Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Changes and demands in your life can result in stress, which is the physical, mental, and emotional reactions you experience. The changes can be both large and small, and each person will respond to life's changes somewhat differently. Some people are more susceptible than others to stressful situations. Positive stress can be a motivator, while negative stress occurs when these changes and demands are overwhelming to you. Stress can affect any body system and aggravate any chronic disease.
Frequent Signs and Symptoms
- Physical symptoms include muscle tension, headache, chest pain, upset stomach, diarrhea or constipation, racing heartbeat, cold clammy hands, fatigue, profuse sweating, rashes, rapid breathing, shaking, tics, jumpiness, poor or excessive appetite, weakness, tiredness, and dizziness.
- Emotional reactions include anger, low self-esteem, depression, apathy, irritability, fear and phobic responses, difficulty concentrating, guilt, worry, agitation, anxiety, and panic.
- Behavioral reactions may cause alcohol or drug abuse, an increase in smoking, sleep disorders, overeating, memory loss, or confusion.
In a stressful situation, the body responds by increasing the production of certain hormones causing changes in the heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism and physical activity.
Risk Increases With
- Recent death of a loved one (spouse, child, friend)
- Loss of anything valuable to you
- Injuries or severe illnesses
- Getting fired or changing jobs
- Recent move to a new city or state
- Sexual difficulties between you and your partner
- Business or financial reverses, or taking on a large debt, such as purchasing a new home
- Regular conflict between you and a spouse or Family member, dose friend or business associate
- Constant fatigue brought about by inadequate rest, sleep or recreation
- Demands on your time and energy levels by other Family members leaving little time for self-care
- To help prevent negative stress, try to take charge of those aspects of your life that you can manage.
- Since stress cannot always be prevented, learn coping techniques to protect your mental and physical health. Educate yourself about stress, its causes, effects and self-treatment techniques.
Usually resolved with time, self-treatment or professional therapy.
Chronic stress can play a role in many health problems including accidents, arthritis, asthma, cancer, colds, colitis, diabetes mellitus, endocrine disorders, fatigue, headaches, backaches, digestive problems, skin disorders, heart disease, high blood pressure,insomnia, muscle aches, sexual dysfunction, and ulcers.
Treatment/Post Procedure Care
Diagnosis is usually by your own or others' observation of symptoms. Sometimes medical tests may be necessary to rule out medical disorders that could be the cause of the symptoms. Patients often don't recognize that they are stressed.
Psychotherapy or counseling may be recommended. Here are some tips to help reduce stress:
- Learn a meditation or relaxation technique and practice it regularly, daily if possible. There are a variety of methods available.
- Rearrange daily schedules to make them less stressful.
- If possible, get help with physical responsibilities and decrease the burden of other responsibilities where you can. Determine what is important and necessary to get done and what can be postponed, left undone or passed on to others.
- Take a short time away from any stressful situation you encounter during a day.
- Learn and practice a muscle tensing and muscle-relaxing technique. Take warm relaxing baths.
- Make lists of what needs to be done each day and then cross the items off as they are completed; this will bring a feeling of accomplishment.
- Take time for some form of enjoyable recreation for yourself.
- Try to increase self-esteem by finding ways to validate your worth and having your needs taken seriously.
- Avoid taking your problems home or to bed with you. At the end of the day, spend a few minutes reviewing your entire day's experiences, event by event, as if you're replaying a tape. Release all negative emotions you have harbored (anger, feelings of insecurity- or anxiety). Relish all good energy or emotion (loving thoughts, praise, feeling good about your work or yourself. Reach a decision about unfinished events, and release mental or muscular tension. Now you're ready for a relaxing and emotionally healing sleep.
- Join a support group in your community.
Is usually not necessary for treatment of stress. If symptoms are severe, medication may be recommended.
Adopt an exercise program. People in good physical condition are less likely to suffer the negative effects of stress. Adopt an exercise program. People in good physical condition are less likely to suffer the negative effects of stress.
Notify your healthcare provider if:
You or a Family member is concerned about stress.
Health Tips from Army Medicine