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Which of these is stress?
- You receive a promotion at work.
- Your car has a flat tire.
- You go to a fun party that lasts till 2:00 a.m.
- Your dog gets sick.
- Your new bedroom set is being delivered.
- Your best friend and his wife come to stay at your house for a week.
- You get a bad case of hay fever.
- All of the above.
ALL OF THESE ARE STRESS
If you are used to thinking that stress is something that makes you worry, you have the wrong idea of stress. Stress is many different kinds of things: happy things, sad things, allergic things, physical things. Many people carry enormous stress loads and they do not even realize it!
WHAT IS STRESS?
We are all familiar with the word "stress". Stress is when you are worried about getting laid off your job, or worried about having enough money to pay your bills, or worried about your mother when the doctor says she may need an operation. In fact, to most of us, stress is synonymous with worry. If it is something that makes you worry, then it is stress.
Your body, however, has a much broader definition of stress. TO YOUR BODY, STRESS IS SYNONYMOUS WITH CHANGE. Anything that causes a change in your life causes stress. It doesn't matter if it is a "good" change, or a "bad" change, they are both stress. When you find your dream apartment and get ready to move, that is stress. If you break your leg, that is stress. Good or bad, if it is a CHANGE in your life, it is stress as far as your body is concerned.
Even IMAGINED CHANGE is stress. (Imagining changes is what we call "worrying".) If you fear that you will not have enough money to pay your rent, that is stress. If you worry that you may get fired, that is stress. If you think that you may receive a promotion at work, that is also stress (even though this would be a good change). Whether the event is good or bad, imagining changes in your life is stressful.
Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE is stressful.
Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR BODY HEALTH is stressful.
IMAGINED CHANGES are just as stressful as real changes.
Let us look at several types of stress -- ones that are so commonplace that you might not even realize that they are stressful.......
When arguments, disagreements, and conflicts cause CHANGES in your personal life -- that is stress.
Catching a cold, breaking an arm, a skin infection, a sore back, are all CHANGES in your body condition.
Pushing Your Body Too Hard
A major source of stress is overdriving yourself. If you are working (or partying) 16 hours a day, you will have reducedyour available time for rest. Sooner or later, the energy drain on your system will cause the body to fall behind in its repair work. There will not be enough time or energy for the body to fix broken cells, or replace used up brain neurotransmitters. CHANGES will occur in your body's internal environment. You will "hit thewall," "run out of gas". If you continue, permanent damage may be done. The body's fight to stay healthy in the face of the increased energy that your are expending is major stress.
Very hot or very cold climates can be stressful. Very high altitude may be a stress. Toxins or poisons are a stress. Each of these factors threatens to cause CHANGES in your body's internal environment.
The Special Case of Tobacco Use
Tobacco is a powerful toxin!! Smoking destroys cells that clean your trachea, bronchi, and lungs. Smoking causes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which progress to slow suffocation. The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoking causes chronic carbon monoxide poisoning. Tobacco use damages the arteries in your body, causing insufficient blood supply to the brain, heart, and vital organs. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of cancer 50 fold.
Chewing tobacco or snuff is no safe haven. It also damages your arteries, and it carries the same cancer risk. (Cancers of the head and neck are particularly vicious, disfiguring, and deadly).
Poisoning the body with carbon monoxide, and causing the physical illnesses of emphysema, chronic bronchitis, cancer, and arterial damage, tobacco is a powerful source of added stress to one's life.
The vast hormonal changes of puberty are severe stressors. A person's body actually CHANGES shape, sexual organs begin to function, new hormones are released in large quantities. Puberty, as we all know, is very stressful.
Once a woman passes puberty, her body is designed to function best in the presence of female hormones. For women past puberty, a lack of female hormones is a major stress on the body. Once a month, just prior to menstruation, a woman's hormone levels drop sharply. In many women, the stress of sharply falling hormones is enough to create a temporary OVERSTRESS. This temporary OVERSTRESS is popularly known as Pre MenstrualSyndrome (PMS).
Following a pregnancy, hormone levels CHANGE dramatically. After a normal childbirth, or a miscarriage, some women may be thrown into OVERSTRESS by loss of the hormones of pregnancy.
There is another time in a woman's life when hormone levels decline. This is the menopause. The decline in hormones during menopause is slow and steady. Nevertheless, this menopausal decline causes enough stress on the body to produce OVERSTRESS in many women.
