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50 Ways To Prevent and Manage Stress [Secure eReader]
eBook by M. Sara Rosenthal

eBook Category: Health/Fitness
eBook Description: This quick and easy volume features 50 solutions you can use to alleviate the effects of stress and related disorders. 50 Ways to Prevent and Manage Stress includes information on the health toll of stress, work and home adjustments that reduce stress, body work, diet and herbal relief, exercise, counseling, and creative outlets.

eBook Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies/McGraw-Hill, Published: 2002
Fictionwise Release Date: September 2002


What Is Stress?

Generally, stress is a negative emotional experience associated with biological changes that trigger your body to make adaptations. For example, in response to stress, your adrenal glands pump out stress hormones that speed up your body. Your heart rate increases, and your blood sugar levels rise so that your body can divert glucose to your muscles in case you have to flee dangerous situations. Together, these changes are known as the fight or flight response. The stress hormones, technically called the catecholamines, are broken down into epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine.

The problem with stress hormones in the twenty-first century is that the fight or flight response is rarely necessary. Today most stress stems from interpersonal situations rather than from attacks by a predator. Occasionally, you may want to flee from a bank robber or mugger, but most of us just want to flee from our jobs or our kids! As a result, your stress hormones actually put a physical strain on your body and can lower your resistance to disease. Initially, stress hormones stimulate your immune system, but after the stressful event has passed, they can suppress the immune system, leaving you open to a wide variety of illnesses and physical symptoms.

Hans Selye, considered the father of stress management, defined stress as the wear and tear on the body. Once you are in a state of stress, the body adapts to the stress by depleting its resources until it becomes exhausted. The wear and tear on your body is mounting; you can suffer from stress-related conditions:

  • Allergies and asthma
  • Back pain
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Dental and periodontal problems
  • Depression
  • Emotional outbursts (rage, anger, crying, irritation -- seen in recent reports on "air rage" and "desk rage")
  • Fatigue
  • Gastrointestinal problems (digestive disorders, bowel problems, and so on)
  • Headaches
  • Herpes recurrences (especially in women)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Immune suppression (predisposing us to viruses, such as colds and flu, infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer)
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Muscular aches and pains
  • Premature aging
  • Sexual problems
  • Skin problems and rashes

As you can see from this lengthy list, stress greatly contributes to ill health and disease. Addictions and substance abuse may fuel many of these problems when you try to relieve your symptoms or self-medicate. Current statistics reveal that 43 percent of all adults suffer from health problems directly caused by stress, while 70 to 90 percent of all visits to primary-care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders. In the workplace alone, about a million people per day call in sick because of stress. That rate translates into about 550 million absences per year. Other studies show that roughly 50 percent of all North American workers suffer from burnout -- a state of mental exhaustion and fatigue caused by stress -- and that 40 percent of employee turnover is directly caused by stress.

The financial toll of occupational stress on North American industry adds up to about $300 billion annually. This figure includes costs of absenteeism, lower productivity, employee turnover, and direct medical, legal, and insurance fees. California employers alone spend about $1 billion for medical and legal fees due to stress. Ninety percent of job stress lawsuits are successful, and the resulting fines are four times those for other injury claims. Meanwhile, corporate spending on stress management programs grew from $9.4 billion in 1995 to $11.3 billion in 1999.

The consequences of stress can be worse than these financial ones. Terrible industry accidents such as oil spills or nuclear reactor accidents are considered to be caused -- 60 to 80 percent of the time -- by overstressed workers. Terms such as office rage and desk rage are emerging, too, as workplace violence escalates. A more subtle but compelling statistic is this: In 1997, the Japanese word karoshi, which means sudden death from overwork, began appearing in English dictionaries.

Copyright © 2002 by M. Sara Rosenthal

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