In the 1950’s stress was a concern for bridge builders.
Today Stress is a $9.4 billion search for stress reduction,
peace and happiness.
You receive a promotion at work.
Your car has a flat tire.
You go to a fun party that lasts till 2:00 a.m.
Your dog gets sick.
Your new bedroom set is being delivered.
Your best friend and his wife come to stay at your house for a week.
You get a bad case of hay fever.
All of the above.
We are all familiar with the word "stress". Stress is when you are worried about getting laid off your job, or worried about having enough money to pay your bills, or worried about your mother when the doctor says she may need an operation. In fact, to most of us, stress is synonymous with worry. If it is something that makes you worry, then it is stress.
Your body, however, has a much broader definition of stress. TO YOUR BODY, STRESS IS SYNONYMOUS WITH CHANGE. Anything that causes a change in your life causes stress. It doesn't matter if it is a "good" change, or a "bad" change, they are both stress. When you find your dream apartment and get ready to move, that is stress. If you break your leg, that is stress. Good or bad, if it is a CHANGE in your life, it is stress as far as your body is concerned.
Even IMAGINED CHANGE is stress. (Imagining changes is what we call "worrying".) If you fear that you will not have enough money to pay your rent, that is stress. If you worry that you may get fired, that is stress. If you think that you may receive a promotion at work, that is also stress (even though this would be a good change). Whether the event is good or bad, imagining changes in your life is stressful.
Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR DAILY ROUTINE is stressful.
Anything that causes CHANGE IN YOUR BODY HEALTH is stressful.
IMAGINED CHANGES are just as stressful as real changes.
In the following table you can look up representative changes in your life and see how much stress value each of these changes is adding to your life. NOTE ANY ITEM THAT YOU MAY HAVE EXPERIENCED IN THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS. Then, total up your score.
(Adapted from the "Social Readjustment Rating Scale" by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. This scale was first published in the "Journal of Psychosomatic Research", Copyright 1967, vol.II p. 214. It is used by permission of Pergamon Press Ltd.)
We have asked you to look at the last twelve months of changes in your life. This may surprise you. It is crucial to understand, however, that a major change in your life has effects that carry over for long periods of time. It is like dropping a rock into a pond. After the initial splash, you will experience ripples of stress. And these ripples may continue in your life for at least a year.
So, if you have experienced total stress within the last twelve months of 250 or greater, even with normal stress tolerance, you may be OVERSTRESSED. Persons with Low Stress Tolerance may be OVERSTRESSED at levels as low as 150.
OVERSTRESS will make you sick. Carrying too heavy a stress load is like running your car engine past the red line; or leaving your toaster stuck in the "on" position; or running a nuclear reactor past maximum permissible power. Sooner or later, something will break, burnup, or melt down.
What breaks depends on where the weak links are in your physical body. And this is largely an inherited characteristic.
