Topic of the Month
There are many different definitions of stress.
One of the most useful definitions of stress is as follows: Stress
is an internal process that occurs when a person is faced with a
demand that is perceived to exceed the resources available to
effectively respond to it, and where failure to effectively deal
with the demand has important undesirable consequences. In other
words, stress is experienced when there is an awareness of a
substantial imbalance between demand and capability, under
conditions where failure to meet the demand is perceived to have
Perception and awareness of the imbalance
between demand and capability and the negative consequences of not
meeting the demand is needed in order for the person to experience
stress. The perception does not have to be accurate, however. A
false belief can cause significant stress.
Stressors are the events and thoughts that lead the person to
perceive that a threatening demand is being made. Strain is the
negative effect of stress. Strain may appear as fatigue,
irritability, difficulty concentrating, medical and physical
problems, insomnia, depression, anxiety, over eating, drug and
alcohol abuse, risk taking, or diminished functioning, to name a
few of the possibilities.
Stress can be positive and negative. On the positive side it
alerts us to a threat and increases our level of arousal and
activation which can help us be more effective in coping with the
threat. It is mismanaged stress or an over-abundance of stress
which causes strain and can be devastating for the person or the
There is no absolute right way to manage
stress. The best approach is to assess the specific situation,
tailor the method to the particulars of the situation, and then
monitor its effectiveness. Stress management is directed at one or
more of the five interacting components involved in the stress
process: 1) demand, 2) awareness, 3) arousal, 4) capability, and
5) the negative consequences.
Here are some examples:
Identify and lessen the demands or increase
capability by setting limits, i.e. saying "no", and by not taking
on additional responsibilities before the existing ones are met or
under control. Get more time or get extra help, or increase your
effectiveness by utilizing better tools or by acquiring additional
Awareness, perception or the cognitive
component, is likely the most important aspect. We need to be
aware of all of the relevant issues concerning the demands, our
capabilities, resources, and the potential consequences. We need
to see these things accurately and clearly and plan accordingly.
Our beliefs will determine how we handle the issues and how we
feel. We could cause ourselves unnecessary stress by having false
beliefs, or by being catastrophic in our thinking and believing
something is awful or terrible when it is only difficult or
unpleasant. We could also put ourselves in danger by having false
beliefs, by using denial and avoidance and by not being aware of
or perceiving a real threat.
Do something to reduce the arousal and tension
and lower the level of activation. Take a break and stop thinking
about the demands and consequences, relax and refocus on pleasant
events. Work off the extra tension by exercising or participating
in recreation and play. Get a massage, or take a vacation. The use
of chemical and drugs should be avoided or used only as a
temporary last resort, because something needs to be changed not
just tolerated. Herbal supplements are safe and effective.
Eliminate or lessen the effect of the negative
consequences by preparing for them, changing the circumstances, or
changing your thinking. Examples include putting money in an
emergency savings account, buying insurance, changing jobs, crime
prevention, earthquake preparedness, accepting what can't be
changed and refocusing your thinking and energy into the what can
be done to overcome the negative and make things better.
Professional treatment can help minimize or eliminate any physical
or psychological problems that have developed because of the
Everyone experiences stress and is vulnerable
to it. We do not, however, have to be helpless victims to it. We
can manage it, reduce and control it, and can minimize or prevent
the negative consequences.
Stress can be Harmful to Your Health
Inappropriately handled stress can be
devastating. It lowers our resistance and makes us more vulnerable
to illness and disease. The increased inner pressure can cause our
health to deteriorate resulting in a variety of serious physical
problems. Stress victims can become emotional cripples and
physiologically old and run down long before their time. Stress
can cause a loss of not only health, but also loss of jobs, loss
of families, even loss of life.
Stress can be Harmful to Others
People under stress also make more mistakes,
and these mistakes can cause others to be secondary victims to
someone else’s stress. I would not want to have surgery by a
stressed surgeon or be cared for by a stressed nursing staff. Nor
would I want to be a passenger on a plane maintained by a stressed
maintenance crew or flown by a stressed pilot.
Common Symptoms of Stress
The body and the mind react to any stress factor. A large number
of physical changes take place when a person is under stress. The
brain and nervous system become intensely active, the pupils of
the eye dilate, digestion slows down, muscles become tense, the
heart starts pumping blood harder and faster, blood pressure
increases, breathing becomes faster, hormones such as adrenaline
are released into the system along with glucose from the liver,
and sweating starts. All these changes take place in a split
second under the direction of the nervous system. If the stress
factors are removed immediately, no harm occurs and all the
changes are reversed. Stress in its earlier and reversible stage
leads to poor sleep, bad temper, continual grumbling, domestic
conflict, repeated minor sickness, accident proneness, a feeling
of frustration, and increase in alcoholic intake.
