Generally, we use the word “stress” when we are exhausted with anything. Mostly, it’s used when you are physically and mentally tired. Accounting its deeper meaning, Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disrupts our physical or mental balance. Stress is related to demand and threat while we feel stress when we are in under extreme pressure. A stressful event can trigger “fight-or-flight” response, causing hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. When stress is within our comfort zone, it can help us to stay focused, alert and energetic. In an emergency situation, it can be life savior giving us extra strength to defend ourselves. So. how can we get stress relief?
Unlike other health problems, Stress is disturbing while it is equally important in our lives. Stress in another word is the energy and effort that we spend on a specific task. The control stress helps us to meet challenges, sharpens our concentration, keep us on our toes during an important presentation and much more. However, Stress beyond our comfort zone stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to our mind and body. When stresses undermine both our physical and mental health they are seriously bad. In this article, we shall be focusing on stress that is bad for us and is more chronic. There is a connection between stress and illness. Stress may do more than leave frazzled. It’s a real health threat that has been known to lead to everything from heart disease to high blood pressure.
Effects of chronic stress
Stress means different thing to different people. Chronic stress affects the body’s nervous system; while it often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. It confuses with the real fight of the life with normal daily life problems. For instance, we get stressed with our friend’s argument, a crowd, noise, pollutions, and financial problems. Hitting the nervous system hard, it makes our body to act as if we’re facing a life or death situation.
When we continuously experience the mobilization of “fight or flight” stress response in our daily life, it can cause a serious health problem. Chronic stress disrupts almost every system in our body. It can harm our body’s immune system, raise blood pressure, upset digestive and reproductive system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the ageing process and leave us vulnerable to many mental and physical health issues.
Health problems caused by stress are included:
- Depression and anxiety
- Weight problems
- Anger and sadness
- Irritability and restlessness
- Memory problems
- Sleeping disorder
- Autoimmune problems
- Heart disease
- The pain of any kind
- Reproductive and digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Hair loss
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Hyperventilation (rapid, deep breathing)
- Gastrointestinal problems (heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome)
- Recurrent cold and flu
If it is suspected that stress is the cause of psychological or physical illness, a doctor must be consulted. The doctor will figure out any physical or mental illness that may be the cause of the symptoms. A doctor will discuss the patient’s history and circumstances, including identification of any stressors that may be present in the patient’s life. The doctor will try to determine the level of stress the patient is dealing with and their ability to deal with the stress.
Symptoms of chronic stress
Stress is everywhere. And while little stress is ok because some stress is actually beneficial-too, much stress can wear you down and make you sick, both physically and mentally. Stress can affect all aspects of our life, including our emotions, behaviours, thinking ability, and physical health. Because People handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. The more symptoms we notice in ourselves, the closer we may be stress overload. Following are some of the usual signs and symptoms of chronic stress:
- Pains and aches
- Nausea, dizziness
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds or flu
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Depression and sadness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Moodiness, anger, irritability
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Loneliness and other mental health problem
- Memory problem
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Anxious or racing thought
- Constant worrying
- Sleeping disorder
- Eating disorder
- Nervous habits
- Drug abuse
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Withdrawing from others
Causes of stress
The events and pressures that cause stress are called stressors. Generally, we think of stressors are being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a hard relationship. Whatever, that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events also such as getting married, having babies, shifting home or a get promoted. As we know, not all stress caused by external factors. Stress can be triggered internally or self-generated, when you worried a lot about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.
Usual external causes of stress
- Major life changes
- Work or school
- Financial problem
- Busy schedule
- Family and children
- Relationship difficulties
Usual internal causes of stress
- Worrying too much
- All-or-nothing attitude
- Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
- Unrealistic expectation
- Negative self-talk
We all are different. So, our ability to tolerate stress is also different. Some people seem to be able to face life’s challenge, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Lots of people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle. For example, In the morning you get anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip restful because they allow more time and enjoy listening music while they drive.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance
Tolerance to stress depends on many factors, but there are steps we can take to improve our tolerance and handle more challenges without becoming overwhelmed by stress.
