We are all familiar with the word 'stress' and know that when we are worried, anxious, frightened, or depressed, we feel "stressed out."

Positive and negative stress
Stress or emotional tension is a normal part of life, but over time, too much stress can affect our physical and mental health. Stress is the body's response to change. Also, a situation that causes stress for one person may not cause stress for another person. But not all stress is bad.

There is a type of stress that is positive, that is to say stress that functions as a motivation to engage in different activities in our lives, for example, having to get up early to go to work, take children to school, or to study in order to be able to pass exams.

Negative stress is that which instead of helping us to follow through with our activities, prevents us from doing so adequately and affects our physical and emotional health.

How does our body react to stress?
Your body reacts to all types of stress, both positive and negative, by trying to return to a normal state. Depending upon the cause of the stress (event or situation which causes stress), hormone levels, for example adrenalin, may increase. Heart rate and blood pressure will probably rise as well. Blood sugar will increase.

What situations cause stress?
Some of the situations that generally increase stress levels in all of us follow:

  • The death of a partner or a family member
  • Separation or divorce
  • Being put in jail
  • Sickness
  • Marriage
  • Unemployment
  • Reconciliation with your partner
  • Retirement
  • Working less than 40 hours per week
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual problems
  • Arrival of a new family member
  • Debts
  • A new job
  • A change of residence

How to know if you are stressed out.

You may experience fatigue; aches or pains in the head, neck and back; crying; depression; feelings of anger; feelings of fear and isolation; unhappiness; frequent anxiety and nervousness; and you may develop ulcers, abdominal pains, diarrhea, colitis, gastritis, high blood pressure, irregular palpitations, rashes; and low resistance to infection. There are many ways in which your body can react when it is submitted to high levels of stress.

How can one control stress?

Although one cannot always control that which causes stress in each person, one can control his/her reaction to it. The way a person feels about certain things is a result of the way in which that person perceives those situations. If one modifies his/her way of thinking, it changes the way in which one feels.

Some recommendations you can apply in your daily life are:

  • If possible, reduce the number of working hours.
  • Relax during the day for short periods and sleep well at night.
  • Develop a routine to accomplish your activities.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid coffee, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Exercise daily.
  • Reduce your social activities.
  • Participate in relaxation activties or learn relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, meditation, yoga, tai-chi, positive thinking, massage, hearty laughter, caressing and embracing the people you love, and listening to relaxing music.
  • Talk to someone, such as a family member, a priest or minister, a counselor, or a doctor.
  • Try to anticipate stressful situations, such as driving during rush hour, and avoid them if you can.
  • Think about your problems and try to arrive at reasonable solutions.
  • Be positive and avoid being negative in your reaction to stressful situations.
  • Learn to say no and don't make too many promises.