Stress may be caused by variety of factors both outside the body
and within. External factors include loud noises, blinding lights,
extreme heat or cold, X Rays and other forms of radiation, drugs,
chemicals, bacterial and various toxic substances, pain and
inadequate nutrition. The factors from within the body include
hate, envy, fear or jealousy.
Herbs that are useful in Stress:
Ashwagandha (Whithania somnifera):
has many significant benefits, but is best known for its powerful
adaptogenic properties, meaning that it helps mind and body adapt
better to stress. It nourishes the nerves and improves nerve
function to help you maintain calm during stressful situations. It
is also good for people who do physical labor or exercise a lot,
to help the body adapt to physical stress. It nourishes all the
bodily tissues (Dhatus), including the joints and nerves.
It is also a powerful Madhya Rasayana, which means that it
enhances all three aspects of mind power (Dhi -- comprehension;
Dhriti -- memory; and Smriti -- recollection).
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi):
Jatamansi is nervine, tonic, sedative to the spinal cord,
appetiser, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant and
vermifuge. It is useful in stress, high blood pressure, diabetes
insipidus, digestive and respiratory disorders, heart
palpitations, cardio vascular disorders, dysmenorrhoea, cough,
cold, bronchitis, jaundice, constipation, flatulence, parasites
(especially thread worms), general debility, impotency, poisoning
and liver disorders.
It is a prominent and very effective herb for psychological,
nervous and convulsive disorders. It is very nourishing and
strengthening to the nervous system and the mind.
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri):
is nervine, rasayana, alterative, febrifuge and cardiac tonic. It
is considered one of the best rejuvenatives for the brain,
strenghtening the nerves and brain cells. It is excellent for
promoting strength of memory and mental faculties. The leaves and
whole plant are used in various nervine and psychological
disorders. They are also useful for students or those who engage
in mental activities. Taken as a milk decoction brahmi is an
excellent tonic for the nerves.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum):
leaves of holy basil have been found beneficial in treatment of
stress. They are regarded as an anti-stress agent. Recent studies
have shown that the leaves protect against stress significantly.
It has been suggested that even healthy persons should chew twelve
basil leaves twice a day, in morning and evening, for preventing
Sage (Salvia officinalis):
herb sage is considered valuable in stress. A tea prepared from
the leaves of this plant should be given in the treatment of this
condition. This tea is prepared by pouring a cup of boiling water
over one teaspoon of dried sage leaves. The water should be
covered and infused for several minutes. It should then be
strained and sweetened with honey, if desired. In the case of
fresh leaves, a tablespoon of coarsely chopped sage leaves should
be used and tea prepared in the same way.
Dietary considerations and Lifestyle:
In dealing with stress, the lifestyle of the
patient needs a complete overhaul. He should be placed in an
optimum diet, and be encouraged to take regular exercise and
adequate rest. If this is done, many diseases caused by stress can
be eliminated. Diet plays an important role in the prevention and
healing of stress included diseases.
Foods to eat:
Whole grains promote the production of the brain neurotransmitter
serotonin, which increases your sense of well-being. Green,
yellow, and orange vegetables are all rich in minerals, vitamins,
and phyto-chemicals, which boost immune response and protect
There are many foods, which help in meeting the demands of stress
and should be taken regularly by the patients. These include
yoghurt, blackstrap molasses, seeds and sprouts. Yoghurt is rich
in vitamins A, D, and the B complex group. Seeds such as alfalfa,
sunflower, pumpkins and sprouts are rich in calcium and quite
effective as deterrents of listlessness and anxiety.
Foods to avoid:
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate,
Coke, etc. It causes the release of adrenaline, thus increasing
the level of stress. Many people use cigarettes as a coping
mechanism. In the short term, smoking seems to relieve stress. But
in the long term smoking is very harmful. Its disadvantages far
outweigh its short-term benefits. Sugar has no essential
nutrients. It provides a short-term boost of energy through the
body, resulting possibly in the exhaustion of the adrenal glands.
This can result in irritability, poor concentration, and
depression. Salt increases the blood pressure, deplete adrenal
glands, and causes emotional instability. Use a salt substitute
that has potassium rather than sodium. Avoid junk foods high in
salt such as bacon, ham, pickles, sausage, etc. Reduce animal
foods. High-protein foods elevate brain levels of dopamine and
norepinephrine, both of which are associated with higher levels of
anxiety and stress.
Regular light physical exercises and Yoga plays
an important role to fight stress. It not only keeps the body
physically and mentally fit, but also provides recreation and
mental relaxation. Recreation and rest are also important. The
patient should set a definite time for recreational activities,
and should take a holiday at regular intervals. Above all he
should simplify his lifestyle to eliminate unnecessary stress.
Yoga exercises to relief stress:
Ayurvedic Supplements :