Stress and Alcohol

August 26, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

‘She drove me to drink’ used to be a popular phrase. Its essential meaning is that stress induces people to consume alcohol. While it’s true that stress can be an incentive to drink, it’s equally true that heavy alcohol consumption causes stress.

Moderate alcohol intake, to be sure, can have beneficial effects. Research suggests that small amounts can even improve mental functioning and increase performance in problem solving while stressed. But, there are also studies that demonstrate that large quantities, particularly when consumed for long periods, actually worsens stress.

Large alcohol consumption stimulates the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. One result is an increase in the amount of cortisol produced within the body. Another is an increase in adrenaline. Both those, while they don’t alone cause stress, play a large role in the symptoms.

Extreme stress makes it more difficult to concentrate. One of the obvious effects of high alcohol intake is to produce that exact effect. Thus, heavy drinkers get a double whammy just at the moment they need mental clarity most.

Other studies suggest that chronic drinkers have symptoms similar to those seen in children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Children of those drinkers, this research concludes, have a higher incidence of actual ADHD.

So, it may also be true that as much as the stress of parenting may lead to drinking, adult drinking may encourage the circumstances that incent the parent to drink. It may be a factor in producing children’s symptoms that lead to adult stress.

Exercise is known to help relieve the symptoms of stress. Unfortunately, one of the additional results of excessive alcohol consumption is decreased exercise. Few inebriated people want to go a few rounds on the weight machine.

Similarly, high alcohol intake suppresses appetite. Thus, at the same time alcoholic drinks pour in the calories, they decrease the incentive to maintain a healthy diet. Once again the drinker experiences a doubly negative reinforcing effect.

Those who drink excessively to escape stress motivated by money concerns find it more difficult to cope with the problem that caused the stress in the first place. Even simple tasks like balancing a checkbook are clearly more difficult when drunk. But beyond such minor details, the cognitive functions needed to develop long term strategies are impaired. Drinkers literally can’t think their way out of the problems causing the stress.

In all these cases there is a vicious cycle established. Stress encourages heavy drinking, which makes it more difficult to deal with the internal and external factors that led to stress in the first place. Though the specific numbers will vary from person to person, when the average individual drinks more than the equivalent of two or three shots of whiskey per day, the results are inevitably bad.

The key to breaking this vicious cycle is to seek alternative methods for dealing with stress. Both the symptoms and the underlying motivators are subject to change in almost all cases. Proper exercise and diet is a good beginning. A realistic attitude about life’s inherent challenges can go a long way, as well. But, as with any psychological problem, admitting it exists is the first necessary step.

Curing Stress – Techniques

August 24, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

No doubt it’s impractical to try to ‘cure’ stress in the sense of eliminating all occurrences. But there are several practical short-term and effective long-term strategies for minimizing it and its effects.

Most individuals under stress will let it build, ignoring it for too long. They cite the need to get a work project completed, or view their situation as unchangeable. “That’s life,” many will say. But no form of ill-effect is inevitable, nor is it necessary or wise to passively accept one.

The first step is always to increase awareness in two directions – outward and inward. Be conscious of your internal state and evaluate it as realistically as possible. Be objective about external circumstances. When you recognize a circumstance as legitimately worrisome, reacting with concern and a degree of stress is normal and healthy. Unreasonable fear and obsession are not.

Then, take a moment to breath – literally. One of the most common reactions to stress is tension, usually muscle tension. The neck muscles will stiffen and breathing will often be more shallow. Focus on this, check for it and, if present, consciously loosen up neck muscles with a gentle side to side motion of your head. Take a deep breath or two.

There’s no need to overdo the exercise. You’re not practicing yoga and you don’t want to hyperventilate. Slowly move the head and shoulders and relax the chest muscles. A slow deep breath or two is often enough to break the tension.

But those suggestions are effective primarily for acute stress – the type that is produced by an isolated event and lasts a short time. For chronic stress – that which results from ongoing circumstances and evaluations and persists – additional techniques are needed.

Something as simple and old-fashioned as a walk in the park can be helpful. It’s not simply an old wives tale that fresh air and sunshine can be relaxing. It’s also true that moderate exercise helps relieve many of the accompanying physical symptoms of stress.

Playing music of certain types is helpful. Seeing a comedy on TV or at the movies is beneficial. Laughter is a great mood lifter. A creative activity can be helpful, especially if there is some accompanying physical activity. It could be as simple as making a birdhouse or as advanced as painting or sculpture.

A talk with a sympathetic friend could be useful, but it’s a good idea not to spend too much time talking about the circumstances causing stress or the stress itself. A good airing is beneficial, but too many times it’s an excuse to obsess over the problem. Some people are too much inclined to seek out only those who will reinforce negative evaluations.

Just keep in mind that these are all techniques to help relieve symptoms, they don’t address the underlying causes. As such, they are only one (albeit important) component in curing stress. For that, more in-depth action is needed.

