Tuesday, August 06, 2013

stress

hi there

well, this is weird. it's unusual that i would post anything too serious here, although it happens. rarer still is it something serious, grown up and what some may call 'professional'. let me try to explain.

i was requested to write the article which will appear below. without going in to the specifics or finer details, commissioned more than requested, if you like. after finishing it and delivering it, there was a statement along the lines of "whoops, erm, sorry, we didn't need it any more and forgot to tell you".

these things kinda happen, you know, and it's not that much of a big deal to me in the long run. such works usually just get discarded, or brushed up and used at a later stage. that's not happening with this one partially to put a published date next to my work, on the off chance whoever cancelled it ends up, quite by accident i am sure, somehow using it without payment. mostly, though, it is because the only other person to have read it was, flatteringly, very impressed with it and said that it was too good a piece of writing to not appear somewhere.



stress is, without undermining the following article, something that does affect us all. whether you are, for entirely fictional and in no way based on anyone real example, a gifted musician working in a museum who battles tramps (sometimes to the death. with an iron) on a daily basis, a brilliant photographer based in New Zealand that wrestles with dogging ideology, a senior figure in a respected corporate bank that struggles with their sexuality or even a Romanian engineer who worries about the fate of assistants in Doctor Who, stress is a constant.

if this is of any use to anyone at all, well great. the original piece was text only, but as some of you get quite upset when no pictures are here i have taken some at random to make it all pretty. one or two of the pictures cover my own resolution to stress management, but they are not intended to reflect anything in the actual article.

here you go......





The word ‘stress’ is one that is frequently used to describe how or what we are feeling. Most commonly of all it used to describe a negative sense of feeling and low well-being. It is something that we all feel, experience and indeed create – intentionally or not – during our life. It is, then, something that we all require to deal and work with. There are a number of ways one can alleviate, manage and deal with the stress they experience in their life, but first it is of importance to understand just what ‘stress’ is.

Broadly, stress is defined as experiencing strain or pressure. This most commonly manifests itself when circumstances create a sense of being overwhelmed or under some pressure to do a particular task. How an individual reacts to this sensation is determined by their personality and psychological state. Whereas a person who is naturally introverted may become more anxious and withdrawn socially when experiencing a stressful situation, a more extroverted personality type may well become irritable, possibly lashing out at the perceived source of the stress factors both verbally and physically.

In all cases of stress levels becoming high there is the great danger of a physical consequence. If the psychological effects of a high stress experience are unmanaged the person experiencing it can suffer from a loss of appetite, headaches and migraines and a potentially dangerous increase or decrease in their blood pressure level. The dangers which could come from that to an extent speak for themselves, with it being entirely possible for someone to develop cardiovascular and other organ related problems stemming from not managing stress levels.

To ask what causes the senses of strain or pressure which lead to stress is to receive an answer along the lines of pretty much everything we see and experience in life. It is an important aspect of life that stress is present in everything, for one must bear in mind that there is such a thing as experiencing ‘good stress’ factors.  Stress is what keeps our minds alert and active as we respond to experiences. A good example to illustrate this is driving, particularly in heavy or congested traffic. The thought of being in an accident or causing damage by creating a collision causes a stress level that keeps one alert and focused on careful driving, which is good. If one becomes overwhelmed with concerns of causing an accident, however, this can increase stress levels to the point of distraction, whereby the driver loses focus and is consumed by the fear of causing an accident. That would become a bad stress level and, in this example, a case where the person should immediately start to manage and deal with it by stopping driving.



To help gauge and understand what a good and a bad level of stress is considerable research has been conducted over the years. Widely considered to be the research to have shown the most accurate results, and thus the method of measurement most commonly in use, is the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, more frequently referred to as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. This system of evaluating stress levels has been in general use since the early 1970s and has come to be relied upon for giving trusted results which allow one to take courses of action to manage and reduce stress levels.

In the late 1960s the psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe speculated that in a number of cases a primary or contributing cause to physical illness was likely to be stress-induced psychological concerns. Using 5,000 patients from diverse backgrounds and circumstances to ensure a common link was established, Holmes and Rahe requested those involved in the study to give a score from 1 to 100 on a list of just over 40 life experiences, with 1 being something that caused no stress or discomfort and 100 being a score that represented severe distress and great discomfort.

The results of these ratings gave Holmes and Rahe greatly consistent results. Within a minimal level of marginal differences between the scores given by all patients for the incidents listed, the psychiatrists then sought to see if there was a correlation between highly stressful life incidents experienced and physical illness developing. To do this they provided the same set of incidents and instructions to some 3,000 sailors serving in the USA and monitored their health over a six month period. Holmes and Rahe work in this revealed that the higher someone scored in the rating of stressful life events experienced the more prone they were to developing illnesses.

