How to Cope with the Symptoms of Stress
Just mention the word stress and everyone seems to start moaning about how hard it is to cope while, at the same time, they’re merrily signing themselves up for things that will generate even more stress in their lives. So why do we have this dilemma with stress where it appears we can’t live with it, can’t live without it?
It all comes down to our understanding – or, more commonly, misunderstanding – of the meaning of stress. The word stress means a mental, emotional or physical strain or, in terms of physics, a force that produces deformation or strain. When we talk about the negative effects of stress we are referring to doing the same action to excess or for too long, which upsets the body’s natural balance to the extent that it reduces its ability to cope with the stresses and strains of living. This reduced ability means that your body will find it harder to restore a healthy balance and this then leads to even greater stress and strain on your system. This can relate to anything you do or don’t do – for example, too many hours at work and not enough rest leads to exhaustion, too many pies and not enough activity leads to weight gain and too little excitement and not enough fun leads to unhappiness. All these examples induce stress and it is this stress that leads to a negative result. Stress is a negative sign that the natural healthy balance of the body has been affected. Negative symptoms generated by stress, such as pain and fatigue, are there to warn you that the body is struggling to cope and you need to do something to restore the balance before it gets any worse.
The confusion over our relationship with stress often arises because we confuse negative stress with what is known as the stress response. A healthy body is well equipped to deal with the everyday stresses of living because our lives and our environment are constantly changing and challenging us, so stress is bound to occur in some form or another on a daily basis. The body deals with this through the stress response – a natural, biological response designed to enable your body to do all the things you demand of it to keep you alive and happy. Stress is an unhealthy and excessive amount of pressure that leads to harm, whereas the stress response is, without sounding too dramatic, the thing that keeps you living. Without it you would quite literally not get out of bed in the morning. It is meant to be used and you thrive off the positive stimulation it can generate. In fact, many people suffer from the symptoms of stress because they are under-stimulated and have little pleasure as a result of not using their stress response enough. To live a happy and healthy life you need to activate your stress response and make it work for you so that you can achieve, survive and experience pleasure from stimulation.
The problem with activating the stress response is that, in the process of using it, you generate wear and tear on the body and drain resources. Of course, this is the whole reason why you need to provide resources in the first place – to power the body and keep it in good repair. It is a simple process of having the right equipment and resources to carry out a job, doing that job and then replacing resources when you have finished so that you can then go on and do another job. In terms of the stress response, the body’s balancing agent is relaxation. Your stress response stimulates your body to enable it to act but to keep it in good working order your body needs an opposite response that counter-balances the effects of the stress response. This is the purpose of relaxation.