04. Wellness

Stress. What Is It and What Can We Do About It?

July 23, 2019

Practically everyone is forced to experience some type of stress in a point of their lives. Having too much or prolonged stress can lead to many issues, including health problems. For this reason, it’s recommended to treat it as quickly as possible. Here we’ll help you become aware of what stress is really about, the problems associated with it, and most importantly, what you can do about it.

What is Stress?

Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to any type of change that requires your body to respond to or adjust to. This type of response can be emotional, mental, or even physical, and it typically comes from either the environment around you, your thoughts and mindset, or it can also come from a more physical aspect, like your body.

Stress is typically caused by factors called stressors, which can be pressures or certain situations that are responsible for the stress that you experience. These stressors can either be positive or negative, so you can actually be stressed from things that are technically supposed to have a more positive effect on your life.

More specifically, there can also be internal causes as well as external causes. Internal causes are classified as being more self-generated since they are caused by your inner, personal thoughts and your overall mindset. Internal causes of stress usually involve excessive worrying about something that could happen in your life or not. It also involves irrational or extremely negative thoughts. For example, internal stressors can be anywhere from rigid thinking, perfectionism, an all-or-nothing attitude, or talking negatively about yourself.

On the other hand, there can also be causes of stress that involve external factors. External factors are pressures or situations that take place outside of your thinking, and you cannot often change these stressors. For instance, external stressors may involve significant life changes, pressures from school or work, or even issues that you may be experiencing regarding relationships with the people that are close to you in life. In addition to these factors, external stressors may also involve financial problems, not having enough time to complete essential tasks in your life, and even pressures that come from your family, children, or other loved ones.

What Does Stress Look Like?

Stress is capable of either gradually coming into your life and affecting you little by little, or it also can come up all of a sudden. Either way, stress is capable of drastically changing your whole life, whether it changes your life over time or all at once. When it comes gradually, it can change little things at a time, so it’s difficult to notice that you’re experiencing stress at all.

Regardless of whether stress changes your life gradually or all at once, there are a variety of symptoms that are associated with someone that typically is experiencing stress. For instance, someone may experience symptoms of stress that affect their cognitive abilities. More specifically, these symptoms can range anywhere from problems with memory to experiencing poor judgment.

In addition, cognitive symptoms of stress may include an inability to concentrate, a tendency to view the negative side of situations, excessive and constant worrying, or it can even involve extremely negative thoughts.

Aside from these cognitive symptoms, someone may experience symptoms of stress that are more emotional, like depression, anxiety, irritability, or even feelings of extreme loneliness. Additionally, someone may also experience psychological symptoms that involve feeling overwhelmed about certain situations or pressures that they’ve been placed under. Significant stress levels also bring on physical symptoms, such as aches and pains in random areas throughout their body, nausea, chest pain, or illness.

Lastly, stress may also trigger symptoms that negatively affect their behavior. For instance, changes in eating patterns, like consuming too much food or too little, or disruption to sleeping patterns. Other types of behavioral symptoms may becoming distanced from others, neglecting responsibilities, and procrastination. In addition to that, when people are under enormous amounts of stress, they often look to other forms of coping mechanisms, such as turning to cigarettes, alcohol, or even drugs, to temporarily manage the negative way that they’re feeling.

Different Types of Stress

Everyone will experience some stress in their lifetime, but there are multiple different types of stress. Whether it’s physical, emotional, traumatic, acute, or chronic stress, they all can affect practically anyone in the world.

Physical Stress - Physical stress is usually the result of someone participating in physical activities that end up in them, negatively affecting their body in some way. This can be anywhere from sports or fitness training to more subtle things. For instance, travelling can put your body under stress, since you most likely travel through different times zones, and your body isn’t used to this.

In addition to that, physical stress may also come from your body either receiving too much or too little sleep. And it can also result in you putting your body under physical strain that it’s incapable of handling, like when you spend too long on your feet or work for long periods.

Emotional Stress - Emotional stress is probably the most common type of stress that anyone experiences throughout their life. It typically comes after you’ve undergone a major life event that had the ability to affect your emotions or your mindset drastically. The effects of emotional stress are similar to those that someone that’s depressed may experience.

More specifically, emotional stress may results from drastic changes to your life, like a breakup, a divorce, or the death of someone close to you. But you may also experience stress because of less severe events, like simply having a bad day, being too overwhelmed at work, or having too many responsibilities at home.