STRESS SCALE FOR ADULTS
STRESS EVENT VALUES
1. DEATH OF SPOUSE 100
2. DIVORCE 60
3. MENOPAUSE 60
4. SEPARATION FROM LIVING PARTNER 60
5. JAIL TERM OR PROBATION 60
6. DEATH OF CLOSE FAMILY MEMBER OTHER THAN SPOUSE 60
7. SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR ILLNESS 45
8. MARRIAGE OR ESTABLISHING LIFE PARTNERSHIP 45
9 .FIRED AT WORK 45
10.MARITAL OR RELATIONSHIP RECONCILIATION 40
12.CHANGE IN HEALTH OF IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBER 40
13.WORK MORE THAN 40 HOURS PER WEEK 35
14.PREGNANCY OR CAUSING PREGNANCY 35
15.SEX DIFFICULTIES 35
16.GAIN OF NEW FAMILY MEMBER 35
17.BUSINESS OR WORK ROLE CHANGE 35
18.CHANGE IN FINANCIAL STATE 35
19.DEATH OF A CLOSE FRIEND (not a family member) 30
20.CHANGE IN NUMBER OF ARGUMENTS
WITH SPOUSE OR LIFE PARTNER 30
21.MORTGAGE OR LOAN FOR A MAJOR PURPOSE 25
22.FORECLOSURE OF MORTGAGE OR LOAN 25
23.SLEEP LESS THAN 8 HOURS PER NIGHT 25
24.CHANGE IN RESPONSIBILITIES AT WORK 25
25.TROUBLE WITH IN-LAWS, OR WITH CHILDREN 25
26.OUTSTANDING PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT 25
27.SPOUSE BEGINS OR STOPS WORK 20
28.BEGIN OR END SCHOOL 20
29.CHANGE IN LIVING CONDITIONS (visitors in the home,
change in roommates, remodeling house) 20
30.CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS (diet, exercise,smoking, etc.) 20
31.CHRONIC ALLERGIES 20
32.TROUBLE WITH BOSS 20
33.CHANGE IN WORK HOURS OR CONDITIONS 15
34.MOVING TO NEW RESIDENCE 15
35.PRESENTLY IN PRE-MENSTRUAL PERIOD 15
36.CHANGE IN SCHOOLS 15
37.CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES 15
38.CHANGE IN SOCIAL ACTIVITIES (more or less than before) 15
39.MINOR FINANCIAL LOAN 10
40.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF FAMILY GET-TOGETHERS 10
42.PRESENTLY IN WINTER HOLIDAY SEASON 10
43.MINOR VIOLATION OF THE LAW 5
STRESS SCALE FOR YOUTH
STRESS EVENT VALUES
1. DEATH OF SPOUSE, PARENT, BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND 100
2. DIVORCE (of yourself or your parents) 65
3. PUBERTY 65
4. PREGNANCY (or causing pregnancy) 65
5. MARITAL SEPARATION OR BREAKUP WITH
6. JAIL TERM OR PROBATION 60
7. DEATH OF OTHER FAMILY MEMBER
(other than spouse, parent or boyfriend/girlfriend) 60
8. BROKEN ENGAGEMENT 55
9. ENGAGEMENT 50
10.SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY OR ILLNESS 45
12.ENTERING COLLEGE OR BEGINNING NEXT LEVEL OF SCHOOL
(starting junior high or high school) 45
13.CHANGE IN INDEPENDENCE OR RESPONSIBILITY 45
14.ANY DRUG AND/OR ALCOHOLIC USE 45
15.FIRED AT WORK OR EXPELLED FROM SCHOOL 45
16.CHANGE IN ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE 45
17.RECONCILIATION WITH MATE, FAMILY OR
BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND (getting back together) 40
18.TROUBLE AT SCHOOL 40
19.SERIOUS HEALTH PROBLEM OF A FAMILY MEMBER 40
20.WORKING WHILE ATTENDING SCHOOL 35
21.WORKING MORE THAN 40 HOURS PER WEEK 35
22.CHANGING COURSE OF STUDY 35
23.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF DATING 35
24.SEXUAL ADJUSTMENT PROBLEMS (confusion of sexual
25.GAIN OF NEW FAMILY MEMBER
(new baby born or parent remarries) 35
26.CHANGE IN WORK RESPONSIBILITIES 35
27.CHANGE IN FINANCIAL STATE 30
28.DEATH OF A CLOSE FRIEND (not a family member) 30
29.CHANGE TO A DIFFERENT KIND OF WORK 30
30.CHANGE IN NUMBER OR ARGUMENTS WITH MATE, FAMILY
OR FRIENDS 30
31.SLEEP LESS THAN 8 HOURS PER NIGHT 25
32.TROUBLE WITH IN-LAWS OR BOYFRIEND'S OR
GIRLFRIEND'S FAMILY 25
33.OUTSTANDING PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT
(awards, grades, etc.) 25
34.MATE OR PARENTS START OR STOP WORKING 20
35.BEGIN OR END SCHOOL 20
36.CHANGE IN LIVING CONDITIONS (visitors in the
home, remodeling house, change in roommates) 20
37.CHANGE IN PERSONAL HABITS (start or stop a habit
like smoking or dieting) 20
38.CHRONIC ALLERGIES 20
39.TROUBLE WITH THE BOSS 20
40.CHANGE IN WORK HOURS 15
41.CHANGE IN RESIDENCE 15
42.CHANGE TO A NEW SCHOOL (other than graduation) 10
43.PRESENTLY IN PRE-MENSTRUAL PERIOD 15
44.CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS ACTIVITY 15
45.GOING IN DEBT (you or your family) 10
46.CHANGE IN FREQUENCY OF FAMILY GATHERINGS 10
48.PRESENTLY IN WINTER HOLIDAY SEASON 10
49.MINOR VIOLATION OF THE LAW 5
Ten Ways to Reduce
If you suffer from OVERSTRESS, you have disrupted the function of your Body Clock. Re-setting your Body Clock is vital if you are to feel well, sleep soundly, and awake refreshed. Give yourself a definite wake up and sleep time. This sets a frame of reference for your Body Clock. It will take two or three weeks to synchronize your Body Clock to your schedule. So, stick to your schedule!
