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How Stressed are You? Take the Stress Test

Stress leads to physical and or mental tension. If stress becomes unrelenting and chronic it is a major factor in causing disease. The stress reaction involves the whole body.

Relaxation and visualization, exercise, balanced diet, vitamin and mineral supplementation and herbal remedies are just some of the approaches that can be of benefit to manage your stress.

What is stress?

Stress has many definitions including anything that causes us to change, anything that throws us off our equilibrium or when we are under unusual or excessive pressure. Some stress is necessary - it is what stimulates us and without some stress we become bored and frustrated.

Stress can be seen as the 'spice of life' or the 'kiss of death' and what one person considers to be stressful another person will see as a challenge and interesting.

There are some events which all experience as stressful of course. These include divorce, death of a loved one, terrorism and sudden unforseen events such as car accidents, for example. However there are other events that are seemingly trivial that can be experienced as stressful such as being delayed in a queue or doing something that is 'fun' like going on a vacation.

There is evidence to suggest that 'little stressors' are often harder on health than some of the big stress events. It seems that the body was not designed to deal with prolonged chronic stress. We aren't meant to drag around bad memories and feelings of anxiety and frustration.

The fact that stress is a serious health problem can be seen in the following figures:

  • 89% of adults experience high stress levels
  • 60 - 70% of all disease and illness is stressed related
  • one in four people experience sleep loss as a result of stress
  • more than 25% of adults have high blood pressure due to or aggravated by stress
  • 75 - 90% of visits to medical practitioners are stress related

The physical response to stress is what has been called the 'fight or flight' syndrome. This is where the body sends messages to your body in the form of stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline). The message is that we need to take quick action and our body's response to these hormones is to:

  • send stored fats and sugars into our blood stream to provide the energy for action,
  • increase the rate of our breathing so that we have the oxygen needed,
  • increase our heart rate and blood pressure so that the extra oxygen can be carried to the muscles,
  • our digestive system action is slowed down to make extra blood available for the muscles,
  • activate the blood-clotting mechanisms in anticipation of injury.

In short, all our systems are ready to go. This is a healthy response if we are in physical danger, but it is not a healthy response to the majority of stressors that we face in our modern society. In the modern world we do not physically fight the nagging boss we grin and bear it. The stress is not soon over and it can be continual and chronic.

In addition to the physical responses to stress we have emotional responses. When we are unable to act - that is no, fight or flight, our reaction can be internalised. We tend to 'bottle up' our feelings and 'stew' over things.

There is also the possibility that we develop long term vigilance where we look into the future with fear - watching and waiting for something disastrous to happen. This is a response to lack of control and the attitude of 'there is nothing I can do about it.' This in turn can lead to feelings of self-doubt, a sense of failure, depression and feelings of entrapment.

Stress Warning Signs

Chronic stress, anxiety and feelings of pressure are common with modern Western lifestyles. When does this stress become a problem for our health? Some of the physical, emotional and behavioural warning signs of over stress are:

  • increased muscular tension in the neck, back and shoulders,
  • chest pains or a feeling of pressure in the chest - like a brick being placed on the chest,
  • shortness of breath,
  • numbness or tingling, especially in legs, feet, fingers or hands,
  • stomach and digestive problems,
  • irregular menstrual periods, increased menstrual cramping and more severe premenstrual tension,
  • skin eruptions and cold sores,
  • feeling there just isn't enough time to get everything done,
  • difficulty meeting deadlines,
  • difficulty making decisions,
  • low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness,
  • increased sensitivity to criticism,
  • feeling that everything and everyone is against you,
  • fatigue and boredom, unhappiness and sadness,
  • difficulty with concentration or being creative and productive,
  • difficulty controlling your temper and a tendency to criticise and be argumentative,
  • difficulty in remembering things,
  • overeating, abusing alcohol or drugs, being too tired or busy to exercise, smoking, and
  • oversleeping or not getting enough restful sleep.

A person under excessive stress can show many of these signs. Unfortunately the reactions to stress often create further stress. If you are showing the signs of overstress outlined above talk to your health professional and begin to make serious changes in your life. Check yourself out on the stress test below.

Test your stress

  • Is your energy less now than it used to be?
  • Do you feel guilty when relaxing?
  • Do you feel a persistent need for achievement?
  • Are you unclear about your goals in life?
  • Are you especially competitive?
  • Do you hate being corrected, lectured or scolded?
  • Do you work harder than most people?
  • Do you easily become angry?
  • Have you been in a physical fight since high school?
  • Are you irritable much of the time?
  • Do you often do two or three tasks simultaneously?
  • Do you get impatient if people or things hold you up?
  • Do you have difficulty getting to sleep?
  • A score of five or more puts you in a high stress category.

If you are in the high stress group then you need to take measures to bring your stress under control. Take action for the sake of your health. relaxation, visualization, cleansing your body, taking vitamin and mineral supplements - especially the B group vitamins and calmative herbs can all help keep your stress under control. You will find supplements to help with stress, anxiety, depression, sleep and general mental wellbeing.

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