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What is stress?

Stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms that differ for each of us. Many scientists see stress as a reaction to events in our life which cause a reaction in our body. Stress is an emotional physiological reaction which everyone experiences as he or she encounters changes in life. Sudden changes in our environment will cause our body to set up our flight or fight mechanism to protect us from the perceived danger.. They can have positive or negative effects. Stress can make you deal with a situations you may be procrastinating about and therefor force you to take notice of the challenges or impending crisis which may cause conflicts. The negative effects when you allow the issue to become continuos or get you down can cause depression, heart disease or even cancer. When we can’t deal with an issue we unconsciously look for way out of the crisis. Avoid the issue does not make it go away. All it does is delay the consequences.

Time magazine's June 6, 1983 cover story described stress as "The Epidemic of the Eighties" and referred to it as our leading health problem; there can be little doubt that the situation has progressively worsened since then. Recent surveys confirm that adult Americans perceive they are under much more stress than a decade or two ago. A 1996 Prevention magazine survey found that almost 75% feel they have "great stress" one day a week with one out of three indicating they feel this way more than twice a week. In the same 1983 survey only 55% said they felt under great stress on a weekly basis. It has been estimated that 75 - 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress related problems. Job Stress is far and away the leading source of stress for adults but stress levels have also escalated in children, teenagers, college students and the elderly for other reasons, including: increased crime, violence and other threats to personal safety; pernicious peer pressures that lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy life style habits; social isolation and loneliness; the erosion of family and religious values and ties; the loss of other strong sources of social support that are powerful stress busters.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. But when you're unable to cope well with the stress in your life, your mind and body may pay the price.

The stress from today's financial crisis with home repos. the stock market crash, the high level of unemployment, the wars around the world, dishonest on Wall Street and the banks plus the possibility of higher taxes can really add to the stress coming at us.

The physical reaction is to increase our heart rate and begins to dump adrenaline into our blood stream in readiness for the need to act or deal with the stressor. Since our mind interprets all sensory input literally the perceived effect may not always be a synonym for distress. Situations like a steep roller coaster ride that causes fear and anxiety for some can prove highly pleasurable for others. Winning a race or being invited to speak at a conference could cause as much stress as a negative experience. Stress is an unavoidable consequence of life. There are some stresses like the loss of parent, partner, friend or loss of a job or position that you can't control or avoid and others that you can prevent or influence. The trick is in learning how to distinguish between the two so that you're not constantly frustrated like Don Quixote tilting at windmills and devote your time and talent to areas where you can make a difference. Try to follow the advice in Reinhold Niebuhr's, serenity prayer, "Grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I can't change, and the wisdom to know the difference." When we learn to understand and cope with loss we no longer experience grieving over a loss. What IS -- IS it is in the past. There isn’t anything we can do about the past. There is something we can do about our situation in the present. How do we cope with it all?

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