Stress is the number one health problem in the USA and has been said to be responsible for more than 90% of visits to the doctor. Stress is the reaction to changes, pressures, and events in life. It is the difference between what one hopes and prepares for, and what one actually gets. Stress can be positive, such as coming to UA, getting married, getting a great job. It can also be negative, such as a failing grade, financial concerns, or relationship problems.
Some stress keeps one motivated and challenged. But too much stress may leave a person feeling edgy, tense, anxious or fatigued. On the other hand, too little stress can feel boring and unproductive. The balance is somewhere in between when there’s just enough stress to challenge, but not enough to cause distress.
Stress is not simply what happens, it is also caused by one’s perceptions of the stressful event. What one thinks about what happens, and what one tells oneself may determine how the stressor is perceived. Even if many people agree that an event is distressing, each person will respond differently, both physiologically and psychologically.
Learning how to prevent stress from becoming overwhelming, and how to respond to unexpected stressors is as important as any class.
How Do I Know There’s a Problem?
When you see your friend experiencing several of these symptoms persistently, it’s time to see if more help is needed:
Signs and symptoms of stress:
- Anger and irritability
- Jaw tension
- Neck aches
- Withdrawing from others
- Stomach aches
- Back aches
- Feeling out of control
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling bored about lots of things
- Irregular periods
- Problems making decisions
- Weight loss or gain
- Tendency to misjudge people
- Cold hands
- Change in appearance
- Cold sores
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Muscle cramps
- Feeling powerless
- Alcohol or drug use/abuse
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feeling persecuted
- Change in social habits
- Inability to trust
What To Do
If you notice your friend is having some of these symptoms, some of the following suggestions may be helpful.
- Ask if your friend is feeling stressed
- Listen carefully without giving advice
- Reflect and paraphrase what your friend has told you to be sure you understand. While talking, the person also has a chance to sort things out.
- Ask how your friend is coping
- Share information with your friend about stress
- If the person is using negative coping skills, such as drinking, taking drugs or engaging in other compulsive behaviors, suggest a visit to a CAPS counselor.
The Relaxation Response
Herbert Benson. New York: Avon Books (1975)
Mending the Mind
Joan Borysenko New York: Bantam Books (1988)
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Mihaly Czkszentmihalyi, New York: Harper & Row (1990)
Daniel Goleman New York: Bantam Books (1995)
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers
Robert M Sapolsky USA: W.H. Freeman (1994)
Q:Does a person have to have all these symptoms to be stressed?
A:Not necessarily, but even one or two symptoms may be troublesome and can in themselves cause more stress.