But what if I try to go to sleep at 10 p.m. and I can't fall asleep? Or what if I fall asleep but keep waking up during the night?
Sleep difficulty is the hallmark of OVERSTRESS. When your Body Clock stops working, you may have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Or conversely, you may feel sleepy all the time. Either symptom may be produced when the Body Clock stops working. It all depends on which "position" the Clock was in when it stops: wakefulness, or sleepiness.
So, do not expect to have your sleep problems go away until your Body Clock is working again. Go ahead and set yourself a reasonable wake up time and bed time. Do the best you can to stick to these times. As you lower your stress levels, your Body Clock will begin to work. It will then match its cycle ofwakefulness and sleep to the times that you have set for it. Remember, this process will take at least three weeks, so stick firmly to your time schedule.
But what if I put myself to bed at my bed time, and I just lie there without falling asleep?
If, after 45 minutes, you have not fallen asleep, get up and read a book or do something around the house. Sooner or later, you will feel sleepy and fall asleep. Keep putting yourself to bed at your bed time every night. As you reduce your stress levels, your Body Clock will begin working. Your Body Clock will gradually match your chosen sleep schedule. In the meantime, be patient and work to reduce your stress levels as much as possible.
If You Must do "Shift Work":
Your Body Clock will always try and synchronize itself with your daily schedule. If your job requires you to work varying shifts, however, you may have difficulty in getting your Body Clock to match your shift. When properly synchronized, your Body Clock tells you to be awake for your work, and tells you to go to sleep after your work. If you do evening work, your Body Clock will shift itself so that you will be awake for your evening work, and be able to sleep during the day. But this change requires two or three weeks to occur. If your employer rotates your shift more often than every two or three weeks, your Body Clock will always be mis-matched with your work requirements. You will be trying to work when your body wants to sleep, and trying to sleep when your body wants to work. This will make it practically impossible to restore the proper functioning of your Body Clock.
If you are OVERSTRESSED, you should avoid "shift work". If you MUST do "shift work", try and work at least three weeks at each shift before rotating to a new one. And always make sure the direction of shift rotation to is "morning to evening to night to morning again".
Do you remember that the untrained cycle of your body clock is 25 hours? Because of this, it is always easier to stay up later, than to try and force yourself to go to bed early. So never try to rotate shifts from "night to evening to morning". Your Body Clock will blow a fuse.
If Your Work Involves Air Travel to Different Time Zones:
Those of you who do frequent long distance air traveling will be familiar with the condition known as "Jet Lag". Jet Lag occurs when you board an airplane and rapidly move to an area where the local time is more than three to four hours different than the time on your Body Clock. You might, for instance, board a jet in Hawaii and fly to New York. When you arrive in NewYork, it might be midnight New York Time, but only 6 p.m. on your Body Clock.