- Awareness: We are used to being overloaded with the stress that we don’t even notice it. Being stressed feels normal. But awareness of what we’re feeling, emotionally and physically, can have an effect on both our stress tolerance and how we go about reducing stress. Having the emotional awareness to distinguish when we’re stressed and then being able to calm ourselves can improve our tolerance to stress and help us to handle the emotional conflicts.
- Physical activities: Regular exercise freshen up our mood and serve as a distraction to our worries and troubles. It helps to find some quiet time, mental peace and break out of the cycle of the negative thought that creates stress and anxiety.
- Healthy food: The food we eat affect our ability to cope with life’s stressors and can improve or worsen our mood. Eating a diet rich fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids can help us better cope with life’s ups and down.
- Relationships and support networks: Social engagement has always been human being’s most significant response to life’s stressors. So it’s obvious that people with a strong network of friends and family with whom they’re comfortable sharing stressful emotions are more likely to able tolerate stress easily. On the other side, the more you are alone and isolated, the less chance you have for social engagement and the greater your vulnerability to stress.
Other factors that influence your stress tolerance
- Your sense of control: It’s easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in your ability to influence situations and persevere through challenges.
- Your attitude and outlook: Optimist people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a great sense of humor and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
- Your knowledge and preparation: The more you know about stressful events, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to deal with stress.
Stress Relief and management
Building up strategies to cope with stress can prevent or reduce its effects. Whether we’re trying to build our tolerance to stress or cope with its symptoms, we have much better control over stress than we might think. Unfortunately, we try to cope with stress in ways that only compound problem. We drink too much to unwind at the end of a stressful day, fill up on comfort food, zone out in front of the TV for so long, use pills to get relax, or lash out at other people. Instead, there are many healthier and more effective ways to deal with stress and its effects. These include getting moving, connect with others, engage your senses, set aside relaxation, eat a healthy diet, get your rest, counselling, medication and alternative therapies.
- Get moving: This is something we can do right now to help ourselves start to feel great: exercise. Activities that need to move our arms and legs are especially effective at reducing stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, swimming, dancing, running and aerobic classes are better choices, especially if you exercise mindfully.
- Exercise and diet: Diet and exercise can play a significant role in the relief of stress. Eat a balanced diet and avoid foods that can increase tension eg: coffee, tea, and foods with high sugar. Exercise helps to release built-up tension and increases fitness. Regular exercise helps to increase the body’s ability to deal with stress and also avoid the damage to our health that prolonged stress can cause. It is suggested that exercise is undertaken at least three times per week to be of most benefit.
- Connect to others: Talking face to face with another person can trigger hormones that relieve stress when we’re feeling low, unsure or uncomfortable. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another person can help calm and comfort our nervous system. Being friendly and helpful to other people delivers stress-reducing pleasure as well as providing great chances to extend our social network.
- Engage your senses: Another way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your senses- sight, smell touch, taste or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that puzzles out for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel better and calm, smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting and animal work quickly to make you feel centred? Different people respond to sensory input a little variously, so experiment to find what works best for you.
- Relaxation: Relaxation is an effective way to help reduce muscle tension concern with stress. There are lots of relaxation techniques eg: meditation, yoga, massage. Some people find that simply taking “time out” during the day after a stressful situation is enough to reduce stress levels. There are more formalized relaxation techniques available, eg: Jacobson’s Progressive Relaxation Techniques, The Mitchell Method, and hypnosis. Consult a doctor to figure out what services are available.
- Alternative therapies: Some people find therapies such as acupuncture, homoeopathy, herbal medicine, and aromatherapy effective in both relieving and preventing stress.
- Medications: In serious cases of stress patient, medication may be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms caused by stress. Medication must only be considered as a short-treatment and must be strictly monitored by the prescribing doctor.
- Get your rest: Being restless and feeling tired can increase stress causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress may disrupt your sleep. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed and more productive and emotionally balanced.