• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Stress

Stress is the instinctive feeling of not being able to confront with specific events and demands. These demands can arise from relationships, work, financial constraints, and other situations. Anything that poses a threat or challenge to a person’s well-being can cause stress. It can also advance to a chronic stage if an individual does not take sufficient measures to manage it. Stress can sometimes be a motivator too. It can even be crucial for survival. The human body’s fight-or-flight mechanism tells an individual how and when to react to danger. But when the body becomes provoked too easily, or there are several stressors at one time, it can undermine a person’s physical and mental health and become harmful.

What is stress?

Stress is an individual’s instinctive defense against danger and predators. It causes the body to produce a large number of hormones that equips its systems to confront or evade danger.

When we face a threat or challenge, we usually have a partly physical response. The body triggers resources that help us either stay and face the challenge or get to safety as soon as possible.

Usually, after the response occurs, your body should relax. Continual stress can have bad effects on your long-term health.

Is Stress Always Bad?

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be healthy when it helps you meet a tight deadline, avert an accident, or keep your wits about you during chaos.

Everyone feels stressed at times, however, what one individual finds stressful may vary from what another finds stressful.

A common example of this would be public speaking. Some become paralyzed at the very thought while others love the thrill of it.

However, stress should be limited. Once you are through the fight-or-flight moment, your muscles should relax and your breathing and heart rate should slow down. However, severe, frequent, or prolonged stress can be physically and mentally harmful.

It is not possible to eradicate stress. However, we can always learn to prevent it when possible and manage it when it’s unavoidable.

Types of Stress

There are usually three types of stress, including:

  1. Acute stress

  2. Episodic acute stress

  3. Chronic stress

Acute Stress

Acute stress affects everybody. It is the body’s instinctive reaction to a unique and challenging situation. It is the type of stress you would feel when you, for example, narrowly escape an accident.

Acute stress can also occur out of something that you indeed enjoy. It’s the semi-frightening, yet thrilling feeling you get, when skiing down a mountain slope or when on a roller coaster.

This type of stress normally doesn’t do you any harm. They might even be good for you. Stressful situations give your body the brain practice in computing the best response to stressful situations.

Once that situation passes, your body systems should return to normal.

However, severe acute stress is a dangerous condition. It occurs in situations such as when you’ve faced a life-threatening situation. It can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other mental health problems.

Episodic Acute Stress

Episodic acute stress is when you have frequent occurrences of acute stress. This might happen if you are often worried or anxious about things that may happen to you.

You might feel that your life seemingly goes from one crisis to the next and is chaotic.

Professions, like firefighters or law enforcement, can also lead to frequent high-stress situations. Like severe acute stress, episodic acute stress can also affect your mental state and physical health.

Chronic Stress

Caption: A child hiding Credits: Pixabay

Chronic stress occurs when you have high-stress levels for a prolonged period. Chronic stress can harm your health. It may cause:

  1. cardiovascular disease

  2. anxiety

  3. high blood pressure

  4. weakened immune system

  5. depression

Chronic stress can also cause frequent ailments like an upset stomach, headaches, and sleep difficulties.

Causes of Stress

Not everyone has the same stress triggers. For some individuals, even thinking about a trigger or multiple smaller triggers can cause stress.

There is no detectable reason why one person may experience less stress than another while facing the same stressor. Mental health conditions, such as frustration, depression, anxiety and injustice can make some people feel easily stressed than others.

Previous experiences also affect how a person reacts to stressors.

Common life incidents that could trigger stress are:

  1. job issues or retirement

  2. lack of time or money

  3. bereavement

  4. family problems

  5. illness

  6. moving home

  7. relationships, marriage, and divorce

Other observed causes of stress include:

  1. abortion or pregnancy loss

  2. fear of an accident

  3. fear of crime or problems with neighbours

  4. pregnancy and becoming a parent

  5. excessive noise, overcrowding, and pollution

  6. uncertainty over a situation

Some people experience continuing stress after a traumatic incident, such as some kind of abuse or an accident. This condition is known as PTSD.

Symptoms of Stress

Just as we have various events that stress us out, our symptoms can also be different.

Below are a few things you may experience if you’re stressed:

  1. chronic pain

  2. insomnia and other sleep problems

  3. lower sex drive

  4. digestive problems

  5. eating too much or too little

  6. difficulty in making decisions and concentrating

  7. fatigue

You might also feel irritable, overwhelmed, or fearful. You may also start smoking or drinking more than you used to.

Stress Headache

Stress headaches or tension headaches occur due to tense muscles in the head, neck and face. Some of the symptoms include:

  1. mild to moderate head pain

  2. pressure around your forehead

  3. tenderness of the forehead and scalp

Caption: A man experiencing headache due to stress Credits: Pixabay

Several things can trigger a stress headache. But the tight muscles could be because of anxiety or emotional stress.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety go hand in hand. Anxiety is when you feel high levels of unease, fear or worry. Stress is from the demands placed on your body and brain.

Anxiety is sometimes an offshoot of chronic or episodic stress.

Having both anxiety and stress can have an immense negative impact on your health, making you more likely to develop:

  1. high blood pressure

  2. heart disease

  3. diabetes

  4. panic disorder

  5. depression

Anxiety and stress can be treated. Several resources and strategies can help for both.

