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The Different Kinds of Stress

Stress management can be complicated and confusing because there are different types of stress–acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress — each with its own characteristics, symptoms, duration, and treatment approaches. Let’s look at each one.

Acute Stress
Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. A fast run down a challenging ski slope, for example, is exhilarating early in the day. That same ski run late in the day is taxing and wearing. Skiing beyond your limits can lead to falls and broken bones. By the same token, overdoing on short-term stress can lead to psychological distress, tension headaches, upset stomach, and other symptoms.

Fortunately, acute stress symptoms are recognized by most people. It’s a laundry list of what has gone awry in their lives: the auto accident that crumpled the car fender, the loss of an important contract, a deadline they’re rushing to meet, their child’s occasional problems at school, and so on.

Episodic Acute Stress
There are those, however, who suffer acute stress frequently, whose lives are so disordered that they are studies in chaos and crisis. They’re always in a rush, but always late. If something can go wrong, it does. They take on too much, have too many irons in the fire, and can’t organize the slew of self-inflicted demands and pressures clamoring for their attention. They seem perpetually in the clutches of acute stress.

It is common for people with acute stress reactions to be over aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious, and tense. Often, they describe themselves as having “a lot of nervous energy.” Always in a hurry, they tend to be abrupt, and sometimes their irritability comes across as hostility. Interpersonal relationships deteriorate rapidly when others respond with real hostility. The work becomes a very stressful place for them.

The cardiac prone, “Type A” personality described by cardiologists, Meter Friedman and Ray Rosenman, is similar to an extreme case of episodic acute stress. Type A’s have an “excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency.” In addition there is a “free-floating, but well-rationalized form of hostility, and almost always a deep-seated insecurity.” Such personality characteristics would seem to create frequent episodes of acute stress for the Type A individual. Friedman and Rosenman found Type A’s to be much more likely to develop coronary heat disease than Type B’s, who show an opposite pattern of behavior.

Another form of episodic acute stress comes from ceaseless worry. “Worry warts” see disaster around every corner and pessimistically forecast catastrophe in every situation. The world is a dangerous, unrewarding, punitive place where something awful is always about to happen. These “awfulizers” also tend to be over aroused and tense, but are more anxious and depressed than angry and hostile.

The symptoms of episodic acute stress are the symptoms of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. Treating episodic acute stress requires intervention on a number of levels, generally requiring professional help, which may take many months.

Often, lifestyle and personality issues are so ingrained and habitual with these individuals that they see nothing wrong with the way they conduct their lives. They blame their woes on other people and external events. Frequently, they see their lifestyle, their patterns of interacting with others, and their ways of perceiving the world as part and parcel of who and what they are.

Sufferers can be fiercely resistant to change. Only the promise of relief from pain and discomfort of their symptoms can keep them in treatment and on track in their recovery program.

Chronic Stress
While acute stress can be thrilling and exciting, chronic stress is not. This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It wreaks havoc through long-term attrition. It’s the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in a despised job or career. It’s the stress that the never-ending “troubles” have brought to the people of Northern Ireland, the tensions of the Middle East have brought to the Arab and Jewish, and the endless ethnic rivalries that have been brought to the people of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Chronic stress comes when a person never sees a way out of a miserable situation. It’s the stress of unrelenting demands and pressures for seemingly interminable periods of time. With no hope, the individual gives up searching for solutions.

Some chronic stresses stem from traumatic, early childhood experiences that become internalized and remain forever painful and present. Some experiences profoundly affect personality. A view of the world, or a belief system, is created that causes unending stress for the individual (e.g., the world is a threatening place, people will find out you are a pretender, you must be perfect at all times). When personality or deep-seated convictions and beliefs must be reformulated, recovery requires active self-examination, often with professional help.

The worst aspect of chronic stress is that people get used to it. They forget it’s there. People are immediately aware of acute stress because it is new; they ignore chronic stress because it is old, familiar, and sometimes, almost comfortable.

Chronic stress kills through suicide, violence, heart attack, stroke, and, perhaps, even cancer. People wear down to a final, fatal breakdown. Because physical and mental resources are depleted through long-term attrition, the symptoms of chronic stress are difficult to treat and may require extended medical as well as behavioral treatment and stress management.

Adapted from The Stress Solution

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Controlling Anger

We all know what anger is, and we’ve all felt it, whether as fleeting annoyance or as full-fledged rage.