Taking Responsibility for Another Person's Actions
When you take responsibility for another person's actions, CHANGES occur in your life over which you have little or no control. Taking responsibility for another person's actions is a major stressor.
Allergic reactions are a part of your body's natural defense mechanism. When confronted with a substance which your body considers toxic, your body will try to get rid of it, attack it, or somehow neutralize it. If it is something that lands in your nose, you might get a runny, sneezy nose. If it lands on your skin, you might get blistery skin. If you inhale it, you'll get wheezy lungs. If you eat it, you may break out in itchy red hives all over your body. Allergy is a definite stress, requiring large changes in energy expenditure on the part of your body's defense system to fight off what the body perceives as a dangerous attack by an outside toxin.
In the following table you can look up representative changes in your life and see how much stress value each of these changes is adding to your life. NOTE ANY ITEM THAT YOU MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED IN THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS. Then, total up your score.
(Adapted from the "Social Readjustment Rating Scale" by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. This scale was first published in the "Journal of Psychosomatic Research", Copyright 1967, vol.II p. 214. It is used by permission of Pergamon Press Ltd.)
STRESS EVENT VALUES 1. DEATH OF SPOUSE 100 2. DIVORCE 60 3. MENOPAUSE 60 4. SEPARATION FROM LIVING PARTNER 60 5. JAIL TERM OR PROBATION 60 6. DEATH OF CLOSE FAMILY MEMBER OTHER THAN SPOUSE 60 7. SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR ILLNESS 45 8. MARRIAGE OR ESTABLISHING LIFE PARTNERSHIP 45 9 .FIRED AT WORK 45 10.MARITAL OR RELATIONSHIP RECONCILIATION 40 11.RETIREMENT 40 12.CHANGE IN HEALTH OF IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBER 40 13.WORK MORE THAN 40 HOURS PER WEEK 35 14.PREGNANCY OR CAUSING PREGNANCY 35 15.SEX DIFFICULTIES 35 16.GAIN OF NEW FAMILY MEMBER 35 17.BUSINESS OR WORK ROLE CHANGE 35 18.CHANGE IN FINANCIAL STATE 35 19.DEATH OF A CLOSE FRIEND (not a family member) 30 20.CHANGE IN NUMBER OF ARGUMENTS WITH SPOUSE OR LIFE PARTNER 30 21.MORTGAGE OR LOAN FOR A MAJOR PURPOSE 25 22.FORECLOSURE OF MORTGAGE OR LOAN 25 23.SLEEP LESS THAN 8 HOURS PER NIGHT 25 24.CHANGE IN RESPONSIBILITIES AT WORK 25 25.TROUBLE WITH IN-LAWS,OR WITH CHILDREN 25 26.OUTSTANDING PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT 25 27.SPOUSE BEGINS OR STOPS WORK 20 28.BEGIN OR END SCHOOL 20 29.CHANGE IN LIVING CONDITIONS (visitors in the home, change in roommates, remodeling house) 20 30.CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS (diet, exercise, smoking, etc.) 20 31.CHRONIC ALLERGIES 20 32.TROUBLE WITH BOSS 20 33.CHANGE IN WORK HOURS OR CONDITIONS 15 34.MOVING TO NEW RESIDENCE 15 35.PRESENTLY IN PRE-MENSTRUAL PERIOD 15 36.CHANGE IN SCHOOLS 15 37.CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES 15 38.CHANGE IN SOCIAL ACTIVITIES (more or less than before) 15 39.MINOR FINANCIAL LOAN 10 40.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS 10 41.VACATION 10 42.PRESENTLY IN WINTER HOLIDAY SEASON 10 43.MINOR VIOLATION OF THE LAW 5 TOTAL SCORE:_________________ STRESS SCALE FOR YOUTH STRESS EVENT VALUES 1. DEATH OF SPOUSE, PARENT, BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND 100 2. DIVORCE (of yourself or your parents) 65 3. PUBERTY 65 4. PREGNANCY (or causing pregnancy) 65 5. MARITAL SEPARATION OR BREAKUP WITH BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND 60 6. JAIL TERM OR PROBATION 60 7. DEATH OF OTHER FAMILY MEMBER (other than spouse, parent or boyfriend/girlfriend) 60 8. BROKEN ENGAGEMENT 55 9. ENGAGEMENT 50 10.SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR ILLNESS 45 11.MARRIAGE 45 12.ENTERING COLLEGE OR BEGINNING NEXT LEVEL OF SCHOOL (starting junior high or high school) 45 13.CHANGE IN INDEPENDENCE OR RESPONSIBILITY 45 14.ANY DRUG AND/OR ALCOHOLIC USE 45 15.FIRED AT WORK OR EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL 45 16.CHANGE IN ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE 45 17.RECONCILIATION WITH MATE, FAMILY OR BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND (getting back together) 40 18.TROUBLE AT SCHOOL 40 19.SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEM OF A FAMILY MEMBER 40 20.WORKING WHILE ATTENDING SCHOOL 35 21.WORKING MORE THAN 40 HOURS PER WEEK 35 22.CHANGING COURSE OF STUDY 35 23.