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Coping with Chronic Stress
by: Trevor Dumbleton
Copyright 2005 Trevor Dumbleton

There are some people who only get stress from time to time and there are others who suffer from chronic stress. Obviously, it is easier to deal with stress that only arises occasionally, while it is almost impossible to get away from chronic stress.

Chronic stress is a condition in which stress arrives routinely and can often stay for days, weeks, and even months at a time, leaving people almost unable to think about anything other than everything that there is to worry about . Unfortunately, the mere sense of worry is not the worst the worst of it. It also leaves people fatigued and unable to concentrate and it can lead to problems with memory and even leave people unable to sleep right. Then, in its worst forms, it can even lead to a complete nervous breakdown, leaving the sufferer incapable of doing anything.

On top of the mental symptoms, chronic stress also leads to a weakened immune system, leaving a person vulnerable to disease. Then, if left unchecked, chronic stress will cause high blood pressure, coronary disease and even strokes. This is because stress tends to elevate the blood pressure, which is very dangerous if it continues too long. And as the heart continues to pump too quickly, it will swell up and eventually break down. Also, stress tells the body to create more platelets, which are designed to stop bleeding in cuts. Unfortunately, these can also lead to blood clots, such as those that cause hearts attacks and strokes. Thus, chronic stress can have serious repercussions on a person's physical health.

One source of chronic stress can actually be post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a syndrome in which the person has had some sort of sudden, severe stress that has shocked the mind so fiercely that it is incapable of moving beyond that moment. In fact, there is research showing that a severe shock to the system can actually change the chemistry of the brain so that it is becomes suddenly accustomed to stress and it actually desires to stay in a state of stress. Thus, instead of moving beyond a severe shock, the brain is stuck in it and it is almost addicted to the sense of stress. Thus, rather than finding a way to come to grips with the problem, the brain is actually trying to return to it so that it can feel that shock again. This may seem to be counterintuitive, since the stress is usually a very unpleasant one, but the sudden rush of chemicals to the brain is not unlike using a drug. And, after that experience, the brain wants more of those chemicals in order to get its "fix".

However, a sudden shock is not the only source of chronic stress. In fact, chronic stress can also result from a long period of stress. This may come from an intense period of work, or a rough period of time with the family, or even a project that was both enjoyable and a high priority. Just like post-traumatic stress disorder, the brain has become accustomed to having all those exciting chemicals flowing through it, so wants to return to the days when it was working at such an intense rate. Thus, once the brain is tuned for stress, it immediately goes back to it like a junkie returning to a dealer.

The problem, of course, is how to get the brain to get less accustomed to stress. Unfortunately, this is not easy, since the brain's chemistry is now attuned to the feeling and its receptors now have a heightened sensitivity to stress. This is not easy, but it can be done.

People with chronic stress should seek relief through exercise, eating right, and getting plenty of sleep every night. All of these activities will help balance the mind and allow it to work more clearly while easing fatigue and the inability to concentrate. As well, a long vacation can provide some relief, as the simple act of getting away from it all will give the mind a chance to relax. Or, for the most severe cases, a person suffering from chronic stress may want to see a counselor or therapist who can help them through their memories and find some solutions. However, there is a certain stigma attached to this form of therapy, so people often shy away from seeking it. But people suffering from chronic stress should be afraid to ask for help and these people are more than happy to provide it.

Though chronic stress is difficult to deal with, it is not an impossible syndrome. Sufferers simply need to come to grips with their stress and find solutions that will work for them. Though it is a tough road to travel down, the rewards are immense for both mental and physical health. Thus, once chronic stress has been found, it should be dealt with immediately.

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