When summer is over, the fall season seems to bring new experiences, self doubts, and pressures that we seem to feel stressed about in varying degrees. Classes are starting and children have new classmates and teachers, homework and a different lifestyle of early mornings and rigid schedules. Parents' demands are increased now, as well, with responsibilities for children and their own schedules which cause pressures and frustrations. There never seems to be enough time to rest or to communicate with family members or friends. It's no wonder that many people are saying that stress seems to have increased in their lives lately.

Actually, stress is neither good nor bad. Everyone needs some stress in their life to help motivate and to increase their efforts. Stress is the emotional and physical wear and tear brought on by too many responsibilities or duties that we can't manage. Most people understand that stress contributes to problems in our minds and bodies. Stress researchers speak of three types of stress related costs - performance, psychological well being and physical health.

Have you ever "gone blank" during an interview or test? Have you ever figured out a way to deal with a problem after the situation is over? Such behavior is common in stressful situations and shows us that stress can have a definite impact on how we perform in daily life. When we're under too much stress our attention narrows. We may miss complex and/or subtle details and think in rigid or over simplified ways. Continued frustrations and lack of being able to cope with problems results in negative emotions, such as feeling depressed, irritable or angry. All of this causes us to work less productively. Stress reduces empathy and co-operation while contributing to complaining, prejudice and aggression.

Recently, there have been many studies focusing on the link between stress and physical health.These studies say that chronic stress contributes to physical "wear and tear" and can alter the proper function of the body's disease fighting immune system. As a result, we become open to a wide variety of illnesses and disease.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about stress statistics and effects is that: people under stress feel threatened and powerless. They feel a gap between what they want and what they can do about it. Getting the facts to help deal with problems involves asking yourself in concrete, specific and realistic terms: "What did I want?" and "What went wrong?" Realizing that a stressful situation is upon us and gathering facts, helps to put matters into a better light. After gathering facts, weigh the pros and cons of each factor of the problem and try to solve it before a loss of concentration occurs.

There are some methods that can prepare us with awareness of the stress response that each of us has and therefore enable us to handle a situation differently. Keeping a diary of stressful situations and what was done about it can help in future similar situations. In the diary, be sure to identify warning signs, critical moments, coping with the problem and the costs and benefits. Try to have a plan for making decisions in which you can solve a small problem before it becomes a large frustration.

Other activities for people who have very active and sometimes inevitable stressful lives can be to exercise, talk to a friend or listen to some calming music. These can help us to focus on more positive and useful events in our lives. A good book could also do wonders to help to escape the stresses of every day life. There are some useful and beneficial stress and relaxation tapes and books which can also help almost anyone to visualize a more serene environment and increase a sense of self.

Coping with the hurried lives that we lead can sometimes seem overwhelming. Trying to practice some relaxation techniques and/or stress reduction for about thirty minutes a day can be a good boost. Sometimes, even a short vacation can help to put our lives into a better perspective and help us to see some of the more positive aspects that our day-to-day lives really do have.

Copyright 1994,1995 Lovina Pivin
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