Employee and Family
CMR Canada - Employee and Family Assistance Programs Head Office: Suite 600, Bow Valley Square 4, 250 - 6 Avenue SW, Calgary, Alberta T2P3H7 Telephone (403) 263-2200 Fax (403) 256-8291 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Life is filled with stress, which can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the "fight or flight" response. The threat can be any situation that is experienced, even subconsciously or falsely, as a danger. Common stressors include noise, crowding, isolation, hunger, danger, and infection. Imagining a threat or remembering a dangerous event can also evoke a stress response. Frequently, however, modern life poses on-going stressful situations that are not short-lived such as difficult work or personal situations and against which the urge to act -- to fight or to flee -- must be suppressed. Psychologic pressures such as relationship problems, loneliness, continual deadlines, or financial worries may be unrelenting and lead to chronic stress.
The body's stress response is somewhat like an airplane readying for take-off; virtually all systems -- the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the lungs, the digestive system, the sensory organs and brain -- are modified to meet the perceived danger. Under most circumstances, once the threat has passed the response becomes inactivated and levels of stress hormones return to normal -- a condition called the relaxation response.
The Physical Responses to Acute Stress
Response in the Brain
Following a threat, the part of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system releases certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) called catecholamines, particularly those known as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (also called adrenaline). The HPA systems also trigger the production and release of steroid hormones (glucocorticoids), including cortisol -- the primary stress hormone. Cortisol affects systems throughout the body. Catecholamines also activate an area inside the brain called the amygdala, which apparently triggers an emotional response to a stressful event and also signals the hippocampus -- a nearby area in the brain -- to store the emotionally loaded experience in long-term memory. In primitive times, this combination of responses would have been essential for survival, when long-lasting memories of dangerous stimuli (such as a large animal) would be critical for avoiding such threats in the future. During a stressful event, catecholamines also suppress activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. This sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly -- either to fight or to flee -- in emergency situations; however, this also hinders a person's ability to handle complex social or intellectual tasks and behaviors.
The Response of the Heart, Lungs, and Circulation
The heart rate and blood pressure increase instantaneously in response to stressful situations. Breathing becomes rapid and the lungs take in more oxygen. Blood flow may actually increase 300% to 400%, priming the muscles, lungs, and brain for added demands. In addition, the spleen discharges red and white blood cells, allowing the blood to transport more oxygen.
The Response of the Immune System
The immediate effect of stress is to dampen parts of the immune system. In addition, certain factors in the immune system -- including important white blood cells -- are redistributed, much like marshaling soldiers to potentially critical areas. In the case of stress, these immune-boosting troops are sent to the body's front lines where injury or infection is most likely, such as the skin, the bone marrow, and the lymph nodes.
Response in the Mouth and Throat
During stress, fluids are diverted from nonessential locations, including the mouth, causing dryness and difficulty in talking. In addition, stress can cause spasms of the throat muscles, making it difficult to swallow and fight infection.
Response in the Skin
Stress commonly results in cool, clammy sweaty skin and in a tightening of the scalp that makes the hair seem to stand on end. The skin is cool because blood flow is diverted away so it can support the heart and muscle tissues. As a result, physical capacity is increased and blood loss is reduced in the event of injury.
Stress shuts down digestive activity, a nonessential body function during short-term periods of physical exertion or crisis.
Giving Adolescents A Fighting Chance Against Eating Disorders
Low self-esteem and society's emphasis on thinness are among the many complex factors that plunge thousands of young women and their families onto a physically and emotionally dangerous roller coaster.
Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia) usually begin in adolescence. Young women with anorexia nervosa relentlessly pursue thinness through extreme dieting, often combined with excessive exercise and vomiting. They see themselves as fat, even in advanced stages of emaciation. Bulimia involves a cycle of binge eating, often triggered by feelings of anger, anxiety, depression and loneliness, followed by purging the unwanted calories through vomiting, abuse of laxatives, fasting or excessive exercise. These illnesses do not simply go away and are fatal for 10% to 15% of those affected.
No Small Problem
Fighting the Thinness Model
Eating disorders have also been related to feelings of poor self-esteem, helplessness or ineffectiveness. These feelings may be related to family dysfunction when children's emotional needs are not being addressed because of family problems. From a young age, girls learn to link their self-worth with appearance. Some act on these beliefs and go to damaging lengths to change their bodies, seeking a sense of self-control that temporarily relieves the initial problem.
Parents, educators and others must create an environment that celebrates a variety of body shapes and sizes, and reinforces healthy eating instead of dieting.
Parents Have a Key Role
Edited by CMR Canada
For more information on this and other subjects go to Interventions Archive. The EFAP assists you and your family resolve personal problems and maintain healthy and productive lives.
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CMR Canada, a national EFAP management firm founded in Alberta in 1990, delivers programs and services that enhance the health and performance capability of individuals and organizations. The firm delivers services to individuals plus their families in organizations located throughout Alberta - Municipal Governments, Hospitals, Unions, Universities, and Corporations and the General Public.
Interventions, the EFAP Journal of CMR Canada, is available to clients without cost.
CMR's organization is simple, efficient, and highly effective leaving the majority of resources, financial and human, to provide service to clients and their families. The firm has extensive experience in designing, implementing, resourcing, evaluating, and managing Assistance Programs.
CMR has an unlimited supply of qualified professionals to engage as needed. Professionals are partnered or on contract to CMR. Included are Psychologists, Registered Social Workers, Family Therapists, Crisis Counsellors, Career Counsellors, and Certified Human Resource Professionals.
Working principles: keep the business small; deliver extraordinary personal service; keep the costs low. This highly efficient and effective business model allows CMR to deliver high quality programs and services at lower cost with increased accountability - and select the most experienced and capable professionals.
CMR Canada - Employee and Family Assistance Programs
Head Office Suite 3500, Bow Valley Square 2 205 - 5 Avenue SW Calgary, Alberta T2P2V7 Telephone (403)263-2200 in Calgary, or 1-800-567-9953 from elsewhere Fax (403)256-8291 E-Mail: CMR Canada
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