Thursday, May 16, 2013

Are You (Eu) Stressed Out?

The word stress today used to describe a variety of situations from crying children, a change of jobs, or being burdened with debt.

But stress is more than just a temporary emotional state. Being stressed over the long haul and result in serious health problems, and in extreme cases, even death.

Recently, I was reminded of the human ability to use mind over matter in overcoming difficult situations. A married couple sat before me with the usual pile of debt and the guilt and responsibility feelings that often accompany the situation. His 42nd birthday looming in a few days, little put away for retirement, this gentleman and his wife intently to a possible solution, and chose to view the situation in a positive light, stating exuberantly,” We feel like we're finally getting things together in our lives. What a great birthday present.” They may just have easily taken a more negative position, but it just wasn't their style.

In August of 1967, the Journal of Psychosomatic Research, volume 11, included a table taken from the Social Readjustment Rating scale by Thomas H. Holmes and Richard H. Rahe which included a list of 43 stressful situations, and assigned a point value to each.

The theory was that although stressful situations may affect different people and cultures in different ways, that having multiple stressful situations within the last year, could increase the risk of becoming ill in the near future.

For instance the death of a spouse had a value of 100 points, while divorce had 73, etc. However, if you have a change in financial state, change in the health of family member, and you took out a large mortgage or loan, all within the last year, you’d score 113 points. Add to that a change in the number of arguments with spouse and your score goes up another 35 points. You get the idea.

The two hypothesized that 150 points equated to a moderate chance of becoming ill, while a score of 150 to 299 increased your risk to high, and 300 or higher meant you had a high to very high risk of suffering from stress-related illness in the near future.

An endocrinologist named Hans Selye coined a term called you eustress (eu from the Greek work meaning well-being or good) to describe a positive cognitive response to stress that can actually be healthy. Eustress is defined not by the type of stress or but rather how one manages stress cognitively. For instance stress that is viewed as a negative threat may take it’s toll on your health more than stress perceived as a positive challenge.

Interestingly enough response one has to stressor can actually be quite different depending on their current feelings of control and timing of the stressor. For example the change of a job that is done voluntarily and eagerly awaited, maybe processed as eustress, while the same under less favorable circumstances may feel more like the bad stress we are most familiar with.

While chatting with local massage therapist regarding the effects stress has on our bodies, and directed to the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, and other supporting research.

One piece of advice most seem to agree on is that being proactive and taking steps to manage the situation is the best approach.

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