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF DATING 35 24.SEXUAL ADJUSTMENT PROBLEMS (confusion of sexual identify) 35 25.GAIN OF NEW FAMILY MEMBER (new baby born or parent remarries) 35 26.CHANGE IN WORK RESPONSIBILITIES 35 27.CHANGE IN FINANCIAL STATE 30 28.DEATH OF A CLOSE FRIEND (not a family member) 30 29.CHANGE TO A DIFFERENT KIND OF WORK 30 30.CHANGE IN NUMBER OR ARGUMENTS WITH MATE, FAMILY OR FRIENDS 30 31.SLEEP LESS THAN 8 HOURS PER NIGHT 25 32.TROUBLE WITH IN-LAWS OR BOYFRIEND'S OR GIRLFRIEND'S FAMILY 25 33.OUTSTANDING PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT (awards, grades, etc.) 25 34.MATE OR PARENTS START OR STOP WORKING 20 35.BEGIN OR END SCHOOL 20 36.CHANGE IN LIVING CONDITIONS (visitors in the home, remodeling house, change in roommates) 20 37.CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS (start or stop a habit like smoking or dieting) 20 38.CHRONIC ALLERGIES 20 39.TROUBLE WITH THE BOSS 20 40.CHANGE IN WORK HOURS 15 41.CHANGE IN RESIDENCE 15 42.CHANGE TO A NEW SCHOOL (other than graduation) 10 43.PRESENTLY IN PRE-MENSTRUAL PERIOD 15 44.CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY 15 45.GOING IN DEBT (you or your family) 10 46.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF FAMILY GATHERINGS 10 47.VACATION 10 48.PRESENTLY IN WINTER HOLIDAY SEASON 10 49.MINOR VIOLATION OF THE LAW 5 TOTAL SCORE=_________________
We have asked you to look at the last twelve months of changes in your life. This may surprise you. It is crucial to understand, however, that a major change in your life has effects that carry over for long periods of time. It is like dropping a rock into a pond. After the initial splash, you will experience ripples of stress. And these ripples may continue in your life for at least a year.
So, if you have experienced total stress within the last twelve months of 250 or greater, even with normal stress tolerance, you may be OVERSTRESSED. Persons with Low Stress Tolerance may be OVERSTRESSED at levels as low as 150.
OVERSTRESS will make you sick. Carrying too heavy a stress load is like running your car engine past the red line; or leaving your toaster stuck in the "on" position; or running a nuclear reactor past maximum permissible power. Sooner or later, something will break, burnup, or melt down.
What breaks depends on where the weak links are in your physical body. And this is largely an inherited characteristic.
Here are the common "weak links", and the symptoms of their malfunction
- Brain OVERSTRESS
- Fatigue, aches and pains, crying spells, depression, anxiety attacks, sleep disturbance.
- Gastrointestinal Tract
- Ulcer, cramps and diarrhea, colitis, irritable bowel.
- Glandular System
- Thyroid gland malfunction.
- High blood pressure, heart attack, abnormal heart beat, stroke.
- Itchy skin rashes.
- Immune System
- Decreased resistance to infections and neoplasm.
We have known for a long time that OVERSTRESS could cause physical damage to the gastrointestinal tract, glandular system, skin or cardiovascular system. But only recently have we learned that OVERSTRESS actually causes physical changes in the brain. One of the most exciting medical advances of our decade has been an understanding of how OVERSTRESS physically affects your brain. We now know that the fatigue, aches and pains, crying spells, depression, anxiety attacks and sleep disturbances of OVERSTRESS are caused by brain CHEMICAL MALFUNCTION.
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