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By Seema Tunio, Isra University, 

Aug 21 - 27, 2000


Everybody is prone to stress in this complex set of milieu. Unemployment, economic conditions, ethnic and religious discriminations, pollution, high crime rate, traffic conditions, and threat of war, adds to the already burden human with his personal and work related problems.

Stress is recognized as one of the major factors affecting health nowadays. Every human being has wonderful inborn system to cope with stress. Level of stress each human being can take is different. Some people seem to be able to thrive on it, yet for others the pressure can become too much. Sometimes just because of the poor stress management a person can lead to depression, which is the cause of most diseases. So if the stress is not properly managed it affects both mental and physical health. Suicides, mental ill health, drug-abuse, alcoholism, frustration, are on increase. It is a very scary fact that 75% of the depressed people commit suicide. Some other facts reveal that the cost of stress is very high to individuals, employers, and the government in terms of mental illnesses and financial costs, like sickness, accidents, absenteeism and non-measurable costs like slow / poor performance, bad decision-making, and conflicts in interpersonal relationship.

Severe stress is related to some basic reasons like death of some one very close, breaking of relationship, sickness of loved ones, failure in a specific task. So we are saying that if stress prolongs, it can cause serious damages to human personality and can also lead to several major diseases like heart attack, depression and ulcers. Reason could be anything which cause stress but proper steps should be taken to prevent it.

What is stress?

The word stress is derived from the Latin word 'stringere' which means hardship. Word stress has negative connotation for many of us and is considered a synonym for worry but this is completely not true. Stress is anything, which brings change in our life. It doesn't matter if it is a good change or a bad change. Stress is normal part of life. If fact some part of stress will do no harm and is actually essential for motivation and personal development. It is simply a reaction to situations or events or people.

Brain cells communicate with each other by means of chemical messengers. When a person is exposed to too much stress, chemical communication is stifled and results in depression, pains and sleep disturbances. It is the experience of unpleasant over or under stimulation, which actually or potentially leads to ill health. This condition is called overstress.

We have inherited fight or flight response from primitive man. When we are stressed either we can face the danger or run away from it. Our body prepares us to cope with the life-threatening situation. This response starts in the part of the body called hypothalamus. When we face beast or our major examination is coming up our heart starts pumping faster and our breathing accelerates to take in the extra oxygen we need to fight or flight.

Any stressful event or activity causes a physiological response in our body. There are two branches within the central nervous system, which affect the response to stress: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system:

When we perceive a threat or a challenge, the sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is often referred to as the "fight or flight" mechanism"

The brain receives a message about the situation, which activates the pituitary glands.

The parasympathetic nervous system:

The general well being of the body rest, relaxation, food, the digestive system and tissue repair system is governed by the parasympathetic nervous system. Unlike the sympathetic nervous system is nor self activated. Hence must switch it on. Hence you need deep breathing, positive thinking and relaxation.

Causes of stress

Most people are exposed to too much higher stress than they realize. It is important to recognize the potential stress that goes along with any change. Emotional stress is caused by arguments, disagreements, and conflicts cause changes in your personal life that is stress. Any change in the body like major injury, infection, sore throat can cause stress. Working more than usual also one cause of stress. Environmental factors like very cold climates and very hot temperatures can be stressful. Hormonal changes in the body like reaching at puberty, premenstrual syndrome, post-partum and menopause also leads to stress.

First of all one has to find out what is bugging him/her to in order to remove the stress. There could be one basic reason or many reasons, which might be affecting the individual.


Most of the stresses are self-induced. People form their own image of themselves in their minds. Their perception about self worth, self esteem, self-confidence affects the real in them. We might be asking too much from ourselves that we should be always perfect. Over or underestimating one's abilities and worrying too much about the financial resources are some of the common reasons, which lead to a stressful life.


Stress may be due to lack of respect or demands for perfection from the social circle, or lack of autonomy in making decisions.


The work related stress could be due to reasons like all the people who come in contact with us during work hours our supervisors, co-workers, and our subordinates. The deadlines set by us; our career goals; and our role at the job if it is not clear; that cut-throat competition which always keeps us on toes are some other reasons which induce us to lead a stressful life. The structure of the organization if it is too small to grow or very large organizations to make us feel insignificant can also be stressful situations.


Civil unrest, commuting, lack of space and government policies affecting unemployment, taxation, natural disasters, and some other reasons which can spark stress.

