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Stressing the Pitfalls of Stress
It could wreak havoc with your life: By Cliff Samuel
Stress has been acknowledged in our day and age as a major health–related problem. Constant stress over a long period of time is known to affect the individual as a whole.

It has been an unpleasant fallout of a technology driven, fast–paced lifestyle. In recent times, medical research has not only confirmed its ominous, all pervading presence in any human being’s life, but has taken serious note of its potential repercussions. So many illnesses are said to be directly related to stress, and that is common knowledge now. One does not need a medical practitioner to enlighten us on that. However, modern man finds himself increasingly unable to cope with the impact of stress in his life.

Being over–stressed over a long period of time could even lead to a nervous breakdown. Becoming irritable, feeling fatigued all the time, suffering from what has sometimes been characterized as a nervous headache, migraine and even a sudden bout of diarrhea are some of the commonly identifiable symptomatic manifestations of the person being under too much stress. And over a long period of time, the individual affected by it could end up experiencing severe physiological problems with obvious psychosomatic origins that could affect his normal functioning.

It has been the general tendency to focus on the symptomatic manifestations of the problems associated with stress that show up in those parts of the body that are from the neck downwards. Very little is said or written about the effect of constant stress on the brain itself. Stress triggers off a chemical reaction in the brain and one of the stress hormones it dispatches off when it senses a threat cortisol. The part of the brain that is most affected by is the hippocampus, which governs the so–called declarative memory. That is the conscious fact based storehouse you draw on to recall that you’ve run out of milk or wear shoes of a particular size.

Animal studies show that an excess of cortisol can interrupt the electrical signaling between the hippocampi cells. It could damage the neurons, eventually leaving them more vulnerable to stroke or seizures. Canadian researchers have suggested that the stresses of ordinary life may also be harmful if one is the type of person who takes things too hard. People with low cortisol levels are observed to be the type who take life changes in their stride and whose attitudes are such that no single crisis is allowed to dominate their lives. High cortisol people, on the other hand are those who are likely to less active, more prone to brooding, more easily rattled and apt to complain of depression and fatigue. Fortunately, however, the brain is much more resilient than most of us can imagine.

There are so many ways one could learn to manage stress. First, one needs to learn to manage one’s time much better than one has been doing. Very often we have too much to do in very little time and that leads to stress, which in turn affects one’s performance at the work place. No wonder management institutes have made time management techniques such a vital part of the curriculum. Even at home we are often guilty of mismanaging time which leads to so much stress. Even ordinary things like waking a little earlier in the morning rather than lingering in bed even if wide awake which results in a mad scramble when one has to catch a bus or take a train to work causes much stress. One could avoid it by maybe sacrificing a little sleep in the morning. Lingering in bed for too long means rushing your way through your routine activity. That leads to stress.

At the workplace too, stockpiling of work by adopting a casual approach towards it, means having to do too much of it in too little time, especially if your task is deadlines–oriented. That also could lead to stress. Not developing good interpersonal skills with your boss or colleagues, superiors or subordinates leading to misunderstandings, altercations and hurt feelings could lead to stress. Even at home, developing good relationships with parents, spouse and children pays. It could contain stress and make life that much easier. Keeping communication channels open rather than sulking and clamming up helps too. Learning to talk about your problems to your near and dear ones has a beneficial effect on your psyche. Getting it off your breast is what is good for you.

De–stressing is absolutely essential to one’s physical and mental well–being. Cultivating a sense of humor and learning to laugh at oneself is the first step in that direction. Taking time out to pursue a hobby that has caught one’s fancy and taking time to relax with family and friends also goes a long way in ameliorating so many primary stress–related conditions. Besides, taking some time to have a workout could also help overcome depression or taking some time to meditate could help you calm the storm that rages in your mind for whatever reasons. Besides, adequate sleep, a balanced diet, social support and finding ways to reinstate a sense of control over your life are other measures you could adopt to kill stress before it kills you…