AUGUSTINO'S GUIDE TO MANAGEMENT OF HUMAN STRESS
A Swahili proverb has it that there are 3 things if a man does not know, he cannot live long in the world: what is too much for him; what is too little for him; and what is just right for him. In our daily lives we experience stress in the food we eat, water we drink, in our places of work, in our schools, homes, even in the church, etc. While doing all these things, we experience various pressures from our environment – We try to modify our environment, while actually, our environment is really and extensively modifying us.
We all must find a way of coping with our environment for effective living. In this article, I would like to attempt a succinct definition of the term stress.
DEFINITION OF STRESS.
The term 'stress' has hydra-headed definitions. When we say that a human being is under stress, we mean that he/she is under pressure such that he is unable to cope with the situation. Stress is said to occur when one is pushed beyond his/her limits of coping capacity. Baron, A. defines stress as the physical, psychological and behavioral reactions experienced by individuals in situations where they feel that their ability to cope may soon be overwhelmed. In another view, is said to be those changes in the environment which are capable of producing various adjustments by human beings in order for them to accommodate such changes. These changes can be called STRESSORS. Stress is that pressure in one's life that affects one's existence either positively or negatively.
TYPES OF STRESS
We have 2 types of stress, namely:
'Eustress', in other words called 'good stress', are those exciting, interesting, and good events of life. Eustress encourages people to be more determined to work. It encourages people in their struggle to succeed. Examples of eustress include: the birth of a child, success in one’s examinations, marriage, scholarship awards, e.t.c.
Distress, in other words called 'bad stress' is just the direct opposite of 'eustress'. Distress includes those non-exciting bad events of life. Distress lowers the performance of one’s duties. It discourages human beings from being determined to work. Examples of distress include: the death of one’s friend, etc. Distress makes us sorrowful, annoyed and even regretful
The extent to which these stressors affect one’s life depends on the type of stress, its intensity and also the way which one thinks or meditates about dm, that is, the amount of concern we give to dm. Our major concern is "the negative side of stress and how we can manage it". This is because most people are distressed due to the way they think - that the stress level is beyond their limits of coping. It all depends on the way you see it; what you give to the world is what you receive; what you think is what you get.
Thus, the main aim of this article is to enlighten people's minds on the need of coping with and managing stress effectively and efficiently.
CHARACTERISTICS OF STRESS
1. STRESS IS UBIQUITOUS
This means that stress is experienced everywhere, every time and anyhow. There is no place/town/ country that is devoid of stress. It is something that is experienced by different people at different times and in various places. For example, a parent is faced with the stress of educating his/her siblings; a student is faced with the stress of reading his/her books, while a driver is faced with stress of keeping his car in good working condition.
In other words, each country in the world has particular stressors that continuously discomfort her.
2. STRESS IS UNAVOIDABLE
Stress remains unavoidable. Can you imagine life without stress? If there are no stressors (both positive and negative), then life would be tasteless the total absence of stress is death. How would this life be if there is no one to motivate us, no one to share our love with, nothing to challenge us? We are mere mortals and cannot really exist without stress because the mere breathing in and out of air is a stress very necessary for our existence.
3. STRESS IS TRANSFERABLE
Stress is transferable in the sense that it diffuses from our being to other people around us. For example, a man that has been recently expelled from his work can transfer this anger or stress to his wife, who in turn transfers it to her daughter.
BIOCHEMISTRY OF STRESS IN THE HUMAN BODY.
When a person is stressed (perhaps the death of one's wife), chemical message is transmitted to the hypothalamus of the brain through the nerves, which in turn responds to the message by stimulating the production of Corticotrophin Releasing Factor (a chemical) and other chemicals along two paths to different sites of the body. Te first site is the pituitary gland which produces a chemical called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and sends it (via the first path) to the cortex of the adrenal gland, which then secretes chemicals such as cortisol (which increases blood sugar level) and aldosterone.
