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Is Stress Harmful?

We know that addiction is a stress response disease. Stress however is not the killer, it is how we cope with the stress that determines whether we pursue a course that leads to disease or a place of health and wellness. So, the answer to the question: Is Stress Harmful?, is no and yes. The report of the recent American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” study has received a lot of attention. Particularly due to the findings that American Teens are reporting high stress levels and ineffective coping skills. Sadly, the findings seem to parallel stress levels and coping skills of the adults.

The findings beg the question: Is it that life is more stressful now for teen and adults alike, or are we not managing the stress as well as generations before us? So what is stress and how do we manage it?

Stress is unavoidable, normative demands motivate and inspire us to make things happen. We are strengthened and sustain the quality of life by properly responding and coping with life demands. Yet, demands and stressors are not simple. Selye, one of the earliest researchers of stress, identified four different types of stress: overstress, understress, damaging stress, and good stress.

Research illuminates that stress is largely determined by the perception of the situation. As a result, every given stressor has a strictly personal and idiosyncratic meaning. The key aspects of these perceptions are primarily based upon two issues:

1. Uncontrollability

Can I, through all my best efforts, influence the outcome and experience success. If the determination and perception is that after all I can do it will not create success, that a forced failure is inevitable, the result is high stress. Especially if high demands continue!

2. Social Threat

The second is the social evaluation threat, where the performance task or event could be negatively judged by peers.

Stress Management

Unmanaged stress often leads to a variety of psychological effects like depression or efforts to manage the emotions that are unhealthy such as smoking, drugs, or process addictions. While the efforts to manage stress can be complex, there are some fundamental practices that are critical. Remember, as indicated above, these efforts will be based upon reclaiming key areas of control and cultivating a sense of greater social acceptance.

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Recognize that you cannot manage the demands of life alone. One of the strongest predictors to manage stress and to feel successful in life is to feel the support of others. Strengthen your support system, ask people in your social circle for specific ways to support you. Professional would be included in this area.

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Eating habits are critical in managing stress. We most often seek to medicate our stress through the pallet. This translates to eating a lot of sugar, fat, and salt. This will kill us biologically and our energy. You must establish healthy eating practices.

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Regular moderate exercise is critical. Consult your doctor to ensure your current health supports a exercise program. Exercise every day, you cannot afford to be too busy! The psychological and physical benefits are significant.

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While perhaps one of the most difficult, it is one of the most critical, you have to get sufficient sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up in the morning at the same time. Develop pre-sleep practices so when it is time for bed you are ready. Consult with a physician or sleep clinic if necessary.

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