Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. In controlled doses, it can motivate you to work under pressure and help you put in your best efforts. However, when it happens repeatedly, your brain and body will start to respond negatively. If you are always stressed up, you can shield yourself from the unwanted effects of stress by knowing how to recognize its signs and symptoms as well as learn about measures you can take to reduce its deleterious effects.
- 1. What is Stress?
- 2. How To Know That You Are Stressed Out?
- 3. Stress and Strain
- 4. Physical Symptoms of Stress
- 5. Effects of Stress
- 6. Stress Common Issues
- 7. Stress During Pregnancy
- 8. What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
- 9. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- 10. What is Acute Stress Disorder?
- 11. How To Deal With Stress?
- 12. Stress Management Tips
- 13. Stress Reliefs
1. What is Stress?
Stress is your body’s natural approach to any type of threat or need. When we are under real or imagined danger, our bodies think that we are under attack, leading to the automatic activation of its defense mechanism, called the “fight-or-flight” mode, or the stress response. This triggers the release of a cocktail hormones and chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine in order to prepare the body for action. As a result, blood flow to the muscle is increased and needless body functions such as digestion is slowed down to prepare the body for physical action. You also experience increased rate of breathing, increased heartbeat, and sharper senses.
Stress can be advantageous and is a way of the body protecting you. In adequate amounts, it can assist you to stay focused, strong, and prepared. If you facing a life threatening situation, stress can offer extra concentration and power to help you cope adequately. On the other hand, constant high levels of stress can lead to sustained cortisol levels, which results in raised blood pressure and sugar level. Apart from these, your general health, output, interactions and overall quality of life is also affected.
2. How To Know That You Are Stressed Out?
There are several ways to know you stressed out, as this will help you slow down and take a break:
- You always feel sick
As mentioned earlier, our body secretes a high amount of cortisol and other hormones in response to stress. This is meant to help us cope better. However, with constant stress, these chemical levels become low, resulting in you being prone to sickness. Also, stress contributes to poor wound healing, and increased susceptibility to viruses.
- Difficulty concentrating
When you cannot remember simple things like where you kept your files at work, this is a sign of stress. In the long run, you are prone to diseases such as Alzheimer’s according to research.
- Constant and persistent headaches
Constant stress leads to tension or stress headaches, which you experience around your head or temples. If this headache is strange, feels like you are having a migraine, or wakes you at night, you need to reduce your stress levels and visit your doctor.
- Constant pain at you back or neck
Overwork or a personal problem can lead to aches at the back, neck or even legs. This is because stress causes muscle tightness and spasms.
- You cannot sleep even when you are very tired
Staying awake to go over things in your head is a sign of stress induced anxiety. Also, having a hard time falling asleep even when you are very tired, means you are suffering from stress induced fatigue.
- Your hair is starting to fall out
If you wake up every day to find some strands of hair on your pillow, it is likely that your body is attacking its hair follicles. This can be a result of severe stress.
- Your sex life is suffering
A lot of men are unaware that stress is one of the major causes of erectile dysfunction. This leads to a poor sex life, and may affect your marriage or relationship eventually.
3. Stress and Strain
Fatigue and stress often go together, and it is fairly simple to understand why. Indeed, in times of stress, our organism draws relentlessly from its energy reserves and struggles to adapt. Faced with this permanent and repetitive solicitation, and also the lack of sleep our body no longer finds the necessary fuel and breaks down. In this way fatigue sets in.
It is normal to feel tired after a long day of work or after a great workout, but it is necessary to distinguish “normal” fatigue from fatigue due to stress; This fatigue is distinguished by the following peculiarities:
- it lasts, despite rest and good night’s sleep;
- it has no apparent cause;
- it is more intense in the morning than in the evening;
- it is accompanied by discouragement and which prevents enjoyment of what we previously loved.
4. Physical Symptoms of Stress
The physical symptoms of stress include:
- Muscle or general body aches and pains,
- Stomach upsets, such as diarrhea or constipation,
- Feeling nauseous and dizzy,
- Pin on the chest pain and increased heart rate,
- Low libido,
- Recurrent colds, flu and infections,
- Decreased energy levels,
- Constant headaches,
- Difficulty falling asleep,
- Nervousness and trembling, tinnitus, sweaty hands and feet,
- Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing,
5. Effects of Stress
While, a little amount and irregular stress is not worrisome, constant and chronic stress can result in or aggravate a number of health issues such as:
- Psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and personality conditions.
- Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and even cebrovascular accidents (stroke)
- Increased weight gain and binge eating
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Sexual problems, such as erectile dysfunction in men and loss of sexual appetite in both men and women
- Skin conditions such acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and long-lasting hair loss
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as Gastric Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
6. Stress Common Issues
- Stress headaches
As we have discussed so far, stress results in tension or stress headaches, likely resulting from insomnia and increased pressure to the brain.
- Stress ulcers
Conditions like ulcer are one of the results of the many gastrointestinal issues that results from stress. The body increases the secretion of stomach acids that eat away the lining of the stomach, resulting in ulcers.
- Can stress cause hives?
