Stress is body’s response both physically and mentally to changes, events and situations in our lives due to any kind of demand or threat. People experience stress in different ways and for different reasons.
When we sense a danger – body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response.
Stress is a fact of life which cannot be denied. However, one can learn to manage it and reduce the effects of stress by being more conscious of the things that cause it and by life-style changes.
There are many things which may cause stress. For example, you may feel stress when you go on a job interview, take a test or run a race. These short-term stress are normal. Long-term (chronic) stress is caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time like problems at work or family conflicts. Exposure to chronic stressful situations can lead to severe health problems.
Situations which are recognized to be very stressful are associated with change and with lack of control over what is happening. Some of the causes of stress are happy events but because they bring big changes or make unusual demands on you, they can still be stressful.
Some of the most stressful events are: moving house, getting married, having a baby, bereavement, serious illness in you or a friend or family member.
Stress is also caused by long-term difficult circumstances such as: unemployment, poverty, relationship problems, caring for a disabled family member or friend or difficult time at work.
Symptoms of stress
There are numerous emotional and physical disorders that have been linked to stress including depression, anxiety, heart attacks, stroke, hypertension and others.
Psychological symptoms of stress can include: Sleep disturbances, Difficulty in concentrating, Lack of confidence, Depression, Difficulty in relaxing and Difficulty with decision making and Irritability.
Physical symptoms of stress can include: Muscle tension and pain, Low energy, Headaches, Changes in appetite, decreased sexual function and Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
Medical conditions that can occur as a result of long term stress include: Hair loss (alopecia), Heart palpitations, Hyperventilation, Gastrointestinal problems (e.g.: indigestion, heartburn), Worsening skin conditions, High Blood pressure, Recurrent colds and flu.
Harmful Effects of Stress
It’s important to know the effects stress can bring to our life and health. Here are some ways that chronic stress may affect your physical and mental health.
Brain: Stress can impede your thought processes and hamper your thinking.
Emotions: People dealing with chronic stress may be easily frustrated and quick to lose their temper.
Teeth and Gums: Strange as it may seem, stress can take a toll on your oral health. Stress may cause you to clench or grind your teeth. Its often done unconsciously or during your sleep, but if its not treated, it may lead to problems.
Heart: In terms of its effect on the body, stress is dangerous to your heart. Stress is also linked to high blood pressure, blood clots, and in some cases, even stroke.
Lungs: People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often have worsening symptoms during times of chronic stress.
Stomach: Stress may make your stomach uneasy, and you may have increased incidence of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Skin: Stress may make skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, and worse.
Hair: Your hair may fall victim to your stress. When a person is under a great deal of stress, his or her hair may enter the falling-out stage of the hair life cycle.
Immune System: If it seems you always get sick when you can least afford it, it may be because your stress is suppressing your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection. Stress can worsen symptoms of chronic illness such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
How to manage stress
You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems.
To get stress under control:
• Find out what is causing stress in your life.
• Look for ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Do something that interests you. Take up a hobby.
• Learn healthy ways to relieve stress and reduce its harmful effects.
• Manage your time well
• A person’s attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful. A person with a negative attitude will often report more stress than would someone with a positive attitude. Always keep positive attitude.
• Not getting enough physical activity can put the body in a stressed state. Physical activity has many benefits, including promoting a feeling of well-being. Therefore, try to include some form of physical activity in your day to day routine.
• Eat foods that improve your health and well-being. For example, eat more fruits and vegetables.
• Try to socialize. Even though you may feel like avoiding people when you are stressed, meeting friends often helps you feel less stressed.
• Be good to yourself and others
• Try relaxation techniques such as guided imagery, listening to music, practicing yoga or meditation.
Don’t Stress. Do your Best. Forget the rest.