Curing Stress – Pruning the Roots

August 23, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

There are several techniques for coping with stress. A relaxing walk, a distracting creative effort, a good workout and others can help relieve symptoms. But coping is not curing. To deal effectively with chronic stress – the type that is severe and long-lived – it’s necessary to examine its twin roots.

Stress is the result of both external and internal factors – what happens combined with how you evaluate its seriousness and your ability to cope. A lost job, a dissolved marriage, a serious illness or any of hundreds of other circumstances can prompt stress. But for those to result in stress, especially long-term, an individual has to evaluate them and him or herself in a certain way.

A person who feels confident in his or her ability to quickly overcome hurdles (and at a modest ‘cost’) is much less likely to feel stress for long. A person who identifies situations realistically, and who believes they have the capacity to deal with life’s inherent difficulties may feel challenged. But that is normal life and a healthy reaction, it is not stress.

Chronic stress is harmful and very few harmful conditions are ‘natural’ in the sense that they are inevitable, nor are necessarily devastating, or can not be overcome. If life were predominantly disasters we couldn’t cope with, insurance companies wouldn’t make the fortunes they do.

So, to deal with chronic stress well it’s necessary to have an objective view of the actual damage external circumstances entail. Many situations in life result in a loss of values, a loss (temporarily) outside our control. But companies that experience business reverses do recover, injuries heal, relationships mend or form between new partners, new friends are found.

Even losses that are permanent – an amputated leg, the death of a loved one, a bankrupt business – are not equivalent to the loss of life or hope. Individuals can, and do, compensate. Time alone doesn’t heal all wounds, but thought and effort can go a long way toward doing so.

When an individual focuses on what is valuable and possible, acute stress is minimized. When thought and effort combine with a realistic attitude toward the inherent hurdles in life, chronic stress is all but impossible.

It isn’t advisable to have a Pollyanna attitude that ‘everything is always ok, no matter what’. Bad things do happen and realism requires seeing that. But that same realism can be the basis for seeing things in perspective. Things may be, in fact, as bad as they seem. But, they rarely have to stay that way.

Acknowledging what is real and recognizing that it’s possible to create or acquire new values to replace a loss are key to avoiding long term stress. Long term stress, which often accompanies or leads to depression, tends to be self-reinforcing. You feel bad, so things look bad. Things look bad, so you feel worse.

Objectivity and re-committing oneself to the achievement of values is essential for breaking the cycle. But recognize that gaining those values is an achievement, one requiring thought and action. Rarely do they simply arrive in some equivalent of a winning lottery ticket.

Worry – Five Ways To Eliminate It

April 7, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

By Steven Gillman

We all worry at times, and there is probably no way to stop worrying forever. There are some specific ways to stop right now, however. The following tips on how to stop worrying come from experience, because I’ve always been a bit of a worrier, and I had to learn some good techniques for stopping this energy-sucking habit. Here are five of the best.

1. Take action now. Any action towards a goal tends to diminish worry. Thinking too much about your goals or plans, especially if you dwell on the hurdles, will cause you worry and stress. Of course you should plan well, but when planning drifts towards worrying, it’s time to start doing something positive. Take action!

2. Make decisive decisions. When you want to stop worrying too much about an unresolved issues, you need to make decisive decisions, and even bad decisions may be better than doing nothing. Often you will immediately resolve the stress when you, for example, finally decide to quit that job, buy that house, or make that phone call. Nothing crowds and clouds your mind with worry as much as decisions waiting to be made. Make them now, or at least start gathering the information you need to make them. If they prove to be bad decisions, just make new ones.

3. Use mental categories. Too many things going on in your head? Put them on lists and you may feel better. It works well for many of us worriers. When you are dwelling too much on something, and you stop to schedule a time to work on it, or just put it on a list, it is easier to let go of it for now. Jot down that phone call you have to make on tomorrow’s list, and you’ll feel less worried now. You’re basically creating “mental categories.” In fact, just saying to yourself, “There’s nothing I can do about this until Monday,” can put a worry into a category of “nothing to worry about right now.”

4. Deal with problems directly and quickly. To eliminate worry when there are real problems, try to confront them head-on, and resolve them quickly. I once had to sue someone over a business matter, and I was worrying about it for weeks. When I finally just filed the papers, got on the phone, and came to an agreement, my stress was gone. Actually, my worrying began to dissipated as soon as I started acting, BEFORE the resolution (See #1).

There is more mental pain and worry in anticipating problems than in the problems themselves. If you lost a thousand dollars in the stock market last year, you probably suffer less from that today than you would from wondering if you’ll make it on time to a concert you paid $50 for. The anticipation of problems is what causes the most worry. Just deal with them head on as soon as is possible, and resolve them to the extent possible.

5. Meditate to eliminate worry. Meditating is a great way to relax and to stop worrying, but what if you don’t have the time for more involved meditative practices? Don’t worry. Just try this: close your eyes, let the tension out of your body and take several deep breaths through your nose. That’s it. Want even easier meditation? Try brain wave entrainment CDs that do all the work for you. Just pop on the headphones and they’ll relax you by slowing your brain waves.

