What is Stress?
We generally use the word “stress” when we feel that everything seems to have become too much – we are overloaded and wonder whether we really can cope with the pressures placed upon us.
Anything that poses a challenge or a threat to our well-being is a stress. Some stresses get you going and they are good for you – without any stress at all many say our lives would be boring and would probably feel pointless. However, when the stresses undermine both our mental and physical health they are bad.
What is Good Stress and Bad Stress?
- Good Stress: Good stress helps us go about our daily tasks and achieve those hard-to-reach goals. This stress, called eustress, helps us learn new things, adapt to change and engage in creative thinking. Everyone experiences good stress on a daily basis. Another form of good stress is the stress that enables us to survive in times of trauma. This stress makes us aware of danger and enables us to escape when we need to.
- Bad Stress: Bad forms of stress do not help us achieve goals or tasks, but instead actually inhibit our ability to function on a daily basis. Bad stress occurs when too much stress builds up around us. Once the body feels there is too much stress, it will begin to break down, causing symptoms like perspiration, anxiety, headaches and rapid breathing. This kind of stress can take a huge toll on your physical and mental well-being.
Who is Most Vulnerable to Stress?
Stress comes in many forms and affects people of all ages and all walks of life. No external standards can be applied to predict stress levels in individuals.
To generalize, people without adequate social support report high level of stress. People who are poorly nourished, who get inadequate sleep, or who are physically unwell also have a reduced* capacity to handle pressures and stresses of everyday life and may report higher stress levels.
Common external causes of stress:
- Major life changes
- Relationship complexities
- Children and family
- Financial problems
- Work or school
- Being too busy
Common internal causes of stress:
- Constant worry
- Negative self-talk
- Impractical expectations
- Stiff thinking
- Lack of flexibility
- All-or-nothing attitude
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
- Distress stomach i.e. constipation, diarrhea and nausea
- Chest pain and fast heartbeat
- Body pains and stressed muscles
- Recurrent infections and colds
- Loss of sexual desire
- Uneasiness and shivering, cold or sweaty hands and feet and ringing in the ear
- Dry mouth
- Locked jaw and grinding teeth
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily frustrated
- Feeling like you need to take control or losing control
- Restless mind
- Feeling bad about yourself
- Low self-esteem
Cognitive symptoms of stress include:
- Regular worrying
- Battling thoughts
- Absent-mindedness and ineffectiveness
- Lack of ability to focus
- Poor judgment
- Being negative
Behavioral symptoms of stress include:
- Alterations in appetite
- Deferring and avoiding responsibilities
- Increased intake of drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes
- Showing more nervous manners including fidgeting, nail biting and pacing
Effects of Stress
A slight stress sometimes is not something to be worried about. However, constant, never-ending stress can be the grounds or worsen various severe health problems, such as:
- Mental health issues
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Eating disorders and obesity
- Sexual dysfunction
- Menstrual problems
- Hair and skin problems
- Poor marriage quality
- Recurring feelings of anger, frustration and irritability
- Low quality of communication
- Trust issues
- Intimacy issues
- Decreased* marital satisfaction
On work, stress affects your capability to retain information, to process new information and to apply both to critical circumstances and physical jobs that necessitate concentration.
How to Manage Stress and Anxiety?
When you are anxious or stressed, these tips will surely help you deal with them:
- Have a break. Learn yoga, meditate, listen to mellow music, undergo a body massage or practice some relaxation techniques. These activities will calm you and clear your mind.
- Eat nutritious foods. Do not skip meals.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake because they can heighten anxiety.
- Get ample sleep. This will relax your mind and body.
- Exercise daily.
- Take deep breaths slowly.
- Be optimistic at all times.
- Smile often. Learn to appreciate small things.
- Accept the fact that you cannot control all the things around you.
- Do not seek for perfection because it is impossible. Unmet expectation will lead to disappointment then stress.
- Get involved and be active in your community; this will give you a break from the everyday stress.
- Talk to a close friend or family member. You can also seek help with a counselor.
- You can take antidepressants as it helps to control the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. This in return improves* your moods.