There are six basic areas for which we need to have a balance in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle. If any of the following are unbalanced, we can experience dis-ease in our lives. The six areas are work-relaxation-sleep; personal care and home safety; nutrition awareness; physical activity; feelings/decision making; and involvement with others.
This article focuses on wellness and the impact stress has upon it. We all go through good and bad times, but how we get through our ups and downs without being thrown off balance for too long, is important.
Let us begin by defining some of the terminology as it relates to stress to better understand what it is and what can be done about it.A stress or stress reaction is the way our bodies react when extra demands are made on our minds, our feelings or our bodies. A stressor is something difficult that happens in our lives or in our surroundings like a large barking dog rushing towards you, someone repeatedly telling you to hurry up, being teased, chosen to be in the class play, having to move away from friends and school or getting all excited about your birthday or a special trip coming up. Tension is when our bodies feel stiff and our muscles are pulled tight. A stress spiral occurs when one stressor can cause another producing a chain reaction or accumulation of stressors such as when you’re so happy and proud of something that you aren’t considerate and you make others jealous or if you feel so upset and embarrassed that you stop making friends. Good stress can be managed and controlled. If bad stress or distress goes on and on, we have a hard time managing or controlling it.
Researchers have found that our health is affected by the way our feelings, our minds and our bodies respond to the things that happen to us. When we have extra demands upon us, we feel tense because we have to think and work harder. Our minds send out alarms to all systems in our bodies so that we can do the extra work. Our reaction to stress is the fight or flight response, which is a biological response in which our bodies are ready to fight the danger or flee from it. The following describes what happens during the fight/flight response, why it happens and the effects that prolonged stress can have on your body.
|Increase heart rate||To pump blood faster||High Blood pressure|
|Faster breathing||Provides more oxygen||Chest pains from tired diaphragm muscles|
|Digestion stops||Divert blood to large muscles||Ulcers|
|Blood leaves head, hands, feet||Divert blood to large muscles||Cold hands and feet, migraine headaches|
|Increased coagulationof the blood||Minimize blood loss should injury occur||Increased chance of blood clots; stroke|
|Release of extra sugars into blood stream and insulin to break down those sugars||More energy||When blood sugar level is low, we feel tired|
|Stress messages sent to muscles||Muscles are prepared for action||Fatigue|
The importanceof being able to cope with stressors in our lives and our ability to cope contributes to maintaining a balance in our physical and mental health. Some suggestions for managing stress are:
- develop a support network of friends
- take time to listen to others, respect their feelings and opinions, listening is a primary stress reducer – it saves relationships and saves time.
- ask for help from others
- talk about concerns before they become crises
- be honest with yourself and others, let people know you appreciate them and let them know when you are dissatisfied or angry.
- deal with your anger openly and constructively; channel it to the right person at the right time in the right way – avoiding conflict increases stress.
- realize that you control your life by the choices you make, stress builds when we blame others or make excuses
The things we think, feel and do all combine to make up our lifestyle. No one else can control your thoughts, feelings, or actions. Recognize that ONLY YOU can control your own stress reactions.