All you body rhythms: temperature, stress fighting hormone, sleep cycles are now out of synchronization with your local time zone. Now you are trying to go to sleep when your body is still awake, and trying to work when your body expects you to be in bed. It will take two or three weeks for your Body Clock to harmonize with your new surroundings. During that time it is not unusual to be fatigued and to feel "not with it". We call this feeling "Jet Lag".
If you are OVERSTRESSED, you should avoid inter-time zone traveling. But if you MUST change time zones, try to wait at least three weeks between trips. And when you do take that trip, and you arrive in a new time zone, it will be easier for you to adjust if you stay up later, rather than trying to force yourself to sleep when your body wants to be awake.
If You Work Indoors:
Your body Clock requires exposure to daylight during the day in order to remain synchronized with your local time zone. Normal fluorescent lighting does not have the same light spectrum as daylight, hence it will NOT help your Body Clock to properly set itself. If you are a person who arises when it is dark, works indoors all day, and goes home when it is dark, your BodyClock may become out of phase with the world around you - giving you a case of permanent "Jet Lag". Because of this problem, manufacturers of fluorescent lights have begun producing "daylight spectrum" fluorescent lights. These lights will allow your Body Clock to synchronize itself with your work schedule.
If you work indoors, try to work by a window. If you cannot, then see if you can have "daylight spectrum" fluorescent light bulbs installed. It really helps.
As an alternative for people who never seen the sun, one can sit facing 600 watts of daylight spectrum fluorescent lights, three feet in front of you, for one hour. Do this at the time that you wish your Body Clock to learn to wake you up. You may eat breakfast, read a book, or watch television, but the light must be facing you. (Caution is required with light therapy in people with manic depressive disorders, skin that is sensitive to light, or medical conditions that make the eyes vulnerable to light damage - consult physician first.)
Note that persons living in northern climates lacking in sunshine may have the same problem of permanent "Jet Lag". It is so common it has been named "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or "SAD" for short. For these people the above suggestion will be equally helpful.
2. GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK TODAY
You must give your body adequate time to repair itself, and to regenerate Happy Messengers. If you are having symptoms of OVERSTRESS:
Aches and pains
Lack of enjoyment of life
Give your body a chance to heal itself.
Every morning make a list of things that you want to get done...
THEN, CUT OFF THE BOTTOM HALF OF THIS LIST!
3. LIGHTEN UP YOUR LOAD OF SOCIAL ENGAGEMENTS
Let someone else do the holiday dinner for the family, or make it a pot luck on paper plates. Only go out once this week. Tell your visitors from out of town (who always expect to stay at your house) to call you "just as soon as they get settled in a hotel room".
SAY "NO" A LOT MORE OFTEN TO REQUESTS FROM OTHERS OF YOUR TIME.
Remember, CHANGE IS STRESS. So relax, postpone any big moves or changes for awhile.
Postpone remodeling your home or apartment.
Postpone moving to a new house or apartment.
Making a change in your living environment, even if it is a change that you are excited about, is a major stress. It will add a minimum of 25 stress points to your life; and, if it is a financial strain, may add as much as 65 stress points!
When you consider that you would like to reduce your stress level to 150 or below, you will see why postponing a change in your living environment will be very helpful in obtaining that goal.
If you are a "workaholic", or a "school-a-holic", you need to reduce the energy drain you are placing on your body. Work or school more than 40 hours per week adds 40 stress points to your life.
TAKE SOME TIME OFF
People who are OVERSTRESSED almost always begin to use sugar as a Pick-Me-Up. Their blood sugar goes up and down wildly. Thus, the most important dietary consideration is to keep your blood sugar from swinging high, or swinging low. In order to feel well, you must level out your blood sugar, avoiding the"sugar highs", and "sugar lows". Take your sugar in the form of complex carbohydrates, such as cereals, rice, pasta, bread and potatoes. These foods, comprised of tightly interlinked sugars, are broken down slowly by the body, releasing their sugar over a long period of time. Eating frequent small meals, instead of a few large ones, also helps keep your blood sugar stable.
