the individual's generalized response to the varied demands of life.
In a biological sense, a certain degree of stress is helpful and
enhances survival, while too much stress can be harmful and impair
survival. Humans experience stress mentally, emotionally and physically
from internal and external causes. Our bodies react to stress in
much the same general way regardless of what's causing the stress.
Intense or prolonged stress produces changes in the nervous system
which causes the endocrine glands to release hormones that affect
different tissues throughout the body.
Stress is usually
not limited to one part of the body or one part of our life. Therefore,
it is important to address our whole selves when we talk of stress
management. Our reactions to stressful events can impact all facets
of our lives. Emotional stress can induce physical problems just
as physical stress can lead to mental or emotional changes. Everyone
has heard of business executives getting ulcers from stress on the
job, but it may also be responsible for many other illnesses. Stress
can cause decreased overall energy and fatigue, impaired resistance
to illness, and inflammation in the body. Everyone has different
weaknesses in their body, whether physical or emotional. Stress
can aggravate or induce health problems by affecting those weaknesses.
* Try to identify major sources of stress in your life, both pleasant
and unpleasant. How do they affect you?
* Say something
positive or uplifting at least once daily, especially when you are
under stress. Say it out loud to yourself or to someone else.
* Don't dwell
on the past. Change the subject from the old, stressful thought
and find a new response to past ways of dealing with problems.
* Get adequate
sleep. Your body does a lot of repair work while sleeping.
* Deep breathing.
Taking 3 deep, slow breaths causes the body to relax. Regular repetition
has a cumulative helpful effect. Yoga utilizes deep breathing in
* Aerobic exercise.
Any exercise which increases the pulse rate can be called "aerobic".
This is one of the most powerful tools to combat stress, provided
one does not overdo exercising and become weakened. Check with your
doctor if you are beginning an exercise program to find one that
is appropriate for you. Some examples of exercises that can be done
aerobically are: walking uphill, swimming, exercise bicycle, "rebounder",
sports, step up/step down.
* Eat in a relaxed
frame of mind. Chew thoroughly.
* Drink adequate
liquids. You need 1 1/2 - 2 quarts of fluid daily. Some relaxing
drinks include herb teas like alfalfa, peppermint, or chamomile,
vegetable and fruit juices.
* Eat a diet high in fiber. Fiber is important in keeping the intestinal
tract moving and provides substances that prevent against cancer.
Foods rick in fiber include raw vegetables, whole grains and cereal
products, and psyllium seeds.
* Eat foods
high in B vitamins. B vitamins are called the stress vitamins because
they are used as coenzymes in reactions throughout the body, especially
the nervous system, and they are needed to metabolize food. Examples
include whole grains, meats, eggs, nuts, beans, fish, poultry and
green leafy vegetables.
* Limit sugar
intake to less than 5% of total calories consumed to keep the immune
system healthy. Even "natural" sugars like honey, raisins
and preserves can impede immune response. Watch for foods with added
sweeteners like corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, etc.
* Hot baths, showers, sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi promote relaxation,
as do moist hot packs to tight or sore muscles. Tepid baths are
useful during periods of insomnia.
* Cold water
shower after hot baths or showers stimulate and strengthen the nervous
system and invigorate the body. Cold moist packs to local body areas
reduce pain, swelling and heat, and promote good tissue tone.
* Pressure points stimulate the nervous system and promote muscle
relaxation. A "foot roller" at the end of the day can
be used to stimulate pressure points in the feet.
* Massage is
effective at reducing stress in the body and can stimulate the body's
* Visualization. Find a scene in your mind, somewhere you have been
that was a particularly peaceful and safe place to be, or somewhere
you would like to be. This is important in allowing the wakeful
mind a short vacation from daily stresses. Focus your attention
on breathing, on mental repetition of uplifting words, or on the
scenery of your peaceful place. Go there whenever you need a break
from a stressful situation.
* Find activities
or hobbies that are relaxing: movies, games, music, reading.
1. The Stress of Life, Hans Selye, M.D., Revised Edition, 1976,
McGraw-Hill Book Co.
2. Mind as Healer, Mind as Slayer, Kenneth R. Pelletier, 1977, Dell
3. Fit or Fat?, Covert Bailey, 1978, Houghton Mifflin Co.