UNDERSTANDING STRESS AND ANXIETY
From "Transform" A Personal Evolution
Transforming Stress and Anxiety into Strong Personal Power
Understanding the truth about stress and anxiety, gives rise to the ability to “prevent”life stresses from taking over your life. In order to do this, one has to understand how the human brain works.
What happens when you put too much data into your personal computer (our body’s mind/brain equivalent)? There is only so much room for file storage space. The system gets overloaded and its ability to further function is compromised…it “crashes”. What happens when you over work, and do not maintain a machine (an equivalent to our body)? Eventually it breaks down and “crashes” also. The human mind and body system functions in many ways similar to a computer and machine.
The mind/brain is responsible for sending signals to the body, giving it messages about what it needs to do next. A mind/brain system that is overwhelmed will send “over-whelmed signals” to the body. The body acknowledges these “stressed” signals and begins to experience overload (stress).
This appears in the form of increased blood pressure, heart rate and respirations, headaches, back and neck pain, diarrhea, stomach pains, etc. As well, the immune system will become compromised, putting us at greater risk for infections (colds, flu, pneumonia, etc.) or more serious illnesses (diabetes, heart attack, cancer, etc.) The mind/brain response to “stress” is emotional and physiological in nature. Those symptoms include worrying, nervousness, upset, irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, to name a few.
As the degree and amount of stress increases, people begin to experience “anxiety”. Symptoms of anxiety are excessive stress and worry, restlessness, feeling keyed up, being on edge, feeling tense, tired with difficulty sleeping, feeling irritable, angry and upset, difficulty controlling thoughts, forgetfulness, worries about health, not feeling in control/losing control
of life and sometimes, panic attacks. Symptoms of a “panic attack include” a sudden onset of fear, trouble breathing, intense chest pain, palpitations, a sense of loosing control of your body and often the belief that something catastrophic (e.g. heart attack, stroke, death) will happen.
Ongoing unresolved stress, anxiety and panic can lead to “depression”. Symptoms of depression are: feelings of sadness, irritability, loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, changes in weight or appetite, changes in sleep pattern, feelings of guilt, hopelessness, worthlessness, inability to concentrate or remember things or make decisions, fatigue, loss of energy, restlessness, decreased activity, complaints of aches and pains, for which there is no medical explanation, and thoughts of death or suicide.
We often can not change or control the source of our stresses (the boss, the demands of our job, busy family household with complicated life routines etc.) but we can learn to manage our thinking and mental processing of these issues and learn new healthier ways to live our lives that will allow us to better deal with life’s stressful situations. This is the key to prevention. By doing this I can guarantee you will improve the quality of your life as well as reduce the stress, anxiety, panic and depression in your life, as well as significantly influence positive changes with your family, friends, and work.
The following information has been reprinted from a Wyeth-Ayerst patient information brochure, April 2000.
1. What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a normal reaction to a stressful or dangerous situation. When confronted with an alarming situation, the body reacts causing the heart to beat faster, the palms to get sweaty and the mind to race. Normal anxiety is actually helpful in many of the situations we face daily. For instance, getting out of the way of a car, completing projects on time, etc.
2. How do I distinguish bad anxiety from normal anxiety?
The key to understanding anxiety is to build upon the answers to the above question and understand that anxiety is not a defect. People who lack the ability to fear would probably suffer many injuries. Conversely, people who experience fear and anxiety in the he absence of danger also suffer. Anxiety is considered abnormal when it is so severe that it disrupts your work, causes you to avoid certain situations or interferes with your enjoyment of life. This overwhelming sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason or excessive worry is considered an anxiety disorder. Interestingly, many people know when their response is excessive but they find it hard to talk about and control it.
3. How does anxiety present in the real world?
Anxiety presents in many different ways and that is why it is often missed as a diagnosis. Even though it is seen as a mental health diagnosis, anxiety is a very physical disease process. It can present as chest pain, nausea or shortness of breath. Of course, it can present in the typical way that we all feel "nerves" (e.g. feeling keyed up all the time, unable to relax) but different in that there is a lot of it and sometimes you feel you can't control it. Understandable, people with anxiety have a tendency to self-diagnose or catastrophe their symptoms. They often assume the worst (i.e., cancer, heart attack). Symptoms of anxiety often incur chest pain, headaches, stomach pain, palpitations, fatigue, which are secondary to physical symptoms of anxiety.
4. How does anxiety physically reveal itself in daily life?
Anxiety is viewed as a mental disorder but in fact it is a very physical disease. Anxiety in the brain brings on a whole series of "fight or flight" physical reactions. For example, physical systems of anxiety can range from pounding heart, nausea and sudden bathroom visits (diarrhea or urination), feeling dizzy or faint to chest pain and difficulty breathing.
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