Stress is defined as a "state of prolonged tension from internal or external stressors, which may cause various physical manifestations – e.g., asthma, back pain, arrhythmias, fatigue, headaches, HTN, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and suppress the immune system". Chronic stress takes a more significant toll on your body than acute stress does. It can raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, increase vulnerability to anxiety and depression, contribute to infertility, and hasten the aging process. Stress is the body’s reaction to any stimuli that disturb its equilibrium. When the equilibrium of various hormones is altered the effect of these changes can be detrimental to the immune system Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation, deemed distress, may lead to anxiety or withdrawal (depression) behavior. Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical, or behavioral.

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimistic approach or thoughts
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Emotional symptoms
  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

Physical Symptoms

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Indigestion
  • Low blood sugar
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Irregular periods.

Behavioral symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating oneself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

What is Relaxation?
The good news is that learning to relax can actually reverse this vicious cycle. Relaxation techniques have the ability to decrease our levels of arousal or anxiety and reverse the stress response. By learning a relaxation technique, you create pleasant body sensations. Your tension, anxiety, stress and worry as well as any pain you may be experiencing eases and you gradually increase your sense of calmness and peace of mind. Many people say they only realized how tense they were after they learned relaxation techniques and how to relax. Guy Leech, famous Australian ironman athlete commonly used relaxation techniques to prepare him before competition "Relaxation was a great way for me to prepare for an iron man race. Whilst all my competitors were on edge, hyped up and looking around, worried about their opponents, I was calm, focused and clear on what I needed to do to win!

It's important to understand that relaxation techniques are not the same as when you're flopped in front of the TV or even when you are asleep. In fact, when you learn to relax you will feel quite clear-headed and in control.

Learning to relax can take a bit of practice. You have to be open minded and be willing to give it a fair go, but the end result can be very rewarding.

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