DEFINITION

Stress is a natural body reaction initiated by situations which require increased attention or which we find ourselves with a lack of control. Short stretches of stress such as being in a job interview are transient and pose no danger, but lives with unending chronic stress produce unhealthy symptoms in people. The bodily response to stress causes increased blood pressure and an elevated heart rate – both leading to increased risks of cardiac events. Extended periods of stress may also lead to mental impediments, such as increased irritation, headaches, and poor lifestyle choices such as binge eating, increased alcohol consumption, and smoking. The hormonal changes associated by chronic stress may also lead to a dampened immune system, and increased risk of infection.

SYMPTOMS

Some recognizable symptoms include headaches, anxiety, mood changes such as irritability or anger, fatigue, and even habit changes such as junk food binging, and substance/alcohol abuse.

BODILY EFFECTS

Chronic stress can lead to conditions such as increased blood pressure, and an associated increased risk in heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

MANAGEMENT

No medical treatment exists for stress, and it must be controlled solely from the person affected. Stress management activities such as physical exercise, meditation, and relaxation techniques as well as adequate sleep can all go a long way in reducing stress and its associated health problems. An excellent first step in stress management would be the identification of stress inducing events or situations. By remedying these tasks or organizing them better, increased control would undoubtedly reduce the level of stress one would feel. Other studies have also shown that increased social connections and time spent with family and friends also serve to reduce the levels of stress.


ACUTE STRESS

Acute stress is defined as one-off stress events which occur spontaneously and from a variety of different sources. Common examples would be riding a roller coaster at an amusement park, or skiing down a challenging ski hill. Short term events such as these do not occur long enough to cause extensive damage, although episodic stress may lead to muscle strains, digestive irritations such as diarrhea or stomach pain, and temporary surges in blood pressure – leading to dizzy spells or even headaches.

Such were the commonalities between stress and different personality types that the cardiologists Friedman and Rosenman characterized the popular Type A vs Type B personalities. Type A’s were defined as having an "excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency." as goal seeking and highly organized people, whereas Type B people exuded the opposite. In connection to the risk of cardiac events, the study found that Type A people were more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

Similar to the advice given for chronic stress sufferers, management and relaxation strategies remain the only proven remedies. Patients are advised to prioritize tasks, and to actively utilize relaxation techniques.



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