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  Fact Sheet - Healthy Living: Stress and Mental Health
 
 
Healthy living refers to the notion of maintaining a healthy mind and body by following simple common sense practices in your daily routines. There are several elements that a person needs take into consideration when making choices for a healthy living: food and nutrition, physical activity, stress & mental health, drug & alcohol abuse.
 

Stress and Mental Health?

Stress is different things to different people. To a mountaineer it is the challenge of pushing physical resources to the limit by striving to achieve a demanding goal. To the homeward bound motorist it can be the hassles of heavy traffic and obnoxious exhaust fumes. To the student it can be exam pressure.

Positive And Negative Stressors:

Most people respond to the word stress in negative ways. They see it as a destructive, debilitating force. However, not all stress is negative. Positive stress is the stress that occurs as a result of something that is primarily positive, such as a promotion or getting married. Negative stress relates to events most people would agree are harmful or negative.

Negative stress can also be associated with distress. It is the stress of losing, failing, overworking and not coping. Distress affects people in a negative often harmful manner. We all experience distress from time to time. It is a normal, unavoidable part of living.

Stressors: the things that cause Stress

Stress results from failure to adequately cope with stressors. Stressors could be loud noise, uncomfortable air-conditioning, debts, ringing telephones, broken relationships, unrealistic deadlines, discouragement, fear, pain and thousands of other things that impact upon us in the normal course of life.

It is impossible to avoid stressors, they will always be there because we live in a world constructed with things that cause stress. We experience stress as the body adjusts to the external demands placed upon it. Our body constantly seeks to maintain stability and stress is usually sensed as the body readjusts to too much pressure.

Scientists use the term HOMEOSTASIS (homeo = the same; stasis = standing) to define the physiological limits in which the body functions efficiently and comfortably. Stress disturbs homeostasis by creating a state of imbalance. The source of stress may be outside the body or it may originate from within the body in the form of blood pressure, pain, tumours, distressing events or disturbing thoughts.?

Physical And Psychological Stressors:


Physical stressors include everything from lack of sleep to invasive surgery. The more common psychological stressors include conditions that evoke negative emotions, such as hate, anger, sadness and fear.
?

Past, Present And Future Stressors:


Past stressors include those that occurred in the past ? for example, a traumatic childhood experience ? and continue to exert pressure in the present. Present stressors include things such as the challenge of meeting an immediate deadline or sales quot
a.? And future stressors include things that have not yet occurred but that we worry about anyway, such as tax day, a doctor's appointment, etc.

Acute And Chronic Stressors:

  • Acute stress usually comes on suddenly and lasts for a relatively short time. For example, when your child-care provider calls in sick on the day you're scheduled to make a big presentation, or when your car breaks down on the expressway.

????????? Chronic stress, on the other hand, seems never to go away. It may vary from a bad commute to work to bigger problems, such as being in an unhappy relationship, being stuck in an unsatisfying job or being unable to get out of poverty. Chronic stress may also arise from traumatic childhood experiences that leave scars, internally if not externally.

Far more damaging than acute stress, chronic stress presents potential dangers because it can wear you down in time physically and psychologically. When it lasts for a long time, people often assume they must learn to live with it rather than trying to improve it. Addressing the core problem or learning how to cope may help you avoid or reduce the damaging side effects of stress.

The Consequences of Stress

The body has only a finite reserve of adaptation energy to apply to the stressors of life.? It is a like a bank account upon which we can make withdrawals from time to time but into which we cannot make deposits.? It is a non-renewable reserve of energy which we draw on throughout life until eventually it is consumed and death results. Some people squander their reserves and experience premature ageing as a result; others exercise more discretion and so they maintain a supply over a longer period of time.

Over a long period of time the stress response begins to take a toll on the body. One of the prime targets affected is the thymus gland (a mysterious pale grey gland that sits behind the breastbone, above the heart) which plays a key role in the body's immune system. The thymus gland pumps out millions of lymphocytes each day to patrol throughout the body and to kill off bacterial invaders. Killer cells called macrophages literally eat invading bacteria. They operate in all parts of the body and we depend on them for our survival.? Macrophages are weakened by a steroid called cortisol which is released by the adrenal gland when we experience stress. A weakened immune system makes us vulnerable to infection and this is why people under stress often experience regular attacks of colds and flu.


Sources:

  • Adapted from,??The Medical Basis of Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Sleep Problems, and Drug Use,? Steve/Kimberly Burns, ?independently published website, http://www.teachhealth.com/


 

Selected resources:

Mind Tools

Provides?techniquess and tools and informaiton for those seeking to manage stress in their day to day life. ???

Website: http://www.mindtools.com/smpage.html



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