In regards of scores on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the life incidents which are the highest scoring and thus the most dangerous in respect of monitoring and managing stress levels tend to be somewhat obvious. The death of a parent, family member or spouse / life partner rates the highest score on the chart, 100. Lower scoring incidents and circumstances on the scale, however, must always be considered. In the modern world, for example, we have seen an increase in the mobility of people with regards to where they live and work. A common thing for people to do is move to a new area to take on a new job, often involving moving their children to a new school. The three ‘new’ life experiences listed there each score 20 on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. If you add to that new total of 60 other related factors, such as a change in responsibilities in work (a score of 29) and a change in financial state (a score of 38), you can see how something as potentially positive and good as a career change can in fact cause a higher stress level than the death of a loved one. 



The consolidated score from all the life experiences and events indicated by someone provides the details of where they are in terms of potential danger. To understand what the score recorded means, usually in a case where someone’s score is over 150 some caution is required and management of stress needs to be put in place to proactively prevent illness developing as a direct consequence of that stress level. A score which is over 300 indicates that there is an immediate problem with stress levels in the individual and some intervention to help the individual cope is required as soon as possible.

As accurate and reliable as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale is seen for evaluating stress and the potential of it to cause illness, each score must be looked at entirely with a perspective of the individual very much at the forefront. The identification of causes of stress in the individual is only the platform for successful management of it.

If we take, for example, the highest scoring life incident on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the death of a loved one can be experienced in substantially different ways. If it is the case that a parent or spouse has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, one usually has a period of time to accept and to adjust to the inevitable passing away of that person. This allows for one to be prepared and manage the stress associated with such an experience. This is quite different in the case of a sudden, unexpected death – referring back to a previous example, for instance the case when a partner or loved one is killed in a car accident. The sudden shock of receiving such news can amplify the stress experienced by it. In such an unexpected, traumatic case as that often urgent assistance in managing the stress placed on the individual receiving such news. Broadly, psychological counselling would be a necessity in such a case, the possibility of medication to give short-term relief must also be considered.


It is of course not always possible to be able to use the services of either a professional or any sort of ‘self-evaluation’ test based on the Social Readjustment Rating Scale to keep a check on stress levels. An ever-present guide to how you are coping with stress is, however, your own body. You should always pay attention and listen to it.

The physical signs of stress levels being too high were mentioned earlier. When these signs begin to appear it is not too late to start managing the stress levels causing them without calling on professional help and guidance. If you notice that there’s something “not quite right” with you, it could well be time to pause and reflect on what’s going on in your life. One may find that, subconsciously, a number of factors which cause lower stress levels are combining to take their toll on you.



Frequently the two changes in behaviour that indicate stress levels being too high are fatigue and a loss of appetite. Not eating as much as you usually would, or finding yourself no longer particularly enjoying a favourite dish, are all indicators of a build up of stress levels.  A lack of eating will itself cause a feeling of fatigue too, but this is not the only source. Stressful factors in life might not prevent you from eating as usual or seem obvious during your day to day life, but from a psychological perspective they can combine and play on your mind as you try to rest, causing restless sleep or even insomnia. If one notices they are experiencing either or both of these in their life it’s a sign that they should seek some assistance in managing stress.

Beyond those two, there are other things your body can do to alert you to a need to manage stress, but they tend to be of the kind we naturally shake off in the present day and age as just being “one of those things”. If you find yourself experiencing headaches on a regular basis, or have a sense of being light-headed or dizzy, there is every chance that it is stress related. If you are aware of being under some pressure or strain in the short term then this might be causing it. Under those circumstances the knowledge of it being short term should help you manage the feelings yourself through calm consideration of the problem. If not, assistance with stress management is certainly required. 


As uncomfortable and unfortunately unnecessarily embarrassing as it is for people to speak about, changes in both your enjoyment of and ability to engage in sexual acts can be a sign of stress too. Simply not being in the mood for any sort of sexual intimacy or contact happens to everyone from time to time, but if it’s something that you constantly experience, or you find that you crave such intimacy but feel physically unable to do so then it is likely that high, unmanaged stress levels are contributing to that feeling.  If you can find the will to overcome reservations and embarrassment experienced by a number of people when discussing their sexual health, which no one will ever say is an easy thing to do, you will have taken the most difficult step in resolving the problem and have moved closer to getting help with both that and indeed managing the stress levels in your life.

Stress is, as the above has shown, a constant in all life. As much as we need it in our lives to function, to perform and to achieve great goals, we also need to be able to manage and control it effectively. The idea of managing stress can cause some stress in itself, as it might make one feel that there is something “wrong” with them in that they need help. Well, if everyone has levels of stress, that just cannot be, unless one suggests that every living thing on the planet is “wrong”.



When the Social Readjustment Rating Scale indicates that stress in your present life is putting you at risk of illness, or if the tell-tale signs your body gives off indicate that you are not coping with your current stress levels, it is time to act. Managing the stress will ease it and greatly enhance your life and all that you experience. Trying to avoid it will only make it worse, which could lead to an unhappy life and risks you experiencing serious illness.



many thanks indeed for reading.


be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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