Stress and Its Management

Stress is commonly described as the impact of a negative force [could be neutral or positive], from within and without on an individual’s mental and physical wellbeing. An individual’s response to stressors [stress causing situations] generally affects the individual directly or his environment.

Human beings are exposed to these stressors on a daily basis but responses differ due to certain factors which include the overall wellbeing and fitness, nutritional status, psychological fitness and soundness of the mind, the spiritual standing and the amount of rest and sleep the individual gets daily.

These are the internal factors that determine an individual’s ability to deal with the external forces that cause stress.

Common Causes of Stress

We can discuss common causes of stress in the following headings:

  • Stress from ones WORK Place
  • Stress caused by MONEY
  • Stress as a result of RELATIONSHIPS
  • Stress that occur as a result of ones HEALTH STATUS
  1. Stress from ones Work Place – Stress arising from ones job: In the work place there are different types of relationships that are peculiar to your particular job/work place and these include the relationship between you and your boss, between you and your contemporaries or between you and your subordinates. The third type of relationship may not be as stressful to you as to the junior worker. On the other hand, certain demands  from the boss may cause you a lot of stress especially if you are unable to meet such demands due to your marital status for example. Other causes of stress in the work place could be as a result of your inability to meet targets given to you or when you find a task too difficult to handle, or you are unable to solve problems that you may be faced with in the office. In the work place, time and ones ability to manage it is very important. In a situation where you are deficient in the management of time can give rise to a lot of stress. You could be overwhelmed with too much work and your ability to manage time can be totally messed up and stress sets in.
  2. Stress caused by MONEY – Money is a commodity that causes a lot of stress especially when it is in short supply. Also, when the amount of money available for use by an individual or in a family is completely inadequate to meet the demands that one is faced with. These demands will include paying bills, repayment of loans, taking care of the children in addition to children of certain relatives and so on.
  3. Stress from RELATIONSHIPS – Especially marital relationships which may affect women more, whether or not the marriage is blessed with children. Other marital stressors are third party involvement which cause stress in both husband and wife. This can be as a result of a  “mistress or a boy friend.” Being single when one should be married and age is not on ones side is sure to cause stress and also incessant quarrels and fighting in marriage.
  4. Family relationships: this can be between parents and children or could be as a result of sibling rivalry. Serious illness of a family member or loved one. This could be a terminal disease such as cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases like Alzeimer’s Dementia, or Parkinson’s disease. Death of a parent or sibling can also cause stress in a family member. Disappointments from a spouse or from ones father/mother, a boss in the work place and other kinds of failure can be a source of stress.
  5. Pollution and other environmental problems in our cities, Lagos most especially, traffic build up can be a major cause of stress.
  6. There are those life changes/challenges that are good on their own but can cause stress in some people. Life changes like preparing for marriage, moving houses or changing jobs.
  7. According to Dr Batmanghelidj [of blessed memory] the no. 1 stressor is dehydration.

Now, I will like to show you a bit of the neurochemistry that is involved in the causation of stress and to see how we can deal with stress whenever it occurs in our lives.

The main stress hormone is known as cortisol. Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands which are positioned on top of both kidneys. Before cortisol is secreted, corticotrophin-releasing hormone is secreted by the hypothalamus [a part of the brain]in response to stress.

The corticotropin-releasing hormone stimulates the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland [also found in the brain] to cause it to release adrenocorticotropic hormone. This hormone acts on the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone belonging to the glucocorticoids which are secreted in response to stress.

The primary function of cortisol is to redistribute glucose to areas of the body that require it more for the production of energy in a stress-causing situation. When the body is confronted with an external stress-causing force the immediate response is the fight-or-flight response and at such a time the brain and the muscles need energy the most.

It is the responsibility of cortisol to redistribute energy to these organs to facilitate fight or flight. Secondly, cortisol which is a product of cholesterol in the adrenal cortex suppresses the immune system and aids in fat and protein metabolism for alternative sources of fast energy generation.

Two other neurotransmitters among others that play a significant role during stress are norepinephrine and serotonin. Norepinephrine, a primary chemical messenger of the central nervous system prepares the body for fight-or-flight response.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter is thought to be involved in mood regulation. Symptoms like fear, anxiety and depression have been associated with stress-induced serotonin dysfunction.

A third chemical messenger, neuropeptide is a protein that is synthesized in the hypothalamus and plays an important role in appetite, satiety and feeding behavior.

What are the signs and symptoms of stress?

In discussing the signs and symptoms of stress it is important to note that the following organs and parts of the body are affected in a stressful condition: the brain and nerves, muscles and joints, the heart, stomach and intestines, the pancreas and the reproductive organs.

The signs and symptoms of stress may be behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical. Behavioral symptoms are: excessive eating [may be less], too much [or too little] sleep, dependence on alcohol, narcotic drugs and cigarettes, living in isolation, neglecting responsibility and nervous habits like pacing and nail biting.

Emotional symptoms are: restlessness, irritability, agitation, short temper, moodiness, feeling of loneliness, isolation, unhappiness and feeling of depression.

Cognitive symptoms are loss of memory and other memory problems, poor judgment, anxiety, pessimism, constant worrying and inability to concentrate.

Physical symptoms are aches, pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness chest pain, increased heartbeat, loss of libido [sex drive] and frequent colds.

Having seen the external and internal forces that can cause stress and the symptoms and signs of stress we can now deal with the issue of management of stress. The first thing to do wherever possible is to avoid those causes of stress that are avoidable.

Concerning the issues of expectation and disappointments you must realize that the Bible says that the help of man is useless. It is only GOD you can trust. Indeed the Bible tells us in Proverbs 3: 5 and 6, “

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart: and lean not on thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

If you cannot do without depending on man, do not place all your trust in him; expect that he can disappoint you so that when he does, you will not be so disappointed. It is only GOD that cannot and will not fail you. Meditate on the word of GOD and concentrate on scriptures that can lift you up.

•For example 1Thessalonians 5: 16 says, “Rejoice evermore,” Psalms 16: 11b “——–in thy presence is fullness of joy.” In Philippians 4: 6 and 7, the Bible says “Be anxious for nothing, [Do not fret about anything, Do not worry] but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto GOD.

And the peace of GOD, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Spend time in the word of GOD and meditate on His word.

Create time for relaxation and take a break daily and set aside a period when you will be away from work annually. Exercise helps to reduce the secretion of the stress hormones so get involved in exercising 4 to 5 times a week.

Walk around more and climb the stairs more often than the use of lifts. Avoid alcohols and those drugs that can damage your body. Remember that after the consumption of alcohol and the use of drugs the stressor will still be there after the effect of the drug and alcohol would have worn off.

It is better to deal with the cause of stress than trying to cover up the symptom. There are some people that may benefit from meeting a counselor or attending a group therapy session.

If your stress is brought about by the traffic condition in Lagos (go-slow or traffic jam) then you may want to relocate to your state or home town where traffic may not be as bad.

Finally, your diet, eating correctly and drinking adequate amount of water can help you confront the stressor better. •

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