Anger is a completely normal, and usually healthy, human emotion. But when it gets out of control and turns destructive, it can lead to problems: problems at work, in your personal relationships, and in the overall quality of your life. And it can make you feel as though you’re at the mercy of an unpredictable and powerful emotion.

What is Anger?

Anger is an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, and so does the level of your energy hormones, adrenalin and noradrenalin.

Anger can be caused by external or internal events. You could be angry at a specific person (such as a coworker or supervisor) or event (a traffic jam, a canceled flight), or your anger could be caused by worrying or brooding about your personal problems. Memories of traumatic or enraging events can also trigger angry feelings.

Expressing Anger

The instinctive, natural way to express anger is to respond aggressively. Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors that allow us to fight and defend ourselves when we are attacked. A certain amount of anger, therefore, is necessary to our survival.
On the other hand, we can’t physically lash out at every person or object that irritates or annoys us. Laws, social norms, and common sense place limits on how far we should let our anger take us.

People use a variety of both conscious and unconscious processes to deal with their angry feelings. The three main approaches are expressing, suppressing, and calming.

Expressing your angry feelings in an assertive — not aggressive — manner is the healthiest way to express anger. To do this, you have to learn how to make clear what your needs are, and how to get them met, without hurting others. Being assertive doesn’t mean being pushy or demanding; it means being respectful of yourself and others.

Another approach is to suppress anger and then convert or redirect it. This happens when you hold in your anger, stop thinking about it, and focus on something positive to do instead. The aim is to inhibit or suppress your anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The danger in this type of response is that if your anger isn’t allowed outward expression, it can turn inward–on yourself. Anger turned inward may cause hypertension, high blood pressure, or depression.

Unexpressed anger can create other problems. It can lead to pathological expressions of anger such as passive-aggressive behavior (getting back at people indirectly, without telling them why, rather than confronting them head-on), or a perpetually cynical and hostile attitude. People who are constantly putting others down, criticizing everything, and making cynical comments haven’t learned how to express their anger constructively. Not surprisingly, they aren’t likely to have many successful relationships.

Finally, you can calm yourself down inside. This means not just controlling your outward behavior, but also controlling your internal responses, taking steps to lower your heart rate, calm yourself down, and let the feelings subside.

Anger Management

The goal of anger management is to reduce both your emotional feelings and the physiological arousal that anger causes. You can’t get rid of or avoid the things or people that enrage you, nor can you change them; but you can learn to control your reactions.

Are You Too Angry?

There are psychological tests that measure the intensity of angry feelings, how prone to anger you are, and how well you handle it. But chances are good that if you do have a problem with anger, you already know it. If you find yourself acting in ways that seem out of control and frightening, you might need help finding better ways to deal with this emotion.

Why Are Some People More Angry Than Others?

Some people are really more ‘hotheaded’ than others; they get angry more easily and more intensely than the average person. There are also those who don’t show their anger in loud spectacular ways but are chronically irritable and grumpy. Easily angered people don’t always curse and throw things; sometimes they withdraw socially, sulk, or get physically ill.

People who are easily angered generally have what some psychologists call a low tolerance for frustration, meaning simply that they feel that they should not have to be subjected to frustration, inconvenience, or annoyance. They can’t take things in stride, and they’re particularly infuriated if the situation seems somehow unjust: for example, when they are corrected for a minor mistake.

What makes these people this way? A number of things. One cause may be genetic or physiological; there is evidence that some children are born irritable, touchy, and easily angered, and that these signs are present from a very early age. Another may be how we’re taught to deal with anger. Anger is often regarded as negative; many of us are taught that it’s all right to express anxiety, depression, or other emotions, but not to express anger. As a result, we don’t learn how to handle it or channel it constructively.

Research has also found that family background plays a role. Typically, people who are easily angered come from families that are disruptive, chaotic, and not skilled at emotional communication.

Do You Need Counseling?

If you feel that your anger is really out of control, if it is having an impact on your relationships and on important parts of your life, you might consider counseling to learn how to handle it better. A psychologist or other licensed mental health professional can work with you in developing a range of techniques for changing your thinking and your behaviors.

When you talk to a prospective therapist, tell her or him that you have problems with anger that you want to work on, and ask about his or her approach to anger management. Make sure this isn’t only a course of action designed to help you ‘get in touch with your feelings and express them’ That may be precisely your problem.

With counseling, psychologists say, a highly angry person can move closer to a middle range of anger in about 8 to 10 weeks, depending on the circumstances and the counseling techniques used.

by: APA

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