WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress is the physical reaction of your body that prepares you to meet life's threatening situations and to fight back. This "fight or flight" response is inherited from the "cave person" who had to fight wild beasts or flee from physical dangers in order to survive. Today, many situations or events that do not require a physical response trigger our stress response, including intellectual, social and recreational ones. These external situations or events are called stressors. Remember, stress is not pressure from the outside but the way you react to what is going on around you.

IS ALL STRESS BAD?

No, positive stress can be the sense of concentration you feel when taking an exam or the extra kick at the end of a race. Then, after you have met the challenge, you relax and enjoy your achievements. It is the period of relaxation that is the element of positive stress. Relaxing allows you to build up reserves for the next challenge. Stress becomes negative when you stay "geared up" and don't or can't relax. Without periods of relaxation, stress becomes an on-going cycle of tension. Negative stress has been linked to many ailments such as headaches, sleeping problems, and stomach problems. Can drugs help? No, they might provide temporary relief from some tensions, and many experts believe that abuse of drugs like alcohol, tobacco, sleeping pills and tranquilizers is really self-medication for stress.

DO YOU NEED STRESS?

Yes, you need stress to respond to your environment. It gives you energy to meet the demands, both big and little, of living. However, too much or constant stress is bad. You should channel your stress response into positive energy by learning how to relax. Research suggests that if you are less tense, you concentrate better, absorb information quicker, and remember more.

THREE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES.

  1. Relax the muscles in your face. Then close your eyes. SMILE as wide as you can. Try to feel very calm. Take one long deep breath. Exhale slowly, letting your jaw drop and your shoulders sag. Repeat up to four times.

  2. Take one very long deep breath. Then close your eyes. Shift your attention to the tip of your nose. As you breathe in, notice that the air coming in tends to be cooler, and the air breathed out tends to be warmer. Just be aware of the cool air in and the warm air out. Repeat four times.

  3. Imagine that your hands are warm...relaxed and warm. You might visualize them near a fire, or in warm, fuzzy gloves. Perhaps you can even begin to feel the blood flow down into your hands. Imagine that your hands are warm and relaxed.