undergoes various bio chemical changes, which produce two kinds of reactions - to fight or to run away. Let’s see what exactly happens in the body during this phase. During stress, our sympathetic nervous system gets excited, resulting in the secretion of adrenaline and nor-adrenaline from the adrenal gland causing specific reactions in the body.


The immediate effects of stress on our brain and body :


1.        The respiration becomes rapid and shallow.


2.        The heart beats and the blood pressure increases.


3.        The blood supply to the limbs decreases, whereas the circulation of blood in the muscles increases.


4.        The muscles contract, hands and feet become cold, perspiration takes place, hair stands on ends and sometimes shivering may occur.


5.        The process of blood clotting becomes faster


6.        The pupils of the eyes widen.


7.        Our senses become alert and thus the sense of hearing, seeing and smelling* becomes sharper.


8.        The metabolism of the body becomes faster.


9.        The thinking process of the brain becomes quicker.


10. Decision power and capacity to analyze the situation enhances and the memory becomes sharper. Sometimes the fear of “what will happen” may also grip the mind.


The Negative effects of prolonged stress on the body :


1. BehaviouralProblems :

The temperament becomes angry and irritable, working capacity decreases; the ability to differentiate between good and bad and concentration become poor, the person falls a prey to bad habits, loses interest in eating or starts overeating. These are the behavioural changes that occur due to stress.

2. Physical Problems :

Headache, asthma, high blood pressure, rheumatism, skin diseases, heart disease, peptic ulcer, insomnia, seizures, depression etc. are the physical manifestations of stress. According to an estimate, 80% of the diseases manifested as physical disorders, are actually due to mental stress. These are known as psychosomatic diseases. Stress also reduces the immunity of the body, hence recurrent infections can occur.


Causes of Stress :

There are different stress-causing factors and situations for different people.

A. Personal and Family Causes :

i.               Difference of opinion among the family members


ii.               The difference in life styles


iii.               Misunderstanding or jealousy


iv.               Fights for property


v.               Death or illness in the family


vi.               Financial problems


vii.               Problems due to children


viii.               Failure in love and marriage and


ix.               Marital problems.



B. Occupational and Career Related Problems :


i.               Excessive workload


ii.               Extremely high ambitions


iii.               Lack of opportunities, unemployment, limited income


iv.               Exams, interview, transfers, training


v.               Politics and corruption at work place


vi.               Difficulty in getting along with co-workers and


vii.               Lack of job/business satisfaction.


C)  Social Reasons :

i.               Poverty


ii.               Religious differences


iii.               Crime

iv.               People who have undergone an accident or witnessed one Personality type A, in which the individual is highly ambitious, competitive, proud or arrogant, can also create a stressful envirorirnent

v.               Birth, marriage, pregnancy, divorce, retirement, death and such other situations in life can also cause stress and

vi.               Along with this, modern lifestyle and the wish to stay ahead in the rat race of this modern world, can easily lead to stress and stress related diseases.


The methods to overcome and stay away from stress :

First of all, it is important to find out the factors, which are causing stress and try to get an appropriate solution with a calm mind. The symptoms of stress should be considered as a warning and immediate steps should be taken to alleviate them.


Management :

In order to understand the stress causing factors and its symptoms, it is necessary to evaluate the situations that are causing the stress and find out the options to resolve them.

How to cope with the existing situations :

1. Handle stress sensibly and calmly :

For example, during exams make changes in the daily routine, prepare a timetable and study accordingly under proper guidance.

2. Get out of the situation :

For example, if the stress is due to a misunderstanding with somebody and there is no chance of improvement of relationship, it is better to end the relationship. Do not advance in a new relationship in a hurry and do not take over new responsibilities. Find some solitude for a while. New acquaintances means newer situations and increased stress. Therefore, wise people should avoid such situations or keep them to a limit.

3. Wait and Watch and Relax :

Wait for the right time, for example, wait for the exam results in a calm manner.


Coping with Mental and Physical Stress :

1. Regular Meditation :Meditation can be done in manyways. Patanj al Raj yoga meditation, mantra chanting, prekshadhyana, vipashyana, concentration on breathing, praptidhyana, chanting of “Om”, staying quiet for a period of time (sadhumauna), progressive relaxation techniques etc. are various methods of meditation. Meditation is the best medicine for stress and it is advisable to practice it daily. It is a must during, stressful situations. It is advisable to do meditation for 30 minutes daily.


2. Pranayam :Breathing exercises are very effective instressful condition and can be considered one of the best ways to protect against stress.


3. Exercise :Walking, running, aerobic exercises,gymnastics, yoga, sports, swimming etc. done in proper way regularly can reduce stress. Such exercises can be done from S minutes to 40 minutes. These should be done at least 4 to 5 times in a week. Shorter exercises can also be done for 2 to 5 minutes during work e.g. rotating the neck, exercises of the hand and the wrist, facial exercises, or climbing two to three steps after — every few hours.

4. Bio - feedback :Progressive relaxation, laughtertherapy, focusing attention, vipashyana, self-hypnosis, systematic desensitization, etc. are also very beneficial. This is a scientific fact.

5. Changes in the diet :Nutritious food, high proteins,fruits, adequate breakfast and fibrous foods help relieve tension. Vitamins as well as anti-oxidants taken in proper proportion can prove very advantageous. Fatty, spicy or very hot food, as well as fast foods can be harmful. The idiom “you are what you eat” is absolutely true in this context.


6. If necessary, help from doctor or a professional should be taken. Various courses are available to relieve stress like art of living, siddha samadhi yoga, forum etc., which are very beneficial. Actually, everyday, a self assessment is an important tool to achieve the target of stress control.


Self - treatment :

In addition to the above mentioned solutions there are other measures that can be used in daily life without the help of others. There is no need to take a leave of 10-15 days, go to a hill station and spend a lot of money.

1.        Go for a walk or enjoy cycling

2.        Do some gardening, or go for a stroll in the garden

3.        Play a game or two of tennis or table tennis

4.        Write a letter, make a phone call or go for dinner with a friend

5.        Spend some time on a hobby or a craft

6.        Listen to music or learn singing or playing a musical instrument

7.        Pray for at least 10 to 15 minutes twice a day. Prayer is a very big strength that has the power of making the mind completely healthy

8.        Do not think of problems or difficulties but focus on finding solutions

9.        Do some social service, spend time in an orphanage, meet friends and family members and take part in some group activity.

10.   Enjoy a film or a drama

11.   Read a good book or a magazine, meet spiritual people and read religious books. Play with children for 15 to 30 minutes. Such innocent and happy moments are rare. B e like a child and play with them

12.   Visit a museum or an art gallery

13.   Take a massage, a facial, a bubble bath or a steam bath

14.   Keep the phone aside, close the windows and lights, close your eyes and listen to music of your choice. At this time do not answer a phone call. Use an answering machine instead, and

15.   Change your attitude for better. The mantra is to make it positive. Good reading, spiritual listening, and good thinking changes the attitude and if this happens a person can remain normal in any situation. Positive thinking is the surest way to remain happy and make people happy around you.

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Diseases of The Brain and Nervous System(A Health Education Guide): Stress and its Management : Stress and its Management |

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