Stress in everyday terms is a feeling that people have when they are overloaded and struggling to cope with demands. These demands can be related to finances, work, relationships, and other situations. Anything that poses a real or perceived challenge or threat to a person and him/she well-being can cause stress.
Quite an essential phenomenon to survival. Stress can be a motivator, and the fight or flight mechanism can tell us when and how to respond to danger. However, if this mechanism is triggered too easily, or when there are too many stressors at one time, it can undermine a person mental and physical health and become harmful.
It may seem that there’s nothing you can do about your stress level. The bills aren’t going to stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day for all your errands, and your career or family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think. In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. Stress helps the body prepare and keep fit to face any danger.
The symptoms of stress can be both physical and psychological. Short-term stress can be helpful, but long-term stress is linked to various health conditions. Each person responds to stress in a different way, but too much stress can lead to health
problems. Stress is the body’s natural defense mechanism put in place to fight against predators and danger. It flushes the body with hormones to prepare systems to evade or confront danger.
When we are faced with a challenge, part of our response is physical. The body activates resources to protect us by preparing us either to stay and fight or to get away as fast as possible. The body produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. These trigger an increased heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness. All these factors improve the ability to respond to a hazardous or challenging situation.
There are few factors of the environment that trigger this stress reaction, and they are called stressors. Examples include noises, aggressive behavior, a speeding car, scary moments in movies, or even going out on a first date. The more stressors we experience, the more stressed we tend to feel.
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BODY WHEN STRESS OCCURS
This reaction slows normal bodily functions, such as the digestive and immune systems. All resources can then be concentrated on rapid breathing, blood flow, alertness, and muscle use. Some experiences generally considered positive can lead to stress, such as giving birth, traveling, moving to a nicer house, and promotion. This is because they often involve a major change, extra effort, new responsibilities, and a need for adaptation. They are also steps into the unknown. At this point, the person wonders if they will cope.
A persistently negative response to challenges can have a detrimental effect on health and happiness. However, being aware of how you react to stressors and manage it, can help reduce the negative feelings and effects of stress.
TYPES OF STRESS
There are two types of stress which are:
Often, this type of stress is caused by thinking about the pressures of events that have recently occurred. Or upcoming demands in the near future. This type of stress is short-term and is the most common way that stress occurs. For example, if you have recently been involved in an argument that has caused upset or has an upcoming deadline. You may feel stressed about these triggers. However, the stress will be reduced or removed once these are resolved.
It does not cause the same amount of damage as long-term stress. Short-term effects include tension headaches and an upset stomach, as well as a moderate amount of distress. However, repeated instances of acute stress over a long period can become chronic and harmful. People who frequently experience acute stress, or whose lives present frequent triggers of stress,
have episodic acute stress.
A person with too many commitments and poor organization can find themselves displaying episodic stress symptoms. These include a tendency to be irritable and tense, and this irritability can affect relationships. Individuals that worry too much on a constant basis can also find themselves facing this type of stress. This type of stress can also lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.
The most harmful type of stress is the “Chronic Stress” and which grinds away over a long period. The ongoing poverty, a dysfunctional family, or an unhappy marriage can cause chronic stress. It occurs when a person never sees an escape from the cause of stress and stops seeking solutions. Sometimes, it can be caused by a traumatic experience early in life.
Chronic stress can continue unnoticed, as people can become used to it. Unlike acute stress that is new and often has an immediate solution. It can become part of an individuals personality. Making them constantly prone to the effects of stress regardless of the scenarios they come up against.
People with chronic stress are likely to have a final breakdown that can lead to suicide, violent actions, heart attacks, and strokes. We all react differently to stressful situations. What is stressful for one person may not be stressful to another. Almost anything can cause stress. For some people, just thinking about something or several small things can cause stress.
COMMON MAJOR LIFE EVENTS THAT CAN CAUSE OR TRIGGER STRESS
Different situations can trigger stress for different people. Such as;
- Job issues or retirement, Bereavement, Family problems, Illness, Marriage, Divorce,
Relationships and others.
- Pregnancy and becoming a parent, Abortion or miscarriage, Uncertainty or waiting for an important outcome and others.
Some situations will affect some people and not others. Past experience can impact how a person
- Sometimes, there is no identifiable cause.
- Mental health issues, such as depression, or an accumulated sense of frustration and anxiety can make some people feel stressed more easily than others.
- Some people experience ongoing stress after a traumatic event, such as an accident or some kind
of abuse. This is known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who work in stressful
jobs, such as military or emergency services have to be monitored.
PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF STRESS
Sweating, Pain in the back or chest, Erectile dysfunction and loss of libido, Fainting, Headache, High blood pressure, Lower immunity against diseases, Muscular aches, sleeping difficulties, Stomach upset and others.
MANAGEMENT OF STRESS
If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four as avoid, alter, adapt, or
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “one size fits all” solution to managing it. There is no single method that specifically works for everyone. Each and everyone should discover which works for them. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
The following are ways to manage stress
This includes self-help and, in instances where the stress is caused by an underlying condition, certain medications. Therapies that may help to induce relaxation include aromatherapy or reflexology. Some insurance providers cover this type of treatment but are sure to check before pursuing this treatment.
Doctors will not usually prescribe medications for coping with stress, unless the patient has an underlying illness, such as depression or a type of anxiety. In that case, the doctor is treating mental illness and not the stress. In such cases, an antidepressant may be prescribed. However, there is a risk that the medication will only mask the stress, rather than help you deal and cope with it. Antidepressants can also have adverse effects.
Developing some coping strategies before stress hits can help individual manage situations and maintain physical and mental health. If you are already experiencing overwhelming stress, seek medical help.
LIFESTYLE CHOICES THAT CAN REDUCE STRESS
1. Massage, yoga, or listening to music can help stress or prevent stress from building up.
2. Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise can benefit a person’s mental and physical state.
3. Reducing intake of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine: These substances will not help prevent stress, and they can make it worse. They should be cut out or reduced.
4. Nutrition: A healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables helps maintain the immune system at times of stress. A poor diet will lead to ill health and additional stress.
5. Prioritizing: Spend a little time organizing your to-do list to see what is most important. Then focus of what you have completed or accomplished for the day, rather than what you are yet to finish.
6. Time: Set aside a little time each day just for yourself. Use it to organize your life, relax, and pursue your own interests.
7. Breathing and relaxation: Meditation, massage, and yoga can help. Breathing and relaxation techniques can slow down the system and help you relax. Breathing is also a central part of mindfulness meditation.
8. Talking: Talking to family, friends, work colleagues, and your boss about your thoughts and worries will help you let off steam. You may be comforted to find that you are not the only one. You may even find there is an easy solution that you had not thought of.
9. Acknowledging the signs: A person can be so anxious about the problem that is causing the stress that they do not notice the effects on their body.
Noticing symptoms is the first step to taking action. People who experience work stress due to long hours may need to take a step back. It may be time to review their own working practice or to talk to a supervisor about reducing the load.