Your brain's production of one of the Happy Messengers, Serotonin, is sensitive to your diet. Eating more vegetables, can increase your brain's Serotonin production. This increase is due to improved absorption of the amino acid L-Tryptophan. (Vegetables contain the natural, safe, form of L Tryptophan. At the present writing, synthetic L-Tryptophan has been removed from health food stores due to probable impurities that were, in some cases, causing severe and even fatal illness). Meats contain natural L-Tryptophan also, but when you eat meat, the L-Tryptophan has to compete with so many other amino acids for absorption that the L-Tryptophan loses out. The net result is that you get better absorption of L-Tryptophan when you eat vegetables.
In other words -- eat a salad for lunch.
You should also take a good multi-vitamin and mineral preparation.
To cut down on your intake of Pick-Me-Up's, remove them from the house, and any other place that is within easy reach. Do not forget to clear your desk drawer at work, and the glove compartment of the car. Even though you want to reduce your sugar, caffeine, or tobacco, just the sight of a cookie can lead you to eat it; just the sight of a soft drink might lead you to drink it -- before you even have a chance to stop yourself.
Allergy is a major source of stress for some of us. If there are certain things that trigger YOUR allergies, you should avoid them.
9. START AN ENJOYABLE EXERCISE - REST YOUR MIND
Begin an exercise that you enjoy, Preferably, do something that brings you into contact with other people. The value of such exercise, three times a week for 20 minutes to two hours, can not be over emphasized. Enjoyable exercise, in moderation, boosts your HAPPY MESSENGERS in a smooth sustained fashion. It will make you feel better right away!
Exercise has another beneficial effect. Most people, when exercising, do not worry. They are actually resting the nerve cells in the brain that worry, giving those cells time to renew their stores of HAPPY MESSENGERS, so they can function normally the next time they are needed.
There are other ways of "resting your mind". Dancing, listening to music, reading, working on a craft, playing a musical instrument, meditation, self relaxation, and biofeedback also relieve stress. Any activity which concentrates your attention on a subject other than life's problems will help rest your mind. This rests the "Problem Solving" part of your brain, allowing it to regenerate HAPPY MESSENGERS and renew itself.
Tranquilizers and calmatives will prevent your body from restoring its Happy Messengers. Unlike Pick-Me-Up's, which can usually be taken in modest amounts without harm, Put-Me-Down's should be avoided altogether.
By reducing your stress load, stabilizing your blood sugar, improving your diet, avoiding allergies, and getting some exercise, you will find you will not want tranquilizers and calmatives.
Before stopping any prescription medicine, however, always, check with your doctor. We do not want you to accidentally stop a heart medicine or anti-epilepsy medication. Also, many of the Put-Me-Down's must be tapered down slowly, rather than stopped abruptly. Ask your doctor before you make any change in medication.
(If someone has given you Put-Me-Down's to help you sleep, particularly the ones in the Valium family, you may have a real problem stopping them. They are best tapered off very slowly, and under medical supervision. Even then, the withdrawal symptoms from these drugs are very unpleasant. The chief withdrawal symptoms is inability to sleep, and vivid disturbing dreams. If you try to stop them on your own, you may experience sleeplessness that is worse than ever! Then you may erroneously conclude that you need more, not less of the Put-Me-Down! It is very easy to be trapped by Put-Me-Down's.)
If you have done all of the preceding and still have significant symptoms of OVERSTRESS:
Aches and pains
Lack of enjoyment of life
THEN IT IS TIME YOU OBTAINED SOME ASSISTANCE...
OVERSTRESS that you can not clear up yourself may be the earliest warning sign of some hidden illness.
Calcium imbalance (too much or too little)
Manic-depression (Bi-polar disorder)
These are examples of physical illnesses that you might not be aware of - but which cause enough stress on your body to create OVERSTRESS.
Your doctor should do a thorough history, and a complete physical examination, including tests on blood and urine. The automated blood testing machines can do a complete blood count, as well as measure your thyroid function, liver enzymes, kidney function, calcium and phosphorus, iron and blood sugar for a very reasonable price.
So, if your symptoms are not getting better with the TEN SIMPLE STEPS -- be sure to see your doctor.