What is Stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger – whether real or imagined – the body’s defences kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process, known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response. The stress response may also help you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes when you’re working, playing sports, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d instead be watching TV. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful. It starts causing significant damage to your health, mood, productivity, relationships, and quality of life.
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant moodiness
- Irritability or short temper
- Agitation, inability to relax
- Worrying and feeling overwhelmed
- Sense of loneliness and isolation
- Depression or general unhappiness
The Effects of Chronic Stress
Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility and speed up the ageing process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Physical Symptoms of Chronic Stress
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Isolating yourself from others
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
- Aches and pains
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Nausea, dizziness
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
- Loss of sex drive
- Frequent colds
Stress Management Strategy
1. Avoid unnecessary stress
- Learn how to say “NO.”
- Avoid people who stress you out
- Take control of your environment
- Avoid hot-button topics
- Trim down your to-do list – distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts”
2. Alter the situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it.
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Be more assertive.
- Manage your time better.
3. Adapt to the stressor
If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
- Reframe problems
- Look at the big picture
- Adjust your standards
- Focus on the positive
- Adjust your attitude
If you say good things about yourself, you are more likely to feel good; the reverse is also true. Eliminate words such as “always,” “never,” “should,” and “must.” These are tell-tale marks of self-defeating thoughts.
4. Accept the things you can’t change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a severe illness, or a national recession.
- Don’t try to control the uncontrollable
- Look for the upside
- Share your feelings
- Learn to forgive
5. Make time for fun and relaxation
- Set aside relaxation time
- Connect with others
- Do something you enjoy every day
- Keep your sense of humour
6. Adopt a healthy lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to stress by strengthening your physical health.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy diet
- Reduce caffeine and sugar
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs
- Get enough sleep
Am I in control of my stress?
- When I feel agitated, do I know how to calm and soothe myself quickly?
- Can I quickly let go of my anger?
- Can I turn to others at work to help me calm down and feel better?
- When I come home at night, do I walk in the door feeling alert and relaxed?
- Am I seldom distracted or moody?
- Am I able to recognise upsets that others seem to be experiencing?
- Do I quickly turn to friends or family members for a calming influence?
- When my energy is low, do I know how to boost it?
How To Find A Mental Health Professional
Don’t wait until you have a severe problem before you get help. Finding someone to talk to now could be the best way to help you feel better and in control, whatever your situation. These days, many doctors and therapists are also offering Zoom-consultations while social distancing to avoid the anxiety of Covid-19 infection. You can reach out to Life Path Health by visiting their therapist directory or call their 24/7-Helpline on 072 7900 506. They will gladly have a chat and put you in contact with a therapist or doctor in your area.
Read More: Stress or Anxiety? Know the Difference