Stress is a normal reaction the body has when changes occur. It can respond to these changes physically, mentally, or emotionally.Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response.Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress.Expectations are greater, ambitions are higher and there is pressure to perform in all aspects of life.
Stress is a subjective experience
Much of the stress we experience is based on our own perception of a situation; therefore, sources of stress can vary greatly from one person to another. What any individual perceives as a stressor is a stressor for that person, regardless of another’s evaluation of that situation. It is clear that stress has a significant effect on health. It can affect the onset of, or susceptibility to disease.Two factors largely determine individual responses to stressful situations: the way the person perceives the situation, and the person’s general state of physical health. Stress can also affect the progression or course of disease, even when there is another cause of the disease; and can affect one’s recovery from disease.Chronic stress has been linked to cancer, diabetes, obesity, and alcohol and substance abuse. In addition, developmental abnormalities and neuro-degeneration can occur due to an overload of stress.
This is particularly relevant to children under chronic stress.Symptoms of stress can be physical (fatigue, headache, nausea, indigestion, breathlessness, skin rashes, chest pains and cramps), mental (poor concentration, memory difficulties, confusion, demotivation and loss of sense of humour), emotional (anxiety, depression, fear, anger and irritability), and/or behavioural (unsociable, poor time management, increase in appetite, smoking, drinking, swearing, and yelling).With continuous stress the body becomes more vulnerable to physical or psychological problems. Long-term effects of prolonged stress can include hypertension, headaches, arthritis, adrenal fatigue, decreased immune function, cancer, peptic ulcers, infertility, ageing and reduction of quality of life.
The effects of chronic stress
If you’re super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger and the harder it becomes to shut off.Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Is all stress bad?
Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s what helped our hunter-gatherer ancestors survive, and it’s just as important in today’s world. It can be healthy when it helps you avoid an accident, meet a tight deadline, or keep your wits about you amid chaos.We all feel stressed at times, but what one person finds stressful may be very different from what another finds stressful. An example of this would be public speaking. Some love the thrill of it and others become paralyzed at the very thought.
Stress isn’t always a bad thing, either.But stress should be temporary. Once you’ve passed the fight-or-flight moment, your heart rate and breathing should slow down and your muscles should relax. In a short time, your body should return to its natural state without any lasting negative effects.Life being what it is, it’s not possible to eliminate stress completely. But we can learn to avoid it when possible and manage it when it’s unavoidable.
Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Heart disease
- Weight problems
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory problems
Signs and symptoms of stress overload
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar — even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds or flu
- Depression or general unhappiness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Moodiness, irritability, or anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness and isolation
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
Stress at work
Work can be a source of great stress for any number of reasons. This kind of stress can be occasional or chronic.
Stress at work can come in the form of:
- feeling you lack power or control over what happens
- feeling stuck in a job you dislike and seeing no alternatives
- being made to do things you don’t think you should do
- experiencing a conflict with a co-worker
- having too much asked of you, or being overworked
Causes of Stress
The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful.
Common external causes of stress include:
- Major life changes
- Work or school
- Relationship difficulties
- Financial problems
- Being too busy
- Children and family
Common internal causes of stress include:
- Inability to accept uncertainty
- Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
- Negative self-talk
- Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism
- All-or-nothing attitude
Top 10 stressful life events
According to the widely validated Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, these are the top ten stressful life events for adults that can contribute to illness:
- Death of a spouse
- Marriage separation
- Death of a close family member
- Injury or illness
- Job loss
- Marriage reconciliation
What are the warning signs of stress?
Chronic stress can wear down the body’s natural defenses, leading to a variety of physical symptoms, including the following:
- Dizziness or a general feeling of “being out of it.”
- General aches and pains.
- Grinding teeth, clenched jaw.
- Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms.
- Increase in or loss of appetite.
- Muscle tension in neck, face or shoulders.
- Problems sleeping.
- Racing heart.
- Cold and sweaty palms.
- Tiredness, exhaustion.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Upset stomach, diarrhea.
- Sexual difficulties.
Tips for reducing stress
People can learn to manage stress and lead happier, healthier lives. You may want to begin with the following tips:
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. Assert your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi.
- Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Learn to manage your time more effectively.
- Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
- Make time for hobbies and interests.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
- Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
- Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you love.
- Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn more healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.
Simple Ways to Relieve Stress
1.Listen to music
2.Call a friend
3.Talk yourself through it
5.Laugh it off
8.Exercise (even for a minute)
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much untreated stress can cause potentially serious physical and mental health problems.The good news is that in many cases, stress is manageable. With some patience and a few useful strategies, you can reduce your stress, whether it’s family stress or stress at the workplace.