Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension.
Emotional stress usually occurs in situations people consider difficult or challenging. People may feel stressed in different situations.
Physical stress is a physical reaction of the body to various triggers. The pain experienced after surgery is an example of physical stress. Physical stress often leads to emotional stress, and emotional stress often occurs in the form of physical stress (e.g., stomach cramps).
Stress management involves controlling and reducing the tension that occurs in stressful situations by making emotional and physical changes. The degree of stress and the desire to make the changes will determine how much improvement takes place.
Attitude: A person's attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful. A person with a negative attitude will often report more stress than would someone with a positive attitude.
Diet: A poor diet puts the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system. As a result, a person can be more likely to get infections. A poor diet can mean making unhealthy food choices, not eating enough, or not eating on a normal schedule.
This form of physical stress also decreases the ability to deal with emotional stress, because not getting the right nutrition may affect the way the brain processes information.
Physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity can put the body in a stressed state. Physical activity has many benefits, including promoting a feeling of well-being.
Support systems: Almost everyone needs someone in their life they can rely on when they are having a hard time. Having little or no support makes stressful situations even more difficult to deal with.
Relaxation: People with no outside interests, hobbies, or other ways to relax may be less able to handle stressful situations. Getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night also helps people cope with stress.
AN INDIVIDUAL STRESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM
If these stress management techniques do not work for you, there are professionals, such as licensed social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who can help. Schedule time with one of these mental health professionals to help you learn stress management strategies, including relaxation techniques. Support groups of various types are also available in most communities.
Updated by: A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Fred K. Berger, MD, Addiction and Forensic Psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, California (3/7/2012).
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