Traumatic Stress - This type of stress typically occurs because of some kind of trauma that was done to your body. Traumatic stress may involve severe pain, or it can even include a coma. Regardless of the type of effect, it has on your body, traumatic stress is capable of drastically changing some physical aspect of your body. It can even possibly occur after you’ve undergone an operation or some type of surgery.

Acute Stress - Acute stress is a type of stress that can happen almost instantly, typically only lasting for a short amount of time, and it’s less severe than chronic stress. However, it is palpably noticeable – think of a racing heart beat or sweating palms. Additionally, acute stress is generally only affected by certain types of factors in your environment.

Chronic Stress - As opposed to acute stress, chronic stress is a more stealthy and problematic form of stress, which can last for extended periods. It is capable of impacting you in your everyday tasks, and it can negatively impact your life for up to several years. Somewhat surprisingly chronic stress can be measured physiologically, but often goes unnoticed at a psychological level, due to adjusting to a new change in mind and body state over time.

Why Is Stress Bad?

The human body is technically designed to deal with specific amounts and types of stress since it has an autonomic nervous system that’s able to respond to stress. The autonomic nervous system that’s in our bodies contains built-in stress responses that cause physiological changes to your body, which allows your body to combat any type of stressful situation that you may be experiencing.

But this stress response can become chronically activated when it has been fired for long periods, which causes your body to experience damage both physically and mentally. Essentially, when you put your body under too much stress for too long, your stress response system malfunctions and is unable to react appropriately to stressful situations when it’s most required.

When you experience too much stress and don’t treat it properly, then a less severe form of stress can lead to distress, which is classified as an extremely adverse stress reaction. Distress is capable of disturbing your body’s internal balance, which then leads to symptoms that negatively affect your body. For instance, physical signs of distress may include headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and even problems sleeping.

Other symptoms of distress may involve more emotional symptoms, like depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and even excessive worrying. When distress goes untreated, it is known to worsen the symptoms of some diseases and can also cause diseases. For instance, distress can worsen and is linked to diseases like heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, and even suicide.

Why Stress Is Dangerous

Aside from stress turning into distress when it’s gone untreated for so long, it’s also dangerous for a variety of other reasons. For instance, stress makes you unable to control your emotions, so you will often overreact during situations when it’s inappropriate to overreact. Even mild levels of stress impair your ability to use your cognitive skills.

In addition to your inability to control your emotions, stress is also dangerous because it can ruin your heart health. More specifically, stress hormones in your body increase your heart rate, and they constrict your blood vessels. This ultimately forces your heart to work harder, and you’ll end up with high blood pressure, which is extremely dangerous.

Stress can also cause you to gain weight since people are known to eat more when they’re under stressful situations. Lastly, stress weakens your immune system. It puts high demands onto your body, which gives no energy for your immune system to properly work.

Eliminate Stress

Given the dangerous effects of stress, you’re highly recommended to get rid of it. You can do this in multiple different ways, such as engaging in more exercise. Exercising decreases the number of stress hormones that you have in your body. You can also look for supplements that are known to promote stress reduction, like lemon balm, Ashwagandha, and even Kava Kava.

You should also surround yourself with supportive people. Social support gives you a sense of well-being and belonging. You can also seek professional help if nothing else is working and you’re feeling more severe stress. Mental health professionals are specially trained to treat victims of stress as you.

Here are 10 ways you can eliminate stress:

  1. Listen To Music - Listening to music can relieve your mind of stress because it’s able to influence your brain wave activity. More specifically, when you listen to music, the delta waves in your brain increase your ability to fall asleep, which ultimately helps your body relax more. Since music increases the activity of these delta brain waves, it will help you relax more. Not only that, but listening to music at around 5 hertz can help your brain synchronize with your delta brain waves. This is also why listening to music can benefit a wide range of health issues, like depression, anxiety, and even help people cope with cognitive impairments.
  1. Decompress - To release any tension that you may have as a result of being under too much stress, you should place a warm rag around your neck and shoulders for a few minutes. In addition to that, you’re also recommended to close your eyes and relax the muscles in your face, neck, and upper chest. After you’ve has the warm rag on your body for a few minutes, remove it and start to massage away any tension that you feel in those areas. By doing so, you’re essentially removing any anxious feelings that you may have because of stress. Furthermore, you’re also relaxing your muscles, so this technique prevents any stress from doing back again.
  1. Exercise - Exercising, in general, provides your body with a variety of benefits, including the ability to promote your mental health as well as your physical well-being. In addition to that, engaging in exercise every day reduces your mental fatigue, and it also improves your concentration and focus. Given that, exercise can reduce the amount of stress that you have to experience because it helps you focus on working out. Furthermore, exercising to relieve stress is recommended because your body receives more endorphins when you’re engaging in physical activity, so it makes your body feel better and improves your well-being. Some regular exercises that you’re recommended to engage in include brisk walking, jogging, yoga, and even going to the gym.
  1. Read A Book - Reading helps you disengage your mind from any stressful thoughts that you may have, and it instead engages your attention into the book that you’re reading. By focusing your attention on the material that’s inside the book, reading helps you relieve stress by preventing your mind from thinking about the things that are stressing you out. Moreover, reading a good book helps to put you into a different state of mind, so you’re able to forget about reality for a while when you’re reading a book.
  1. Spend Time With Others - You most likely don’t want to be around other people when you’re stressed because your mindset might believe that hanging out with other people will lead to more stress. But surrounding yourself with others when you’re under a large amount of stress is recommended because it helps to eliminate any stressful thinking. Being with other people helps you to think about them instead of being stuck in your head thinking about everything that’s stressing you out. Additionally, having fun with other people releases more endorphins, making you feel better in general.
  1. Take A Hot Bath - Taking a hot bath while you’re under a large amount of stress is highly recommended because it can ease any tension that you may have in your muscles. Additionally, taking a hot bath helps your body relax, so you don’t have to feel stressed about thoughts inside of your head. To increase your feelings of relaxation while taking a bath, you’re advised to add some muscle to the water. Not only that, but adding certain essential oils that are responsible for combating stress is highly recommended, like Jasmine, Chamomile, Lavender, and even Holy Basil.
  1. Watch A Funny Movie - Laughing can eliminate feelings of stress that you may have since laughing, and smiling are capable of boosting your mood and increasing your feelings of happiness. And watching funny movies is advised because they make you smile and laugh more. Not only that, but watching movies, in general, gives you the ability to take your mind away from reality, so you don’t have to think about the stressful thoughts in your head always.
  1. Go Outside For A Walk - Walking is a beneficial form of exercise when you’re stressed because it doesn’t increase your heart rate too much, and it helps you unwind more. Not only that, but walking outside can release more endorphins in your body, so you will feel better overall. In addition to that, breathing in the fresh air and being in the sunlight outside helps to calm your nerves, eliminate any stressful thinking, and it improves your overall mood.
  1. Learn CBT - CBT is classified as cognitive behavioral therapy, and it’s a form of psychotherapeutic intervention that is aimed at improving your overall mental health. It’s commonly used to treat depression, panic attacks, and even phobias. CBT involves the process of becoming aware of your mind and that you have the capability of changing your mindset. By learning CBT, you’re essentially training your mind to not think about certain thoughts that are responsible for stressing you out. You can ultimately turn off the negative thoughts and teach yourself how to handle the stress that you feel.
  1. Meditate - Meditation is a process that’s known for its ability to relax your muscles, relieve tension, reduce anxiety, and increase your ability to rest inside of your own body. It’s responsible for altering your brain’s neural pathways, so it can help you eliminate any stress that you may be experiencing. To meditate correctly, it involves sitting straight up with both feet on the floor. You should close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing. Become more consciously aware of your own body. This will help you further connect with your thoughts and give you the ability to think that you have control over your own body.

How To Prevent Stress

If you’ve experienced stress, you know how detrimental the effect can be on you. So you’re recommended to always refrain from stressful situations. You can do so by first realizing what makes you stressed in the first place. Find out which specific environments give you stress and then avoid those places and situations.

You should also frequently make time for relaxation so that stress doesn’t build-up. You should go for walks, spend time in nature, write in a journal, watch happy movies, and exercise regularly.

Overall, stress is bound to affect you at least once in your life. And when you experience it, you should do all that you can to get rid of it so that you don’t experience any of the adverse effects it can have on you if it goes untreated. Primarily, your methods of coping with stress should contribute to your overall greater emotional and physical health.

Here is a stress-busting infographic to help you remember what we covered and manage your wellbeing.

About Rebecca Temsen

Rebecca is a wellbeing specialist blogger and editor at Self Development Secrets, and a professional marketer. If you'd like to read more great self-development blogs on everything from anger management to making yourself smarter, then check out the website.

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