The hypothalamus also sends out chemical signals via the second path. These chemical signals cause electrochemical impulses down the brain stem and spinal cord and also to the adrenal glands. This makes the adrenal gland to secrete a chemical called epiphrine which stimulates the release of extra glucose to the brain muscles thus, leading to more energy production; and also non-epiphrine, which increases the rate if heart beat and blood pressure.
ENDOCRINE PATHWAY USED BY ACUTE STRESS.
This is the pathway followed by the endocrine systems of the body when one is faced with a sudden danger, excitement, surprise. This pathway is involved in the fight-or-flight response to immediate threats to one's being.
It is characterize by:
- increased rate of heart beat,
- increased respiration,
- increased blood pressure and
- increased rate of blood flow to the muscles
A person under acute stress can feel his/her heart beats; the pupils of the eye dilate, and under such circumstances, digestion is inhibited. Examples of acute stress include the sight of a snake, a person being chased by a mad dog, the sight of thieves in one's house e.t.c.
The endocrine pathway for the transmission of nervous impulse under such circumstances is in the following order:
1st site: HYPOTHALAMUS
2nd site: SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
3rd site: ADRENAL MEDULLA
Final stage: PRODUCTION OF CHEMICALS KNOWN AS CATHECHOLAMINES (ADRELANINE AND NON-ADRENALINE).
Note: It is the chemical, catecholamine that gives rise to the above named effects in human beings.
ENDOCRINE PATHWAY USED BY PROLONGED STRESS
This pathway is also known as hypothalantic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis. The pathway for the transmission of prolonged stress is shown in their correct order below:
1st site: HYPOTHALAMUS
2nd site: PITUITARY GLAND
3rd stage: PRODUCTION OF ADRENOCORTICOTROPIC HORMONE
4th stage: PRODUCTION OF CORTICOSTEROIDS
It is worthy to note that these corticosteroids serve important purposes when present in low concentration in the body but they affect the body negatively when their concentration is high in the body
The functions of corticosteroids include:
- Reducing inflammation of body tissues
- Enhancing muscle tone and quality of the heart
- Enhancing muscle tone and quality of blood vessels
The prolonged presence of corticosteroids in high concentrations in the body causes the following:
- Increased blood pressure
- Growth inhibition in children
- Weakening of the immune system
SIGNS OF STRESS
The emotional symptoms of stress include: cynicism, crying spells.
The physical symptoms of stress include: fatigue, weight loss, headaches, profuse sweating, lack of sleep, pains, etc
The behavioral symptoms of stress include restlessness, alteration of feeding habits, etc.
Also its mental symptoms include: continuous negative thoughts and worrying, indecisiveness, etc
CAUSES OF STRESS
Below are some causes of stress:
- Death of one's siblings
- Death of spouse
- Sexual embarrassment
- Troubling thoughts
- Education of children
- Daily works
These are stressors an individual creates for himself. The first among them is the need to achieve. In many parts of the world today, everybody is struggling to make a name - the level on stresses himself/herself is directly proportional to one's need to achieve, to be recognized as somebody great in the society.
In more detailed terms, our achievements today are weighed based on their material value; no wonder the saying -Money rules the world. Most people tend towards the acquisition of wealth either by hook or crook. This results to high stress levels in human beings.
In the area of our businesses, some people are deeply engrossed in their work to the extent that they do not even have time for recreation. They find it very difficult to delegate some assignments to their employees. They feel that their businesses would collapse in their absence. Such people expose themselves to high stress levels because of their overwhelming desire to be in absolute control of their business.
Another major self-induced stressor is our perception of the world - our beliefs, core values, rules and regulations, and even our goals. People tormented by this stressor always want to achieve much in very little time. They are very time-conscious. They do set unrealistic goals and are usually perfectionists. They want everybody to behave the way they do, think the way they think and even set goals the way they do. They parade themselves as role models others should follow. Such caliber of human beings worries excessively when things do not move as they expected. They spend their time creating negative picture of the whole problem, instead of thinking about the solution to the problem
Home stressors are those stressors which torment us at our various homes and families. The first among them is marriage divorce. Most of the divorces in recent marriages may be due to lack of understanding between couples. The aim of this write-up is not to analyze the causes of divorce in marriage, but how it affects its victims.
