Question of the Week

October 06, 2008


Stress. Stress comes from many sources, and it affects most people at one point or another. Depending on people's ages, stages of life, or what's going on in the world around them, the sources of stress may differ.

In 2007, a survey was conducted:
"The source of stress changes as we get older, the survey shows. Among 13-17 year olds, school is by far the most commonly mentioned source. Among 18-24 year olds, it's jobs and financial matters. In all, fully 85 percent of young people said they felt stress at least sometimes."

As the effects of what is going on with the economy continue to work their way through the country (and the world), so has stress associated with economic change and uncertainty.

"These days it's hard to avoid news about the economy. Turn on the computer and words like 'recession,' 'foreclosure,' and 'credit crisis' fill the screen. It can seem a bit scary -- and some families are hit really hard. ... When a family has money worries, it's easy to get frustrated, and upset -- and if you feel that way, you're far from alone. Parents may also be more stressed out than usual. They might argue more and worry about how to pay for things. Naturally, this can put extra stress on you, too, especially because parents' money problems aren't something you have any control over. But although you can't solve family money troubles, you may find that contributing in some way helps you feel better."

Sometimes it is the stress at school that affects how a child or teenager behaves at home. Sometimes it is the stress from home that is influencing life at school. Whatever the initial cause, the effects create a a cycle of stress that affect all areas of a teen's life.

"A stressful situation at home can affect teenagers' performance at school for days, according to a new study. Researchers found the negative effects of stress at home linger and affect teenagers' academic performance at school for up to two days. Meanwhile, stress over grades and other demands at school may also spill over into the home life of teens. 'The findings from this study indicate that there are indeed short- and long-term consequences of daily stress that should not be overlooked,' says researcher Lisa Flook, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a news release. 'By the same token, the two-directional process of spillover between family and school identified here suggests that reducing stress in the family may have benefits for adolescents' school adjustment and vice versa.'"

Just as adding stress in one area of a person's life can negatively affect other areas, positively dealing with stress in one area can benefit that person in all areas.

Stress isn't all bad. However, if a person's body is under constant stress, or if a person does not know how to properly manage the stress in his/her life, then stress can negatively affect a person's health.

"The body's response to stress is a normal process designed to protect against threats and dangers. But if constantly activated, it can cause harm and leave the body more vulnerable to a variety of health problems." Visit the site below to link to an interactive "look at the ways stress can affect your health - both good and bad."

For some, it is difficult to understand how mental stress can have so many physical effects.

"Stress is a feeling that's created when we react to particular events. It's the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness. ... The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Blood vessels open wider to let more blood flow to large muscle groups, putting our muscles on alert. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase the body's energy. And sweat is produced to cool the body. All of these physical changes prepare a person to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment.""

While stress (in small doses) can be helpful -- even necessary to escape an immediate physical threat -- ongoing stress can be overwhelming and difficult to handle alone.

"Even if you are great at dealing with problems, there may be times when stress feels like it is getting to you. You are not alone. This does not mean you are crazy and or a failure. Strong people turn to others for support when they have too much to handle. It's OK to turn to wise friends for advice, but it is also important to turn to your parents or another adult to help you. You deserve to feel good. The following signs suggest that you should seek some extra guidance:

  • Your grades are dropping.
  • You worry a lot.
  • You easily get moody or angry.
  • You feel tired all the time.
  • You get a lot of headaches, dizziness, chest pain, or stomach pain.
  • You feel sad or hopeless.
  • You feel bored all the time and are less interested in being with friends.
  • You are thinking about using alcohol or drugs to try to feel better.
  • You ever think about hurting yourself."

Questions of the Week:
What should all people know about stress and the ways that it can affect a person's physical and mental health? What do you think your peers and family members know about the positive and negative health effects of stress? What are the main sources of stress in your life, and what can you do to manage your stress levels in these areas? What can you do if you are feeling overwhelmed by stress? What can you do if you see a friend or family member who appears to be suffering from too much stress?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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