Stress Management Activities

The objective of stress management activities isn’t to completely get rid of it. Not only is it impossible, but as mentioned earlier, stress can sometimes be healthy too.

To handle your stress, first, you have to identify the triggers of stress. Determine which of these things can be avoided. Then, discover ways to cope up with those negative triggers that cannot be avoided.

In time, handling your stress levels may help lower your risk of stress-related diseases. It will also help you feel better daily.

The mentioned lifestyle measures below can help you handle or prevent stress-induced feelings.

  1. Exercise:

A 2018 study found that exercises can lower memory impairment in people with stress.

  1. Reducing the intake of drugs, alcohol, and caffeine:

These items will not help prevent stress, and in fact, can make it worse.

  1. Nutrition:

A balanced, healthy diet with numerous fruit and vegetables can help strengthen the immune system at times of stress. A bad diet can lead to both ill-health and additional stress.

  1. Priority management:

Spend time maintaining a to-do list daily and focus on time-sensitive or urgent tasks. You can then concentrate on what you have accomplished or completed for the day, rather than on the tasks you have yet to complete.

  1. Time:

You should set aside time to organize, relax, and pursue your interests.

  1. Breathing and relaxation:

Caption: A woman meditating outside Credits: Pixabay

Massage, meditation, and yoga help in reducing stress. Breathing and relaxation methods can slow down the heart rate and facilitate relaxation. Deep breathing is a crucial part of meditation.

  1. Talking:

Sharing concerns and feelings with friends, family, and work colleagues can help you reduce feelings of loneliness. Other people sometimes suggest workable, unexpected solutions to the stressor.

  1. Acknowledging the signs:

It is crucial to be conscious of any changes, be it internal or external. Some person is so anxious about the problem causing the stress that they do not heed to its effects on their body.

Noticing the symptoms and signs is the first step to taking action. Individuals who experience work-related stress due to long hours need to review their working practices.

They can also talk to their supervisor about finding ways to reduce the burden.

Many people have a chore that helps them relax, like going for a walk, reading a book, spending time with a friend or pet or listening to music. Joining a gym or a choir also helps some people relax.

If you think that stress is affecting your daily life, then you should seek professional help. A psychiatric specialist or doctor can generally help, for example, through stress management training.

Stress Busters

Most of us are committed to work, family, and community obligations, and at some point, feel as though we are “running on empty.” Here are some quick stress busters to help you confront stress:

  1. Be Active

Being energetic or active won’t make your stress disappear, however, it will reduce some of the emotional burdens that you’re feeling. It will also help clear your thoughts and will let you deal with your problems more calmly.

  1. Take control

Every problem has a solution. If you are passive, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about my problem’, your stress will become worse. The feeling of loss of control is one of the main causes of lack of wellbeing and stress.

The act of taking control is itself empowering and is an important part of finding a solution that satisfies you.

  1. Connect with people

A good support network of family, friends and colleagues can ease your burden and can help you see things differently. If you don’t socialize with people, you will not have support when you need help.

The activities we do with this network helps us relax. Having a good laugh with them is a superb stress reliever.

  1. Relax and Appreciate Life

Do things you enjoy. We often don’t spend sufficient time doing things we relish. We all should spend some time relaxing, socializing or exercising.

Set aside some time every week for quality “me time”.

  1. Challenge Yourself

Assign yourself challenges and goals, whether at work or outside, like learning a new sport or a new language. This will help you build confidence and deal with stress. By learning continuously, you become emotionally resilient as a person.

It equips you with knowledge and makes you want to do something rather than be passive, like watching TV all the time.

Stress Relief Games

Caption: Two children playing games Credits: Pixabay

There are numerous ways to cope up with stress, from yoga to reading a book. Listed below are few stress relief games to help manage your stress.

  1. Bubble Wrap

Bubble Wrap is an excellent game for reducing stress. Bubble wrap popping, an exercise beloved by many is now available on your smartphones.

Press the bubbles with your fingers and make them explode, thus, getting rid of negative emotions. This free mobile game is also a time killer, you can play it during a long and tiring trip or even while waiting in a queue.

  1. Colour Break

Colour Break provides an excellent opportunity to relax and have fun. You can try painting using your fingers or stylus and also relish a huge variety of patterns. This game will help to boost your creativity and forget about a hard day.

  1. Personal Zen

Personal Zen is another game for handling anxiety and stress. This game was created with the help of neuroscientists, and it is clinically proven to help people battle tough emotions while exercising the brain for better wellness.

Scientists say it is a good idea to play this game a couple of times in a week for about 5-10 minutes.

  1. Relaxing Puzzler

Relaxing Puzzler is a meditative puzzle game. Hypnotic soundtracks in this game will provide you with an opportunity to meditate and reach the state of serenity without noticing much change.

  1. Wordscapes

Wordscapes is another famous stress relief game. You need to build words from a given letter. There is no time limit. It appeals to crossword and anagram.

Conclusion

Caption: Children enjoying in school Credits: Pixabay

Stress is a normal part of life. However, too much stress is certainly bad for your mental and physical well-being. Fortunately, there are several ways to handle stress, and there are numerous effective treatments for both depression and anxiety that may be connected with it.

The more you can stay socially and physically active, the more control you will have over your life, and the less control stress will have over you.

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