Mental illness can cause a person to be more vulnerable to stress. Likewise, stress can make a person more vulnerable to mental illness.
Stress can be positive or negative. It can arise from internal and external pressures. Stress is a natural response to change, and it is a normal part of life.
The body responds to stress through a stress response called "fight or flight syndrome." It has three phases. In the initial phase, the body recognizes and prepares to deal with a stressor. In the secondary phase, the body copes with the stressor and returns to normal. The third phase is called the exhaustion phase. If the stress continues, the body's resistance breaks down and makes it vulnerable to illness.
The body reacts to prolonged stress with short-term and long-terms effects. Short-term effects include blushing, gritting of teeth, "butterflies," feelings of anxiety, palpitations, increased respirations, clenched fists, and sweaty palms. Insomnia and fatigue, decreased concentration, and exacerbation of existing psychiatric problems may occur. As the stressors continue or become more severe, problem-solving abilities may be affected. There may be a noticeable decrease in work performance and an increase in substance abuse. Anger, irritability, surrender, and a feeling of failure may color a person's attitude and outlook on life.
Long-term effects may result in serious illness: headaches, ulcers, heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
It is important that all people learn to cope with stress, but the mentally ill are particularly sensitive. A key part of mental health teaching should be stress management.
Proper nutrition, adequate rest and sleep, regular exercise, making time for leisure activities, and the avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are essential tools for improving and maintaining mental health.
It is also important to learn how to recognize stress, avoid stressful situations, create a stress-free environment, and ask for help.
Relaxation can minimize the effects of stress. Meditation and prayer, engaging in hobbies, and spending time with friends or pets are proven antidotes for the toxic effects of STRESS.
A key element in improving and maintaining mental health is changing perceptions and ideas by changing "self-talk" and reinforcing behavior which promotes positive thinking and reality-based problem-solving skills.
In our modern, hectic world, it is difficult to schedule time for leisure and play, but studies have shown that the simple act of "playing" can slow the aging process and increase creativity by releasing natural endorphins in the brain.
It is equally important to give ourselves "self-strokes" and not rely on other people to supply us with a steady supply of emotional comforts and compliments. We must be responsible for our own well-being and self-esteem.
Dawn Pisturino, RN
October 23, 1997
Mohave Community College
Copyright 1997-2017 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: Caffeine should also be avoided as much as possible.