The skin is also susceptible to the inflammatory reactions that go on in the body in response to stress. This can eventually result in hives or urticaria.
- Can stress make you sick?
Stress reduces your body’s ability to defend itself from infections and other dangerous things that would it would normally protect you against. This results in constant flu and other infections
7. Stress During Pregnancy
A lot of people are curious about how and if stress can cause miscarriage. The answer is yes. Even though research has long established the relationship between high levels of stress and miscarriage, they could not prove how this was possible, until recently. It has been discovered that a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) which is secreted during high levels of stress also initiates uterine contractions during child birth. This results in expulsion of the contents of the uterus. Apart from this, CRH also stimulates mast cells (which triggers allergic reactions). During stress, the local production of CRH leads to the activation of mast cells to secrete substances that lead to miscarriage.
8. What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Post-Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a serious and possibly incapacitating condition that can happen in individuals that have gone through traumatic events such as natural disasters, severe accidents, terrorist attacks, rape, civil war or the sudden demise of a loved one, etc. Almost everybody will experience traumatic events, but while some people recover fully, others continue to experience problems associated with the past occurrences. They will become stressed, fearful or anxious whenever they remember those events and feel as if it is happening presently. Such individuals will be diagnosed with PTSD.
9. Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A diagnosis of PTSD made if a person experiences the following symptoms for not less than a month after a traumatic experience. PTSD is described by three major symptoms:
- Disturbing stressful remembrance of the traumatic event that seems like the person is re-experiencing the event through flashbacks and nightmares.
- Distancing oneself emotionally from people, locations and events that may are cues of the trauma.
- Raised arousal levels that result in sleeplessness, inability to focus, feeling jumpy, and getting irritated and angry easily.
10. What is Acute Stress Disorder?
Some weeks to a month after experiencing a traumatic event (e.g. losing a loved one, being involved in a serious accident), a few people develop severe anxiety and may not feel comfortable around other people. This is known as Acute Stress Disorder or ASD. People who are suffering from ASD, have reduced emotional sensitivity, difficulty in engaging and enjoying fun activities, find it hard to remember precise details on their ordeals (referred to as dissociative amnesia).
11. How To Deal With Stress?
- Listen to music
Music has a way of taking your mind off a stressful situation. Therefore, listen to calm music or your favorite songs when under stress. Soft music can lower blood pressure and reduce cortisol.
- Tell your problems to a friend
When you are undergoing stressful situations, call a close friend or family member let your feelings out. Such good relationships are not only part of a healthy lifestyle, but they can help you focus better.
- Talk yourself through the issue
Since it may not always be realistic to call a friend or loved one, you have to learn to speak to yourself about what you are going through at the moment. Tell yourself why you are stressed, what you can do to finish the job at hand, and reassure yourself that all is well.
- Eat the right food
Avoid sugary food. Rather take a lot of fruits, vegetables and fish. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been proven to relieve the symptoms of stress. For example, tuna sandwich is acclaimed to be brain food.
- Laugh it off
Laughter is the food of the mind. It releases endorphins, which enhances your mood and decrease levels of cortisol and adrenaline (which causes stress).
- Drink tea
Instead of coffee, take green tea. It contains antioxidants and other substances that soothe your nerves such as theanine.
- Other ways of relieving stress include meditation, regular exercise, getting better sleep, and practicing deep breathing exercises.
12. Stress Management Tips
There are several ways you can manage stress. Some tips include:
- Identify the habits and behaviors that cause you to be stressed-out, such as procratination.
- Replace poor coping habits such as smoking and drinking with healthy ones.
- Start regular physical activity.
- Go out and build positive relationships with others.
- Create time to engage in fun and leisure activities.
- Continue maintaining a healthy lifestyle of eating balanced diet, exercising, reducing sugar and caffeine and getting enough sleep.
13. Stress Reliefs
The best means of relieving stress is to learn and practice healthful coping mechanisms. Do not give up if one or two do not work for you, but keep trying until you find the right coping strategy.
- Writing down the things causing you to be stressed-out can be helpful. Also record how much stress you are going through. This will help you know what is causing your stress and by how much, so you can find solutions.
- Speak with friends and loved ones about how you are feeling. Don’t bottle up your feeling.
- Make out time to engage in activities you enjoy. This can help you relax.
- Don’t worry about what the future holds, but focus on the present.
- Meditation helps you concentrate on important things, which can help reduce your stress. Practicing deep breathing exercises while at it will help you relax. During meditation, use guided imagery and pictures yourself in an environment that will help you feel relaxed and calm.
- Stretch while you are exercising, this will help relieve muscle tension.
- Yoga, Tai Chi and Qi Gong can help you achieve calmness, because they combine exercise and relaxation. You can learn about these in books, videos, or by hiring a trainer.
- Deep breathing exercises such as roll breathing can help circulate oxygen and blood around your body, leaving you feeling relaxed.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation, by relaxing individual muscle groups, one after the other.
- Other means of managing stress include massage or music therapy.
- It is also possible and advisable to practice a combination of these stress management techniques for better outcomes.
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