Avoiding and Coping With Stress

Imagine an air-filled balloon. If you were to stick it with a pin, it would pop, right? But if you were to stick a length of adhesive tape flat on the balloon’s surface, and then carefully push the pin straight through the tape and balloon, it won’t pop. The balloon should hold up under many pins, as long as they are spaced widely apart along the length of the tape. Clustering the needles together on the tape gives the air inside an opportunity to take advantage of the over-stressed area and pop the balloon.

Now imagine you are the balloon filled with air. Imagine the air in the balloon as all your current, everyday stress. The needle can symbolize any sudden or accumulated additional stress. If you were to be “pricked”, how would you react?

Stress is not a negative effect on the body. It is a reaction to a stressor. A stressor can be anything from the choice of what to wear in the morning to the death of a loved one.

Stress makes some people anxious and others fatigued. Some are never hungry while others are insatiable. Some have excess energy, while others feel drained. But everyone experiences the three stages of reaction that occur at the introduction of a stressor.

First is the “alarm” stage. This is the immediate reaction of a body to a suddenly stressful situation, which results in the “pounding pulse”, flushed complexion, clenched gut and sweaty palms many people experience when stressed. Other symptoms of stress include increased respiration, pulse rate and blood pressure, slowing of the digestive system, and many other biological changes. The adrenal gland begins to significantly increase production of corticoid, a hormone secreted into the blood during the “fight or flight” impulse.

Second is the “resistance” stage, during which your brain decides on either the “fight” or the “flight” impulse in reaction to the current stressor in order to accommodate or eliminate it. In most non-perilous situations, such as solving a math problem, you repress either of these urges, and instead either face up the situation or back down from it. Corticoid production drops to just above normal, as your body begins to replace its effects with energy.

The last stage of reaction to a stressful situation is exhaustion. After the “fight or flight” reaction is implemented or subdued, you feel a wave of fatigue when their body has run out of resources to support your “fight” or “flight”. If the stress lasts longer than you can bear, you may break down, physically or otherwise. Now corticoid production increases again to compensate for the body’s flagging energy, but its increased levels are not sustainable for long periods of time.

Stress is constant for everyone, to varying degrees, and if your life is dominated by stress, it can be every bit as invasive and draining as it seems. Unfortunately, stress doesn’t disappear alone if not confronted in the proper manner. It manifests itself in the behavior, general personality and physical health of an over-stressed person. But you can control it.

Coping mechanisms are psychological methods used in order to adjust a challenge. These include any things, thoughts, or procedures that make you more comfortable, from a long hot bath to three deep breaths. A coping mechanism lessens perceived pressure, so that you feel more balanced. These methods of dealing with stress help you remain balanced and clear-headed, so that you can utilize the surge of energy that comes in the heat of the moment to do useful things.

If a coping mechanism is used incorrectly, it can deteriorate into obsessive-compulsive behavior. This sort of behavior results from deep, neurotic anxiety. People with obsessive-compulsive habits seem to choose certain routines because they give the person a measure of control over their lives. But most of these routines are not constructive, and may be a potentially negative avoidance reaction to stress.

Coping mechanisms should be used to deal with your stresses, not ignore them. To be effective, they should also put the stressor in perspective. Recognizing stress is one giant step toward managing it.

Methods of coping with stress include meditation, relaxation exercises, physical exertion, and more. Erecting your own coping mechanism is as simple as turning on your favorite music while studying, or keeping a certain area orderly for a chaos-free environment. It all depends on you. Remembering that you have the power to keep your stresses under control can keep you from “popping” under pressure.

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