Wednesday, March 5, 2008
STRESSSTRATEGIES FOR COPINGWhen people talk about stress, they are usually referring to tension or emotional distress. Medically, however, stress is defined as any condition of situation that places undue strain on the body. The sources can be a physical illness or injury, as well as numerous psychological factors- including fear, feelings of anger or frustration, and even unusual happiness. What constitutes almost unbearable stress to one person may be the spice of life to someone else. In either case, a stressor can trigger the body’s automatic stress-response system. This sets the stage for decreased immunity and increased vulnerability to illnesses, ranging from the common cold to heart attacks and cancer.ARE YOU STRESSED ?Because stress can cause many different symptoms, both physical and mental, it’s often difficult to determine the true source of many problems. A doctor may order medical tests, even if he suspects that stress is the real cause. The following are common manifestations of stress :Physical symptoms· Palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, and other signs of heart disease· Unusual rapid breathing, dizziness, or light-headedness.· Tingling sensations in the hands and / or feet.· Chronic or recurring backache and neck pain.· Frequent headaches.· Diarrhea or constipation· Heartburn and other types of digestive problems.Psychological symptoms· Difficulty in concentrating and in making decisions.· Sleep problems.· Chronic fatigue, even after adequate rest.· Prolonged anxiety· Changes in appetite and an increased reliance on alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs.· Difficulty coping with what normally would be minor setbacks.· Decreased enjoyment of pleasurable activities and events.OUR NATURAL FIGHT - OR - FLIGHT RESPONSEWhile physical stress is often episodic, emotional stress is part of daily life. This is not a modern phenomenon. Our early ancestors experienced much more stress than we do- from the constant quest for food to dangers from hostile neighbors and wild animals. While we don’t usually encounter such situations, our bodies will still respond to any stress much as they would have in prehistoric times. This stress-coping mechanism, called the fight-or-flight response, speed up the heartbeat, tense muscles, and put other systems on alert. Metabolism quickens to provide extra energy; digestion stops as blood is diverted from the intestines to the muscles.NUTRITIONAL NEEDSGood nutrition is especially important during periods of stress. Prolonged stress, whether psychological or physical, plays havoc with digestion and nutritional needs. Food provides energy, vitamins, and minerals for dealing with stress and helps to counter the negative effects on the body’s immune system. When under stress, some people are always hungry and binge on food; others have to force themselves to eat. Because stress interferes with digestion, it’s better to eat four to six small meals spaced throughout the day instead of the traditional three large ones. COMFORT FODDSAlmost everyone has favorite food that provides comfort during stressful times; the choices vary from one person to the nest. For some people, it’s a food that harks back to childhood, such as milk. Others crave chocolate or sweets, which increase the production of serotonin, brain chemical that has a calming effect. BETTER OFF WITHOUTBecause stress can play havoc with normal digestion, foods that normally are well tolerated may trigger indigestion and heartburn when your are in a stressful period. Fatty foods, which are difficult to digest at any time, should be avoided as much as possible. Many people also find that hot or spicy foods cause them problems during times of stress.Avoid caffeinated drinks, which can contribute to jittery feelings. Instead, try herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint, which have a calming effect.