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Controlling stress key to success

16 Apr 2004 | Cpl. Kat Johnson

Has stress ever made you want to hit someone with your car? It did in Sydney, Australia.
On a highway, a driver attempted to argue with a motorcyclist who was driving too slow. Enraged by the motorcyclist response, the driver accelerated and rammed the motorcycle. He then attempted to run over the motorcyclist along with two innocent by-standers when they attempted to come to the biker’s aid.

Normal behavior?  According to studies conducted by the Science Organization of Australia, it may have been if the driver of the car was experiencing a chemical imbalance in his parasympathetic nervous system, the portion of the body that releases hormones in response to stress. His body may have been releasing excessive toxins from being stressed out.

High levels of stress, whether positive or negative, affect the body and long-term exposure to either one can alter an individuals mental and physical health.

“Stressful situations can cause people to do things they normally wouldn’t,” said John Abney, stress management counselor, Marine Corps Community Services. “Everyone has a certain stress level they can bear and sometimes when they reach that level they may act out in order to feel relief.”

Stress is defined as the mental, physical, emotional, or physical strain caused by anxiety. Whether it is the result of a positive or negative situation, the brain reacts to all anxiety the same, according to a study by the University of Illinois.

The university has a counseling center that specializes in recognizing the signs of stress and stress management. They teach individuals that the ability to manage perceived pressures on a day-to-day basis is one of the most important steps for stress management.

“I would recommend that everyone take stress management classes even if they are not experiencing stress,” Abney said. “They might not be stressed today but they will be at some point in life and classes can help.”

Some signs of negative stress are high blood pressure, ulcers and nervousness. As a result, a person may experience long-term emotional and physical health problems. Feelings of anxiety from negative stress can also cause insomnia and upset stomachs.

Reactions to positive stress, such as anticipation for a special event or job promotion, can cause as much emotional and physical changes as negative stress, but with healthier results.

According to the International Stress Management Association, positive stress may boost feelings of confidence, thus leading to an increase of activities that support healthy lifestyles, such as exercising and eating right. It can help the limbic system, the network of brain neurons, to interpret negative stress with less intensity, leading to a reduction of physical problems associated with negative stressors.

“I think that positive stress can sometimes serve as a motivator for some people,” Abney said. “By recognizing these signs, whether positive or negative, an individual can prepare themselves to handle the next stressful situation that might occur.”

According to Abney, everyone has a kind sixth sense to let them know they are stressed out. Taking a class can help people deal with those stressful situations.
To register for a class, contact your base or station MCCS prevention specialist.