The aftermath of divorce is such that it lasts for so long a period of time. A peaceful home could be a source of happiness for the father of the house, who after toiling during the day returns to his home to behold and pleasurable wife. Where the reverse is the case, this scenario becomes an imagination, or proper calls it an illusion. When he is back home, tired and exhausted, he is stressed and tensed up as he has nobody to share his experiences with, nobody to give him that affection he needed, nobody to encourage him in all his efforts. Do you think he would be able to cope with the situation? Do you think he would be able to manage this stressor all the days of his life? This is the question that this article would answer.
Another home stressor is childlessness. In areas where children are highly valued, childlessness becomes a great terror to both the husband and his wife. In some places, it is regarded as a curse on its victims. Most a times, the major victim (the wife) undergoes untold agony to get pregnant. Sometimes, the wife is accused of bewitching her child (even when after all, the fault may be that of the husband)
These and many other home stressors such as death of spouse and a host of others keep making life difficult for us.
HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS
- Reading: The more you read good books, motivational books, inspirational books, the more your life brightens up; you will come to understand that ninety per cent of the things we fear most never really happened. Get used to reading human interest magazines and newspapers. Francis B. says, "Reading maketh a man; wiriting, an exact man; conference, a ready man". You can forget about your past experiences by reading interesting novels and most importantly, your Bible.
- Slow down: Some people are too fast about life to the extent that they do not even have time for the important leisure of life. Such people rush in everything they do. They regard even their time for sleeping, eating and even recreation as a waste. They tend to forget the axiom - Health is wealth. Such people are advised to take life easy because the world is not running. When death strikes you, the world gets going. That is why Bremer S. N., in his book 'Health, Wealth ad Happiness', warns us that the greater our speed, the greater will be the emotional strains upon each of us.
- Delegation: Try to delegate some of your duties to people. Do not put an excessive workload on yourself. Remember that there is no business that does not involve people.Your business is: OURS + YOURS = YOURS. Take time to identify all your assignments in a day. Identify the one you can duly assign to other people to help you do them. Then, you will begin to appreciate the essence of people around you because there is no 'me' without 'you'.
- Confrontation: This is an effective way of dealing with stressors in our life. It is a daring behavior; instead of sitting down and folding your arms, why can't we stand up and find a creative solution to our problems. We are all human beings and as such nobody is a god. Why can’t you tell your boyfriend to stop his sexual advances on you? Take courage in your hands and approach that problem that has been stressing you all the days of your life and you will discover that it is just a mere paper-tiger.
- Create time for relaxation and recreation: Create time to ease off pressure: Create time to relax. The human body is a system that at one time or the other needs to relax, otherwise, it shuts down and then you spend a lot trying to get in order. Constant exercise keeps you refreshed after the day's task. Exercise frees the mind from the burden that weighs it down. Find out what you like doing and then, use that thing for relaxing your nerves and forgetting about your worries.
- Open up: Learn to open up to people around you about your problems. Remember that a problem shared is half-solved. Find one person you can confide in and freely discuss your problems with.
- Create good human relationship: The fastest way to remain sad all the days of your life is to be in enmity with your fellow human beings. This creates enmity, anger, malice and a host of other vices. When you are angry, the immune system shuts down and your chance of contracting diseases becomes high. This makes you tensed up and distressed.
- Develop the habit of being happy: Stress, as we have seen strips people of their happiness and peace of mind. The outcome of a problem depends on the way you see it, that is, your response to the problem. If you remain positive, then, you get a positive solution to the problem, but if you respond negatively, then you become distressed. One of the ways of solving some problems is to leave them for some time.------Onoyima.
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