Dealing with Stress ,Today's Therapist - March/April 2004 - Issue27

By Dr Deepa Apté

It is a well known fact that stress disorders are at an increase through out the world. The main reasons attributed to this are rapid urbanization, overcrowding and a very hectic lifestyle with too many goals and too little time on hand.

Waiting for a bus for a long time, facing a traffic jam, watching horror movies, unhappy relationships, examinations and many more factors lead to stress. These so called factors cause changes not only at the psychological level but also in the brain affecting the autonomic nervous system which later lead to more organic diseases like hypertension, cardiac conditions, allergies, diabetes etc.

Stress Model:
There have been many descriptions and explanations for development of stress in an individual. But among the very many descriptions, the model of Flight- Fight- Mechanism is quite widely accepted. In situations of danger, the body produces large amounts of adrenalin stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This in turn leads to muscular contractions, acceleration of the heart rate, increased blood pressure, increase in respiratory rate, sweating, slowing down of digestion etc. This results ultimately in the Flight-Fight Mechanism.

Steps of Stress Syndrome:

  • Simple activation of Flight-Fight-Mechanism.
  • Continuous muscular tension, faulty breathing habits.
  • Muscular pains and spasms, lower backaches, pains and aches especially in neck, shoulder and between the shoulder regions.
  • Complaints of mental fatigue, continuous strain, easily irritable, every thing seems too much.
  • Organic problems like dyspepsia, gastric ulcers, constipation, hypertension, headaches, skin diseases, gastro-intestinal diseases.
  • Nervous breakdown, Burnout Syndrome, physical breakdown.

Stress management in everyday life:

  • Minimize factors leading to stressful situations. Seek balance between work and leisure.
  • Have your place of work ergonomically designed. Working long hours affects eyes to a great extent. Frequent pauses between work and regular eye exercises can be helpful.
  • Our body requires movements in order to breakdown stress hormones. Make it a habit to exercise as regularly as possible. Yoga exercises are the best physical exercises. Through gentle stretching, not only is the tension, that has built up in the muscles removed but also the muscles develop uniformly. A short relaxation phase at the end of each Yoga session accelerates the breakdown of stress hormones and strengthens the immune system.
  • Yoga poses helpful in management of stress are Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana), Plough (Halasana), Half Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana) and Locust (Salabhasana). The Lion Pose (Simhasana) is also effective in releasing stress.
  • Breathing exercises like Ujjayi Pranayama is calming and helps relieve stress. Meditation on weekends helps one prepare mentally for the new week.
  • Food plays an important role in stress buildup. The followings foods and drinks increase the risk of stress formation in one's already susceptible body: alcohol, smoking, meat, sugar, coffee etc. On the other hand, ginger and lemon tea has a positive and relaxing effect. Soothing herbal teas help relieve stress. Salads, vegetables, fruits, milk products increase resistance towards stress formation. One must try and avoid "Stress-Eating" (frequent binging on food under stress). Take time to enjoy what you eat.
  • Laughter is the best medicine and a very good way to relax. Most importantly, think positive, take one day at a time and keep your cool in stressful situations.
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