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What is stress?

The exact dictionary meaning  is pressure, urgency or strain. But at large, stress is defined as an unpleasant or uncomfortable mental and physiological state that we experience in situations which we perceive as dangerous or threatening to our well-being.


Some define stress as events or situations that cause them to feel tension, pressure or negative emotions such as anger and anxiety.


Some view stress as response to situations, which includes physiological changes- such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, gastrointestinal tract problems and emotional, behavioral changes.


Psychologists regard stress as a process involving a person?s interpretation and response to a threatening event.


I would like to define it as change. Whenever one has to face change one feels stressed.


How does it affect us?

Stress can have both positive and negative effects. As we observe stress is a normal, adaptive reaction to threat or change.


Stress motivates us to deal with things that pose realistic threats. For example we pay our telephone bills in time to avoid being cut off. It motivates us to achieve and fuel creativity. Or it might make us be depressed or be in illness.


We may feel stress when we are very busy, have important deadlines to meet, or have too little time to finish all of our tasks. Often we experience stress at work, in social relationships, argument with a friend or at traffic lights. Some of us may have extreme fears of physical threats like cockroaches, lizards, flying in a plane. And some are stressed out because of major life changes.


Stressors can be classified into three major categories: catastrophic events, major life changes, and daily hassels.

Note: daily hassles may look minor compared to major changes, but over time they can cause significant stress. The amount of exposure to daily hassles is strongly related to our mood, the greater exposure to hassles, worse is the mood. And the attitudes that we hold onto determines our capability to diffuse the stress of daily hassles, if the stress becomes cumulative, over time, then we are more prone to illness than the other two causes of stress. Sometimes, chronic headaches are due to attitudinal problems.


When one is stressed, the sympathetic nervous system activates adrenal glands to release hormones, the heart begins to beat faster and there is increase in muscle tension. Blood pressure increases, breathing speeds up, blood flow is diverted to brain and muscles, the pupils dilate, perspiration increases and the person is either in fight or flight response.


Most commonly the first signs of stress can be seen in hand wringing, pacing, nail biting, butterflies in the stomach, cold hands and feet, dry mouth, neck and shoulder pain, out burst of tears etc. The nerves of head and face become taut and exhaustion results. This takes the form of headache. If these are short term effects the long term effects can be stomach and colon ulcer, migraine, blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, over weight and researchers say stress can act as a risk factor in cancer. Physicians increasingly acknowledge that decreased immune response can also be caused by stress.


The above-mentioned effects are physical and physiological in nature, greater harm can be caused at mental levels. People who experience a high level of stress for a long time, and who cope poorly with this stress, may become irritable, socially withdrawn, develop panic disorder, depression, anxiety disorder ? post-traumatic stress disorder and be emotionally unstable.


How to manage stress better?

Most of us are intelligent, we are aware of unrelieved stress and its effect on our lives but this alone is not sufficient for reducing its harmful effect. There are as many ways to relieve stress as there are things that make us stressed.


The most easy and readily available therapy might be drugs, minor tranquilizers, talk therapy, alcohol and other stimulants. Certain antidepressants, like Prozac and others have proved helpful in treating anxiety. Although no one knows exactly why these antidepressants work, one important clue is that their effects don?t show up until after few weeks of treatment.


It?s a mistake, however to think that pills alone can soothe your neurochemistry of stress. Drugs, recreational stimulants work on the periphery. They get rid of symptoms and not the cause. And one can get easily addictive to the drugs. On the other hand nicotine and alcohol hamper the production of healthy cells in the bone marrow and, immature cells, which function ineffectively, are released into the circulation. Moreover alcohol, insufficient sleep and high blood pressure aggravate headaches.


One simple technique of relieving stress is exercise. Everybody knows that a good workout or a brisk walk will energize the body. These alone are not sufficient enough, as they have no means of calming the estranged nerves. The only solution for calming the nervous system is YOGA.


Yoga is a complete exact Science, natural (Sahaja), perfectly practical, easy and effective. Yoga brings harmony between body-mind and transcends limited individualities into Universal or Unlimited Consciousness. It is not a myth but a Science which is elaborately practiced, studied and researched.


Yoga comprises of postures or asana?s, breathing techniques or Pranayama and Meditation or Dhyana.


 Postures have a rectifying action on the functioning of various glands and internal organs like kidneys, stomach, backbone, lungs etc. Millions of joggers/ aerobic exercise practitioners push their systems everyday without realizing that enhancement of circulation can be achieved without strain by just a single asana. For example, the back bending asanas stimulate the entire system without irritating it.


 Prana is the Vital Energy, Pranayama is regulation of this energy, which is very important in preventing exhaustion. It can also be described as the current inflow that feeds the battery, which is the nervous system. The breathing techniques increases the capacity of lungs, regulates rate of breathing and facial muscles are relaxed. This pacifies the organs of perception (smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste) and thus controlling, calming and elevating the mind. It also acts as introductory tool for Meditation. Meditation helps to analyze one?s personality and to rise from limitedness into unlimited ness.


Yoga is the only art that is totally symmetric in its practice.


With the practice of Yoga, stress is removed from the electrical system (i.e., nerves) of the body; one?s general health is increased leading to restful or peaceful sleep. You feel energetic, positive, full of life and calmness of mind at all times. Thus one can turn out maximum and efficient work within short periods of time. This will infuse new strength, confidence and self-reliance. It cures many of the psychosomatic diseases like blood pressure, heart problems, asthma, and diabetes.




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