Guide to Coping with
Health Problems and Stress
By Jon Seskevich RN, BSN,
Nurse Clinician, Duke University Health System
Printer Friendly Version (PDF 10 pages)
What is stress?
How does stress
affect the body?
Signs of stress
Coping with health problems
relaxation look to an EEG
What Is Stress?
Most people consider stress as
problems, worries, tension or pressure. It is
valuable and practical to see stress relating to
change. Stress can come from any change that one
must adjust to. Health problems can cause change
in many dimensions of life! Stress can be an
everyday fact of life for many. Some thrive on
stress. A stressor, something that causes
stress, can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.
Christmas, the holidays, a wedding, buying a
house, or having a child all can be very
positive but stressful.
Stress, according to Hans Selye, MD, is the wear
and tear on our body, mind, and spirit brought
about by our reactions to the events of life.
The stress response is the end result of the
complex interaction between the individual and
his or her world.
STRESSOR + INDIVIDUAL MAKEUP =
THE BODY'S RESPONSE TO STRESS
Stressors are things, events or
people that cause us to change or adapt:
- Physical: Personal illness,
noise, heat, cold, weather, smoke, pollution.
- Social: Illness in the
family, relationships with family members,
friends, neighbors, loved ones or coworkers. A
stressful work situation, success, money
problems, a major change in family life like
getting married, or divorced.
- Mental: Being in limbo,
waiting and not knowing what will be happening,
choices in general, not being able to meet a
goal, frequently having to be perfect, quick
temper, control issues, or addictions
- Strong emotional reactions
can come from or cause more stress.
- Each person is different
genetically and has unique strengths and
- These differences include our
age, sex, physical fitness, places where tension
may build or react in our bodies, illness and
- We all have attitudes,
beliefs and personalities. Each person
interprets and responds to stressors distinctly.
This is in part due to what we have learned in
the past. Learning can come from family, peers,
society, church, school, movies and TV.
Next: How does
stress affect the body?