WE are all vulnerable to stress. To help us overcome stress, we need to know what we are faced with and how it affects us. Kajumba Mayanja is a psychologist / lecturer at Department of Mental Health and Community psychology, Makerere University. He is also involved in counselling. He gives a commons
What exactly is stress and what causes it?
Stress could be referred to as the strain we experience when we are in a situation that puts so much demand on us. For example, if you have multiple demands and you want to settle all of them but you cannot, or do not have enough time to deal with so many issues at the same time.
Or when so many events, problems are occurring within your life at the same time, it can cause stress.
Being a workaholic can also be stressful. A person who has a tendency of wanting to engage in work activities and not finding time for anything can find himself in a stressful situation.
Lack of assertiveness.
If you are not assertive you might keep on tackling every task or responsibilities you are not able to fulfill. This is one of the commonest causes of stress among employees. You should take on only what you can to avoid tension.
What are the signs of stress?
This can be characterised by physical, psychological or social symptoms, depending on an individual. You could have physical symptoms such as headache, stomach upset and fever. Sometimes you could feel angry, low and lose interest in activities you previously enjoyed.
Is there a correlation between stress and depression?
Sometimes they may coexist. Someone can be stressed as well as depressed. And in most cases, we also have a situation in which the symptoms of depression are experienced as that of someone suffering from stress. Sometimes you find that a person who is stressed may have symptoms of depression.
How different is depression from stress?
Depression refers to a situation in which someone feels that he has a generally low mood, feels extremely sad, disgusted with, and loses interest in life. Sometimes a depressed person may think of committing suicide. This is an extreme feeling of sadness.
What are the effects of stress on an individual?
Some may be psychological, physical or social. If someone is stressed, they may have poor social interaction, tending to feel easily angered. One is generally disgusted with life.
At some point, they can become unnecessarily aggressive, falling out with people who are close to them. If the person is an employee, they may fail to work, or not work satisfactorily.
Stress lowers the immune system. When a person is extremely stressed, they have a tendency to easily fall sick because they are vulnerable to infections.
That is why a person will go to hospital feeling like they are manifesting symptoms of malaria, but a blood test indicates no trace of malaria. In such cases, the doctor may advise you to go home and relax.
Can extreme stress cause mental instability?
If stress becomes severe, your ability to think and make decisions becomes impaired. It may not necessarily be insanity, but over time, it may result into more serious psychological problems.
Do adolescents, particularly girls, suffer from bouts of stress?
Adoloscence may pre-expose someone to stress. The transition from childhood to adulthood, causes confusion about whether to continue behaving as a child or as an adult.
His/her desire to behave as an adult, but their parent not tolerating that kind of behaviour or not understanding him/her, may cause stress.
Peer pressure can also cause stress, with an adolescentâ€™s friend wanting them to do certain things they do not want to. This may cause their peers to call them names, overwhelming them and consequently, leading to stress.
Can brain damage following an accident or drug abuse lead to stress?
Stress has a physiological component since the body and mind interact. Sometimes you may be stressed because of an accumulation of certain hormones in the body. An excess of a particular neural transmitter may cause stress or higher levels of brain chemicals.
There are people who are biologically stress prone. Their physiology makes them more vulnerable, just like there are people who are more prone to expereincing anger.
Is everyone a potential stress victim?
We are all exposed to stressful situations on a regular basis, which cannot be avoided. For example, the traffic jam in the city, failure to beat deadlines and the many unpredictable problems in life.
How can stress be prevented and managed?
Through stress management and prevention. Stress prevention refers to ways in which one can prevent stress, the commonest being through physical exercises. It involves burning off some of the hormones that will induce stress in your body.
We may have many ways of coping with stress, but what works for one person may not work for another.
Relaxing after an exhausting day refreshes you, so that by the time you get back to work, you are more sober and energetic. Programme yourself by starting with the most important or demanding things, to avoid panicking and being overwhelmed towards a deadline.
Is there any medication one can take to treat stress?
Stress may be more psychological than physical.
Drugs may relieve the symptoms of stress, but each time you are scared, the brain will trigger off hormones contributing to stress. If the effect of the drug wears off, you will still feel stressed because the drug does not solve the problem.
Counselling is the best option. It makes one learn how to prevent and cope with the situation that causes stress. But if the stress is overwhelming, then the drugs are encouraged.
People more prone to stress
People who have an overwhelming tendency to achieve, or who are over ambitious do not always settle unless they have achieved something.
People who have an overwhelming tendency of pleasing others tend to negatively evaluate themselves
People who do not find time for themselves to relax, to engage in leisure activities or who do not exercise
People who take on challenges for which they lack experience, resulting in failure to accomplish a particular task
Those who mind a lot about what other people may say about them
Avoid stress, take time to relax