Stress is the bodies way of coping or responding to any kind of demand or threat. A small amount of stress can be even useful as it can motivate you to perform well. However, having multiple challenges daily such as meeting deadlines or paying bills can easily push an individual beyond their ability to cope.
Your brain comes hard wired with a “fight or flight” response to any perceived threat. When this happens, your body is signed to release a burst of hormones that increase heart rate and increase blood pressure.
This response is designed to fuel you to deal with the threat. When the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state. However, the non-stop nature of modern life means that some people’s “alarm system” never gets shut off.
Managing your stress is an important part of life and can help your mind and body adapt. Stress management gives an individual a range of tools to help reset the fight or flight response, and without it, chronic stress can lead to serious health problems.
It is important not to wait until your stress damages your health, relationships or quality of life. You can start practicing stress management techniques anytime.
Causes and Risk factors
Situations or pressure that cause stress are commonly known as stressors and we generally think of these as being negative. A good example is a bad relationship or a demanding work schedule. However anything that puts a high demand on you can be stressful, including events such as marriage, buying a house or going to college. In addition to this, stress can be caused by an individual’s internal factors such as excessive worrying or having irrational pessimistic thoughts about life.
External causes of stress include
- Work or school.
- Relationship difficulties.
- Being too busy.
- Major life changes.
- Financial problems.
- Children and family.
Internal causes of stress include
- Negative self-talk.
- All or nothing attitude.
- Unrealistic expectations/perfectionism.
- Lack of flexibility or rigid thinking.
- Inability to accept uncertainty.
Symptoms/Effects Of Chronic Stress
Even though you may not directly realize it, stress symptoms may be adversely affecting your health. You may blame an illness for a persistent headache, frequent insomnia or decreased productivity, but stress may be the real culprit.
It is crucial to be able to identify how stress affects your body, thoughts, feelings and behavior on an individual basis. This can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that is left unchecked can lead to numerous health problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Some common effects of stress are listed below:
Effects on the body
Effects on your mood
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
- Lack of motivation or focus
Effects on behavior
- Angry outburst
- Tobacco use
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
- Overeating or undereating
How To Deal With Stress
Stress can leave you feeling frustrated and irritable. When this happens, stress relievers can help restore calm and serenity to your chaotic life. If your stress is getting out of hand and you need some relief, you can try these tips:
Raising your activity level is something you can do immediately to help relieve stress and begin to feel better. Exercising regularly can lift your mood and serve as a valuable distraction from life’s worries and allow you to take a break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Exercises such as walking, swimming, running and dancing are particularly effective rhythmic options.
Connect to others
Just being face to face with someone else can trigger hormones that help relieve stress when you are feeling agitated or insecure. A simple brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system.
So it is important to spend time with people who make you feel good and not let responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you are lacking friends or close relationships, you should make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections in your life.
Engage your senses
Another quick way to relive stress is by engaging one or more of your senses such as listening to music, smelling ground coffee, or maybe even petting an animal. Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently so its key to find one that works best for you.
Eating a healthy diet
The food you eat can greatly improve or worsen your mood and impact your ability to cope with the stressors of life. A diet composed entirely of processed and convenient food, refined carbs and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress while eating a fruit and vegetable rich diet can help you cope better with life’s ups and downs.
Learn to relax
You can never truly eliminate stress completely from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response and trigger a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. If practiced regularly, these activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity.
Getting enough rest
Feeling tired and fatigued can increase your stress levels by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can also disrupt your sleep. The quality and amount of sleep you get can also affect your mood, energy level, concentration and overall functioning . If you are experiencing sleep troubles, make sure to have a quiet, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to a consistent schedule.