Coping with stress

Meaning of the word stress

According to the dictionary,  stress is:

  • a state of mental or emotional strain or suspense
  • a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension

Suspense, according to the dictionary,  is apprehension about what is going to happen.  Synonyms for suspense:

  • apprehension;  dread
  • doubt;  uncertainty;
  • anticipation;  expectancy

Consequences of stress

Our body is designed to deal with stress like it deals with a (perceived) threat.  You are probably familiar with the three responses:

  • Fight
  • Flight
  • Freeze

Our body is pumped up with adrenaline and other hormones to prepare us to be able to either fight or flee,  whichever is needed.  When we feel overwhelmed,  we freeze.  Once the (perceived) emergency is over,  our body has to work hard to deal with the fall out and to calm things down.

The effects of stress on our overall health is well-known.  Our immune,  cardiovascular,  neuroendocrine and central nervous systems suffer.  Where it only takes a moment for our body to be ready to fight or flee,  it takes much longer to reach the equilibrium we need to be and stay healthy.

When stress becomes a chronic feature in our lives,  just imagine what damage this will do to our body.  A lot of the damage we might not notice at first,  but we are sure to notice it later.  Arteries thicken,  brain cells die,  blood pressure raises,  risk of heart attack and stroke increases and the list goes on.

Recovering from stress

Our body wants to obtain the state of homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the state of metabolic equilibrium between the stimulating and the tranquilizing chemical forces in your body.

If the stimulating chemical forces are tipping the scale,  we are in trouble.  So are we when the tranquilizing chemical forces have the upper hand.

Those of us with bipolar disorder are pretty familiar with balancing the scales of our emotions.  Adding stress to the mix can easily tip one of the scales to a position we definitely don’t like.  When that happens,  the time it takes us to ‘recover’ and obtain a measure of equilibrium is what tells us how well we are doing.

Did you hear that?  The deciding factor on how well we are doing is NOT the fact that our scales are tipping either side.  The deciding factor is the time we need to recover and obtain some measure of balance.

In order to recover faster we are learning tools to handle our bipolar and everything else that comes with it.

Stress is not all bad

Photo credit:  Rick

Both stress as well as suspense do not necessarily have purely negative connotations attached to their meaning. Stress can cause tension and strain,  but it can also cause anticipation and expectancy.

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain OR a state of mental or emotional suspense.

What or who decides which it is going to be: strain or anticipation?

Stress is a difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension.

What or who decides what stress is going to cause?

It seems to center around what is going to happen. Meaning that the actual event is in the future.  So we don’t know yet what it is going to be.  It could be bad OR good!

One of the things it (stress) does is to release norepinephrine, one of the principal excitatory neurotransmitters. Norepinephrine is needed to create new memories. It improves mood. Problems feel more like challenges, which encourages creative thinking that stimulates your brain to grow new connections within itself. Stress management is the key, not stress elimination.

Stress management

Managing stress is finding a strategy to deal with it that works for you.  Since we are all unique,  what works for you might not work for me.  But rest assured that there is always a way we can learn to deal with stress and whatever else life decides to throw at us.

You see,  what is really important here is how we respond to stress.  Remember how stress can relate to dread (fear),  doubt and uncertainty?  But it is also related to anticipation and expectation.

What is it gonna be for you?  Being stressed or enjoying dessert?

Follow-up blog post:  To stress or not to stress

For further reading:

Understanding stress

Renew ~ Stress on the brain

Mama’s Losin’ It

If you really knew me, you would know that…

I love to pick words apart by using the dictionary!

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Coping with stress

  1. Hurray, I figured out how to leave a comment, lol! I’ve discovered that viewing your site with my iPad gives me this really cool new layout and swipe-able page view thing, with neat collages for each of your blog posts, but the post itself doesn’t have a direct box underneath to comment in, or even show other’s comments. You have to click a funny little comment icon in the top right to get there (FYI).
    Any who….Stress. We have had our fair share over the last few years, and the past few months, as you know, have been excruciating. Now that the “storm” has calmed my son is going nutty! I had to pick him up from school today because he was completely unsafe, hypomanic, acting out his imaginary scenarios with crawling under the table, talking to himself, running all over, and karate kicking, punching, &chopping to the point of knocking over chairs and getting in kids faces. He has been defiant, grandiose, and continuously escalating in both with increasing energy since Saturday. Hmmm, I wonder if it could be like the push back effect that happens in a codependent relationship? When one changes the other seeks the chaos to recreate the equilibrium they are so use to…? Even my three year old has been having weird behaviors :( I certainly don’t like that!

    • IPad? Another type of Frog? lol! Glad you got it figured out, cuz I am totally IPad and otherwise illeterate. But thanks for the info – when I get it figured out, I’ll use it to my advantage!
      Well, to be honest Melody, and not very helpful, I was wondering what was going to happen in the balance of sibling behavior… So sorry it is working out this way. Have you found a way to deal with it? Someone – your pdoc – to talk about this and find good solutions? It stinks! Just when Obug is finding happiness… Praying for peace to reign in your household and your heart while your finding it!!
      (((hugs)))

  2. Fenny

    Great post allowing an introduction into the murky world of stress and its management. I covered stress and guilt on my Monday Madness a month or so ago I think and found there are a scary load of people who live with both, mostly woman! Typical.

    Shah. X

    • Shah!
      Glad to see you back :)
      Tried to link up this Monday, but somehow my linky didn’t want to work… :(
      I discovered there is an aweful lot to write about stress and stress management, so I’m working on more.
      Will hop over to see your post. See you there !

  3. Hi – I replied to your email. X

  4. Fenny,

    I don’t handle stress well at all. I try to avoid it by making sure things are done well before hand. Which is good. But I also avoid confrontation at all costs, which can be bad because then feelings get bottled up and I explode. We all know that is really bad stress.

    But your article really helped me understand one thing: “The deciding factor on how well we are doing is NOT the fact that our scales are tipping either side. The deciding factor is the time we need to recover and obtain some measure of balance.”

    Wow! It doesn’t matter how far unbalanced one is, it is how fast the recovery is. This is somewhat related to exercise. A runner will raise his heart rate to workout but a major factor in how fit you are is how fast you can regain your resting pulse.

    I will remember this always. This helps me to accept stress and work with it, instead of fighting it. If stress comes on, figure out the best way to get back to balance.

    Thank you so much for the great advise!

    ~Allie

    • Allie,

      Simply love your analogy with exercise (which I *dislike* passionately ~ I’ve learned not to say *hate* anymore. Oh wait, I just said it, didn’t I?)

      I actually never knew this ~ that you can measure how fit you are by how quick your heart rate is back to normal. Sobering thought for me, tho! :)

      Glad to be of service! It is something that my counselor has been instilling in me for some time now. I was shocked the first time I heard this as I had a totally different understanding at the time. But it worked: now I know! And am happy to pass his useful advice along.

  5. what a great response to the prompt! to educate and reveal at the same time :) I enjoyed getting to know you better!

    • I peaked at your blogs, Frelle, and you have your very own style of writing which is very enjoyable and revealing! I loved what I read. And your poem that was published at Indie? Awesome!
      Thanks for visiting and blushing at your compliment!
      Hope to see you back ;)

  6. Pingback: Thinking Can Be Bad for You (Managing Stress) | NLP THIRTEEN

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