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Stress can be brought about by a number of causes, such as traumatic accidents, deaths, or emergencies.

Stress can also be a side-effect of a serious illness or disease. There is also stress associated with daily life, the workplace, and family responsibilities as well. It is hard to stay calm and relaxed in these hectic times. Women have many roles, as spouse, mother, caregiver, friend, or worker. With all we have going on in our lives, it seems almost impossible to find ways to de-stress. However, it is important to do so because your health may depend on it.

What are early signs of stress?

Stress can take on many different forms, and it commonly contributes to symptoms of illness. Common symptoms include headache, sleep disorders, difficulty concentrating, short-temper, upset stomach, job dissatisfaction, low morale, depression or anxiety.

How do women react to stress?

We all deal with stressful issues like traffic, marital arguments, or work-related problems. Some researchers believe that women handle stress in a unique way because they “tend and befriend”. Tend means that women protect and care for their children, while befriend means that women seek out and receive social support. Under stress, women tend to care for their children and find support from their female friends as well. Women’s bodies make chemicals that promote these responses. One of these chemicals is oxytocin, which has a calming effect during stress. This is the same chemical released during childbirth. It is found at higher levels in breastfeeding mothers, who are calmer and more social than women who do not breastfeed. Women also have the hormone estrogen, which boosts the effects of oxytocin. Men, however, have high levels of testosterone during stress, which blocks the calming effects of oxytocin and causes hostility, withdrawal, and even anger.

How does stress affect body and health?

Everyone experiences short-term stress, like getting lost while driving or missing the bus.
Even everyday events, such as planning a meal or making time for errands, can be stressful, and this kind of stress can make us feel worried or anxious. Other times, we face long-term stress, such as racial discrimination, a life-threatening illness, or for someone it could be divorce. These stressful events also affect human health on many levels. Long-term stress is real and can increase your risk for some health problems, as depression. Both short- and long-term stress can have effects on the body. Research is starting to show the adverse effects of stress on person’s body. Stress triggers changes in bodies and makes us more likely to get sick. It can also make existing problems seem worse then they are. Stress can play a part in problems such as trouble sleeping, headaches, constipation, diarrhea, irritability, lack of energy, lack of concentration, eating too much or not at all, anger, or sadness. It could also increase the risk of asthma and arthritis flare-ups, tension, stomach cramping, stomach bloating, skin problems, like hives, depression, anxiety, weight gain or loss, heart problems, high blood pressure or irritable bowel syndrome. Some people reported occurences of diabetes, neck or back pain, a decrease of sexual desire, and fertility issues.

What are some of the most stressful events?

Any change in human life can be stressful, even some of the happiest ones like having a baby or taking a new job. Some of life’s most stressful events are death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, spending time in jail, death of a close family member, personal illness or injury, marriage, pregnancy and retirement.

What is post-traumatic stress disorder?

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can be a debilitating condition that can occur after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal, in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. Traumatic events that can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder include violent personal assaults such as rape or mugging, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents, or military combat.
Many people with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the ordeal in the form of flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, particularly when they are exposed to events or objects that remind them of the trauma. Anniversaries of the event can also trigger PTSD symptoms. People with this disorder also can have emotional numbness, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, irritability, or outbursts of anger. Feelings of intense guilt (the so-called “survivor guilt”) are also common, particularly if others did not survive the traumatic event.
Most people who have been exposed to a traumatic, stressful event show some symptoms of PTSD in the days and weeks following the event. Although the symptoms will generally disappear, about 8% of men and 20% of women go on to develop PTSD, and roughly, 30% of these people develop a chronic, or long-lasting, form that persists throughout their lives.

How to handle with stress

You should not let stress make you sick. There are ways to help you handle your stress and each person should know about it.
First, you must relax. It is important to unwind, and each person has her own way to relax. Some ways include deep breathing, yoga, meditation, or massage therapy. If you cannot do these things, take a few minutes to sit, listen to soothing music, or read a good book. Make the time, because it is very important to care for yourself. Think of this as an order from your doctor, so you should not feel guilty. No matter how busy you are, you can try to set aside at least 15 minutes each day in your schedule to do something for yourself. Do something nice for yourself, like taking a bubble bath, going for a walk, or calling a friend.
You must know also that sleeping is a great way to help both your body and mind. Your stress could get worse if you do not get enough sleep. You also cannot fight off sickness as well when you sleep poorly. With enough sleep, you can tackle your problems better and lower your risk for illness, so try to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

Eat right and try to fuel up with fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Good sources of protein can be peanut butter, chicken, or tuna salad; eat whole-grains, such as wheat breads and wheat crackers. Do not be fooled by the jolt you get from caffeine or sugar because your energy will wear off.
Get moving because, believe it or not, physical activity not only helps relieve your tense muscles, but helps your mood also. Your body makes certain chemicals, called endorphins, before and after you work out, which relieve stress and improve your mood.

Talking to friends could help you work through your stress because friends are good listeners. Finding someone who will let you talk freely about your problems and feelings without judging you does a world of good. It also helps to hear a different point of view, where friends will remind you that you are not alone.
Finally, seek professional help if you need it. Talk to a therapist, who will help you work through stress and find better ways to deal with problems. For more serious stress-related disorders, like PTSD, therapy can be helpful, and there are medications that can help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety and help promote sleep. Try to compromise, since sometimes, it is not always worth the stress to argue, but give in once in awhile. You could also write down your thoughts; keeping a journal can be a great way to get things off your chest and work through issues.

Try helping others, because that way someone else can help you. You can help your neighbor, or do some volunteer work for your community. It is also helpful to get a hobby or find something you enjoy. Make sure to give yourself time to explore your interests and set limits. Figure out what you can really do, because there are only so many hours in the day. Set limits for yourself and others and do not be afraid to say no to requests for your time and energy.

Does stress cause ulcers?

Doctors used to think that ulcers were caused by stress and spicy foods, but now, we know that stress does not causes ulcers but just irritates them. Ulcers are actually caused by a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori. Researchers do not yet know for sure how people get it but they think people might get it through food or water. It is usually treated with a combination of antibiotics and other drugs.

Some risk factors

Studies have shown that caregivers of physically or mentally disabled family members are at risk of chronic stress. A 1999 study reported that over-all mortality rates were over 60% higher in caregivers who were under constant stress. Spouses caring for their disabled partners are particularly vulnerable to a range of stress-related health threats, including influenza, depression, heart disease, and even poorer survival rates. Caring for a spouse with even minor disabilities can induce severe stress in some cases. Specific risk factors that put caregivers at higher risk for severe stress or stress-related illnesses include care-giving wives. Some studies suggest that wives experience even greater stress from care-giving than husbands do. Living alone with the patient or helping a highly dependent patient could cause stress as well. Beside this, people who are less emotionally stable or have high anxiety levels tend to experience specific events as more stressful than others.