Have You Been Feeling Stressed Lately?

Remember the story of “The Grinch,”? Well if you do, maybe you could smile with me and say “Yeah, the story where there’s a guy who stole Christmas,” Hmmm…that leads me to ask this next question, ”Who is your Grinch this holiday?” Yup, who is stealing your happy perceptions about this season?

Hmmm, let me guess…maybe you are the busiest party planner for your upcoming family reunion? Or maybe, you’re just having a hard time to celebrate the ‘everybody’s idea’ of a ‘must’ jovial season, due to some sad reasons like relational break ups, death of a loved one or a job-lay off, because of economic recession. How about you’re in a very demanding job (a policeman, a nurse, an ambulance driver, fireman etc.), where celebrating holidays like Christmas and New Year is almost like a myth. Or, how about planning a marriage proposal this December? or maybe, as simple as– having a hard time to decide what gift to give to a special someone.

Well, maybe at one point in time or the other you have said this to yourself, “This stuff keeps me STRESSED  already!”

Christmas and New Year are two close seasons to celebrate where everybody seems hustle and bustle making others happy—and in the long time turn their own body worn-out and their mind scattered; again without us realizing it.

Yes, ‘Tis the season to be jolly (that’s what every song says about this season), but ’tis  also the season where we need to realize who could steal our zeal and bliss in celebrating this holiday season.

STRESS: The Grinch You Would Want to Avoid, or can you really avoid it?

Stress pioneer   Dr.Hans Selye’s study about stress, states   that it is the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it. That means good things (e.g a job promotion) to which we must adapt (termed eustress) and bad things (e.g., the death of a loved one) to which we must adapt (termed distress); both are experienced the same physiologically.

So, whether you are planning a  memorable wedding proposal , or you are busy organizing a party , there’s really no difference between our body’s reactions to these events.

Stress is normal at one point in our life; it signals our body to hang on and seemingly telling us in an ironic way with this line, “Hey! Even God rested on the Seventh day, so for heaven’s sake relax and take a break!”But if stress does happen frequently, what I mean is before and after holidays, you are still stressed, I think you must consider its effects in our body.

What happens inside our body when we are stressed? 

NERVOUS

The “fight or flight” response begins here: When you’re stressed, the brain’s sympathetic nerves(regulates the heartbeat, blood supply in the arteries, and the activity of the internal organs) signal the adrenal glands to release a chemical variety pack, including epinephrine (aka adrenaline) and cortisol. Persistently high levels of these chemicals may impair memory and learning, and up your odds for depression.

ENDOCRINE

Stress hormones trigger the liver to produce more blood sugar, to give you that kick of energy in the moment of perceived danger. But if the “danger” you’re concerned with is a long-term dilemma and you’re already at risk for type 2 diabetes, bad news: Elevated glucose levels may turn you into a card-carrying diabetic.

RESPIRATORY

At high-stress moments, you may find yourself breathing faster, feeling short of breath, asthma attack, or even hyperventilating. Over the long term, this strain on the system can make you more susceptible to upper-respiratory infections.

CIRCULATORY

Changes in blood flow/circulation – Blood thins and is directed toward the brain and major muscles for survival. Blood is directed away from surface of skin in hands and feet, from digestive organ and reproductive organ. Blood coagulation activities are increased. Therefore, if somebody is running away or fighting for life with cut injuries, bleeding to death does not occur. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, upset stomach, migraine headaches, pre-ulcerous/ulcerous conditions, increased colitis, sometimes constipation, and 70% of sexual dysfunction in both men and women can be linked to this stress response.

MUSCULAR

Muscles that would be used to fight or flight often become very tight – This persists until released by relaxation, massage, stretching, or exercise. Symptoms that can be associated with this stress response might include: tension headaches, tight jaw, neck/shoulder pain/tension, back pain, insomnia (including trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or not feeling rested after sleeping), fatigue, loss of concentration (distracted by muscle pain or tension), learning disabilities, poor communication (listening and speaking).