Try the above techniques. Make habits out of whichever ones work best to stop your worries. They need to be habits because nothing works if you forget to use it. In fact, until they become habitual, you may want to carry a list of your favorite techniques for eliminating worry.

Steve Gillman has been studying brainpower and related topics for years. For more on How To Increase Brain Power, and to get the Brain Power Newsletter and other free gifts, visit www.IncreaseBrainPower.com

Article Source: EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Gillman

6 Steps To Stress Avoidance

April 3, 2007 by  
Filed under STRESS

By Diane Corriette

Anything taken too much is bad for the health, and the long term effects of stress are well documented, which is why it is such an important area. As with everything in life prevention is always better than cure so I have provided 6 steps to help you avoid becoming stressful.

A little stress is actually good, as it could serve to help you function at your best. However, stress that seems a little too much could take a physical, as well as mental, toll to your body. Stress should be managed in order for depression or anxiety to be prevented.

I recommend you see a stress counselor if you think you may be suffering from stress but there are a few preventative things you can do for yourself:

Write it out, schedule it out.

Overwhelm is a result of having too much in your head to deal with so write it down, get it out of your head and down on paper.

You will find a things-to-do-list much easier to manage than having errands all crumpled up in your head. Writing down the tasks, and putting a specific schedule and time to do them, helps anyone manage activities one chunk at a time. Crossing out an activity that has already been accomplished is very rewarding and could actually help you feel more relaxed when doing the other tasks at hand.

One at a time works.

Focus and put all your attention specifically on one task at one time. It does not help to feel panicky about the other undone or to-do tasks. Thinking about them only adds unnecessary stress and could even hamper in doing the task you are attempting to accomplish at present. Just focus in on your one task, whether that task is spending time with the kids, or writing the next chapter of your book. Block time in your schedule for your most important tasks to ensure you experience balance.

Relax and take it slow.

At least, try not to expend too much energy on activities that are currently not priorities. This is in order for your energy to be not easily expended on the tasks that are not that important, at least for now.

Also spend time relaxing in between your work, just 2 minutes with your eyes closed standing out in the fresh air is enough to bring back mental alertness and to help you feel calmer. I recommend 10 minutes away from your desk every few hours. Taking this time for yourself will mean that you come back stronger and more focused. The longer you spend working without a break the more your effectiveness diminishes.

Delegate, delegate, delegate.

You really don’t have to do everything all at once and you definitely don’t have to do everything on your own. Get into the habit of asking for help, or paying for help. When there is a feeling of being overwhelmed that is cropping up, hire someone to mow the lawn or get a sitter for your children. The feeling of being pressed to finish something on time will somehow be eliminated if tasks are delegated. It takes a load off unnecessary worry and anxiety. Moreover, it is easier checking up on how things are, than worrying yourself sick doing everything on your own, all at once. Remember that delegating does not mean leaving someone to get on with it and forgetting about it, because if that person makes an error you end up feeling even more stressful. Make sure you check up on progress and let them know that they should ask you if they are unsure about anything.

Give yourself a reward.

You deserve it. Acknowledging your accomplishments, no matter how big or small, is an effort that is necessary before getting on to the next tasks and activities. It reduces stress and could even make you happier in doing the next task. Also, it is really easy to spend your time in the future, thinking about how wonderful life will be when you finally complete your task or goal. However, usually when we get there, there are no celebrations because we are on to the next “thing to do.” By giving yourself a reward (something that doesn’t cost anything is the best reward!) you acknowledge where you are at, that you have completed another step. And when you get to your final destination success tastes sweet!

Give yourself a break.

You need it to be more productive. A ten to fifteen minute break during your work is necessary. Go visit a café nearby, take a quick brisk walk, or do anything to put your mind off work, at least for a while. This is necessary to refresh and recharge. Believe it or not, you can also stay in your work and sit with your eyes closed as you visualize a peaceful landscape or a relaxing scene. This frees the stress from your muscles and your mind.

I recommend everyone take a full hour away from their desk, many people find this difficult to do but it is really essential if you want to avoid stress. Invite a work colleague to go with you or spend the time in quiet contemplation. If you need to set outlook to signal when you need to take an hour, or set your cell phone alarm to go off, then no matter what you are doing stop, get up, and walk away. I promise you that you will return with more energy and creativity than you left with!

I hope you enjoyed reading these six steps and that you will choose to take one and use today, taking action is the prime step towards stress avoidance, or if you are already feeling the effects of stress.

While a little of everything is good for us, too much of anything isn’t and it is always better to learn how to relax and avoid stress than it is to have to learn how to deal with overcoming it. Doing so makes you healthier, happier, and a lot more productive.

About the Author: Diane Corriette runs the Personal Growth Podcast Directory.Listen to inspirational and motivational podcasts. If you create podcasts in the self-improvement area why not submit them to www.personalgrowthpodcastdirectory.com

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.