Symptoms of stress

If we have any of the following symptoms we might be under stress.

Physical disorders

Aches: headaches, body aches, muscle tension

Gastrointestinal tract: diseases like ulcer, cramps, and irritable bowel

Cardiovascular disease: like high blood pressure, heart attack, abnormal heart beat and strokes

Skin: itchy skin rashes

Immune system: decreased resistance to infections

Emotional disorders

*Depression, anxiety, sleep problems, feeling like crying, fatigue, and pains

*Anger and irritability

*Resentment, cynicism

Behavioural disorders

*Increased smoking/ alcoholism

*Withdrawal from others




Thinking disorder

*Problems in concentrating

*Lost self-confidence


*Poor memory

Coping with stress

Stress is more than headaches, depression, and physical disorders so there should be much more to managing stress than only learning to relax. Too little stress and we aren't motivated and too much stress and our body starts complaining. So stress management is to find a balance in these two extremes and finding a level of stress with which we are comfortable. Stress Management is about balancing demands placed on us and our ability to cope with it.

Avoiding the stressful situation

Avoiding the particular stressors the people, the job and the situation is a another simple way to reduce our stress.

*If somebody's behaviour is irritating you avoid contacting him/her.

*If your job is stressful ask for job-rotation or look for another job.

*If commuting is problem for you, use some other mode of transportation .

Change your Thinking Patterns:

Everybody has a unique way of looking at the world. A situation is stressful if we consider it as so. Most of the times stress reaction is something, which we create ourselves. It is perception of events, rather than the events themselves. Believing that it is the events are responsible, keeps us in the role of victim. Only we are responsible for our reactions.

Changing your perceptions

Always think positively about yourself and the events. Change your negative image about yourself to a positive one. Know your self-worth. You are a child of nature with lots of good qualities in you. Avoid negative thinking because it causes stress and shatters your self-confidence.

Identify your unrealistic beliefs

A belief like you have to be perfect in whatever you do is unrealistic belief. Make sure that you learn from mistakes rather than blaming yourself all the time. Do not demand too much from yourself. Know the limits of ability. Set realistic standards for yourself.

Don't be a Ye man

Learn to say no in an assertive yet and polite manner. Sometimes people tend to prone to stress because they have overburdened themselves with other people responsibilities.

Changing your activities

Re-organize your home or work environment to reduce stress.


Relaxing is not synonymous with sleeping. Even some sleep itself is not refreshing. If you have sleep problems, you can use the following techniques before going to bed: Take a warm bath, a glass of milk, a short walk, do not argue, watch a funny, light hearted or soothing TV, not news programs or horror movies. Set a routine sleeping time and avoid napping during the day.


Maintain a balanced diet. Include lots of vegetables, fresh fruits, grains and meats. If you think these are not sufficient take some nutritional supplements. Cut down caffeine, alcohol or heavy meals.

Drink at least eight glasses of water to flush out toxins from your body.


Every body can meditate. Meditation can be as simple as deep breathing and yoga and Tai-Chi to relax your body and mind.


A regular brisk walk can help a lot. Simple exercises are a healthy and effective way to manage stress, build your stamina, and make you more energetic for the day.


Laughter is the best medicine so laugh out your stress with others. It will eliminate your gloomy thoughts. Even there is science to stress-reducing impact of laughter called "psychoeuroimmunoly". It says that laughter can boost immune system and its functioning.


Take up a refreshing hobby like gardening, watching a movie, and reading a book.


Learn some messaging techniques to help relieve your stress. It also helps in your increasing your blood circulation and reducing your muscle tension.


A pure essence of aromatic flowers and plants is a natural yet effective way to relax your physical and emotional state.

Emotional expression

*Expressing your feeling verbally

Express your feelings with a friend you feel comfortable sharing with. Sharing your feeling not only helps you to get things off your chest but also builds a lasting relationship.


Catharsis is redirecting your anger on an object. Punching a pillow or cushion, cracking up old and worn out crockery and shouting when nobody is around. Another effective way to reduce stress is to buy a hand gripper and squeeze it when you are tense.

Creative emotional expression

Write a poem, article, paint or draw to express yourself in the best possible manner.

Concluding remarks

Stress management topic covers the general information for the people leading stressful life without knowing that they are under stress. If we have strong will power the above mentioned stress management techniques are very simple easy to use, but these are not the substitute for doctor's advice. See your doctor if you are suffering from severe depression, anxiety and other mentioned symptoms.