These physiological   reaction to stress can result a dramatic effect to our other life’s aspect, such as (5):

Emotional symptoms

Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Guilt, Hurt, Morbid jealousy, Shame/embarrassment, Suicidal feelings

Behavioral symptoms

Alcohol/drug abuse, Avoidance/phobias, Sleep disturbances/insomnia, Increased nicotine/caffeine intake, Restlessness, Loss of appetite/overeating, Anorexia, bulimia, Aggression/irritability, Poor driving, Accident proneness, Impaired speech/voice tremor, Poor time management, Compulsive behavior, Checking rituals, Eat/walk/talk faster, Sulking behavior, Frequent crying, Poor eye contact

Interpersonal symptoms

Passive/aggressive in relationships, Timid/unassertive, Loner, No friends, Competitive, Put other’ needs before own, Sycophantic behavior, Withdrawn, Makes friends easily/with difficulty, Suspicious/secretive, Manipulative tendencies, Gossiping.

Believe it or not—stress is part of life. Good or bad, we’re responsible   either for causing or preventing it.

So, if you want to avoid that stress out of your holidays, you might consider these tips:

1. “Nosce te Ipsum” or “Know thyself,” a healthy and wonderful advise from Plato a thousand years ago! Why? Because if you know your own preferences; you can easily prioritize which is more important in your life, whether we’re talking about people, time, or activities. If you know how to prioritize, you can easily jot down ideas, because you have one focus at one specific time. So, if you are that busy party planner, you can start by asking yourself “What do I want to achieve?” then from there further planning can happen.

2. Get help from people, sometimes we’re just stressed because we don’t know how to delegate tasks to capable others. If we want to be successful in our task, we need to acknowledge that other people might be more skilled than us—in short, don’t be the ‘know-it-all’ person. Want to know how you can be really happy this season? Remember to extend your trust and patience to others, if you do that, you’ll be surprised how they would be really a help to you, and seeing others happy brought real joy even to the most popular icon in our history—say for instance Mother Theresa, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein and more successful person in the world (read their biography and   famous quotes for reference).

3.Find time to relax—the art of doing nothing. Treat yourself to spa; experience the body massage that your muscles need. Aromatherapy and soothing music can also help you relax. You might just do it at home after a tedious holiday celebrations, just to rejuvenate your tired mind and body. Also, be intentional in buying products that would take care of your wellness, just make sure they use  natural ingredients for these products so not to harm your body.

4. Meditate—if soap is to the skin, so is prayer and meditation to our soul. The hardest part of being a human compared to other creations in this world   is to know that someday you’ll going to die(our life will end), and frankly speaking, sometimes, this is where we get our stress. Last 2008, the American Psychological Association made a survey on  what were American’s  common stressors: 81% said it’s money,80% the economy,67% family health problems, 64%family responsibilities, and housing costs and relationships rated 62%. What does this figure says? People in general are afraid to lose their LIFE—the basic needs like food, housing, health, and loved ones. Just imagine if you’re not afraid to die, or if you believe that a God made you for a purpose in life. That life is only temporary—that it’s short! What could be your priority every day? I remember Steve Jobs once wrote “If today is my last day, would it be productive if I’m doing this thing  right now? ” If we believe God. If we reflect upon our life, for sure it will stretch (not stress us) to be more a productive and supple person, not just this holiday but in the days to come.

Enjoy life; the reason why we’re experiencing stress is to remind us that our body is really capable for survival. That no matter how many stress hormones kicks our system, we are strong enough to overcome it, because a creator (the reason for celebrating this season) just fashion us in a way that His complicated (to understand) love will be demonstrated in a simplest way.

Contributor: Arlen Peña 

References:

1.Greenberg,Jerrold S.(2011) Comprehensive Stress Management,New York,Mac Graw Hill Company.,pp.2-16

2.Gutmann, Joanna,(1998). The Stress Workbook(Overcoming Common Problems) London Sheldon Press.

3.Rosenthal Sara M.(2002).50 Ways to Prevent  and Manage Stress. U.S.A Mac Graw Hill

4.http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/806357/what-stress-does-to-your-body , accessed on December 10,2012

5.http://www.medicinenet.com/stress, accessed on December 10,2012      .

6.http://faculty.weber.edu/molpin/healthclasses/1110/bookchapters/stressphysiologychapter.htm, Accessed on December 10,2012

7.http://faculty.weber.edu/molpin/healthclasses/1110/bookchapters/stressphysiologychapter.htm, Accessed on December 8,2012

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