Dec 27, 2010 - Jan 2, 2011

Stress is a feeling that is created when one reacts to a particular event. It is the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness. The events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover a whole range of situations everything from outright physical danger to making a class presentation or taking a semester's worth of the toughest subject. Stress is simply a fact of nature -- forces from the outside world affecting the individual. The individual responds to stress in ways that affect the individual as well as their environment. Hence, all living creatures are in a constant interchange with their surroundings, both physically and behaviorally.

In general, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include the physical environment, including job, relationships with others, home, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations one is confronted with on a daily basis. Internal factors determine body's ability to respond to, and deal with the external stress-inducing factors.

Stress affects people in all age group and from all walks of life. While adults may be at risk of greater exposure to stress like stress from work, family, relationship, sex etc. teenagers and kids may also experience stress from school, family and friends.

Women who work full-time and have children under the age of 13 report the greatest stress worldwide. Nearly one in four mothers who work full-time and have children under 13 feel stress almost every day. Globally, 23 per cent of women executives and professionals, and 19 per cent of their male peers, say they feel "super-stressed".

The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Blood vessels open wider to let more blood flow to large muscle groups, putting muscles on alert. The liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase the body's energy. And, sweats are produced to cool the body. All of these physical changes prepare a person to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment. This natural reaction is known as the stress response. Working properly, the body's stress response enhances a person's ability to perform well under pressure. But, the stress response can also cause problems when it overreacts or fails to turn off and reset itself properly. Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-level stress that's hard on people. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body's reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body's immune system, and cause other problems.

Everyone reacts to stress differently. However, there are some common symptoms to look out for. People who are chronically stressed may have: periods of irritability or anger, apathy or depression, constant anxiety, irrational behavior, mood swings and be oversensitive, loss of appetite, a tendency to comfort eat, an inability to concentrate or make decisions, loss of sex drive, an increased likelihood of smoking, drinking, or taking recreational drugs .

There can also be physical effects, which may include excessive tiredness, sleep problems, frequents colds and infections, duodenal ulcers, irritable colon, high blood pressure, angina, skin problems, such as eczema, aches and pains from tense muscles, including neck ache, backache and tension headaches, increased pain from arthritis and other conditions, feeling sick and dizzy, stomach problems including constipation, diarrhea or ulcers, for women, missed periods.

In times of extreme stress, people may tremble, hyperventilate (breathe faster and deeper than normal) or even vomit. For people with asthma, stress can trigger an asthma attack. Stress can temporarily weaken the immune system. Over time, the chemicals that are released during times of stress and the changes they produce in the body can seriously damage the health. In the long-term, this may increase risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Chronic (long-term) stress can also contribute to anxiety and depression. Many things can lead to stress. These include: pressure to perform at work or school, money worries, family and relationship problems, arguments, divorce, bereavement, unemployment, moving house, threats of physical violence. It's important to differentiate between temporary stress that one knows will go away when a situation is resolved, and long-term or chronic stress. Most people can cope with short periods of stress. Chronic (continuous) stress is much harder to deal with, and can be psychologically, emotionally damaging.

A report shows how the stressful events affect one's life activities. The following social-readjustment scale has been used for 25 years to help people rate how much stress they are experiencing in their lives. Add up the numbers listed for the events one has experienced in a year. If the score is more than 200, then there is 50 per cent chance of becoming seriously ill from stress and a score of 300 or more raises the chances of illness to 80 per cent.

List of Event Points List of Event Points
Death of spouse 100 Loan 30
Marital separation 65 Change in work responsibility 29
Jail term 63 Son or daughter leaving home 29
Death of close family member 63 Trouble with in-laws 29
Personal injury or illness 53 Personal achievement 28
Marriage 50 Spouse begins or stops work 26
Marital reconciliation 45 Begin or end school 26
Retirement 45 Change in living conditions 25
Change in health of relation 44 change in personal habits 24
Pregnancy 40 Trouble with boss 23
Sex difficulties 39 Change in work hours 20
Having a baby 39 Change in residence 20
Business readjustment 39 Change in schools 20
Change in financial state 38 Change in church activities 19
Death of a close friend 37 Change in recreation 19
Change in line of work 36 Change in social activities 18
Argument with spouse 35 Change in sleeping habits 13
Mortgage income 31 Minor violation of law 13

The observance of moral value is the main item in the stress reduction. These include: truthfulness, faithfulness, chastity, modesty, bravery, generosity, faithfulness of trusts (obligations, payments etc.), etiquette, greeting others, Displaying kindness to the parents, spouse and relatives is an extraordinary message for avoiding stress. For a married person a good spouse is model for reducing all types of stresses. The Holy Quran says: Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has made one of them to excel the other and because they spend to support them from their means. Therefore righteous women are devoted to Allah and to their husbands, and guard in the husband absence what Allah orders them to guard (their chastity, their husband property). (Surah An-Nisa-4, Verse no.34).

An organised lifestyle is great stress reducer. It's important to make time for exercise. Exercise helps to use up the stress hormones that cause one's symptoms, giving one a sense of wellbeing and helping the muscles to relax. Even a brisk walk for 30 minutes every a day can help. Another good way to tackle stress is to talk to friends or family - sharing worries can help to look at how react to stress in a new light.