Let’s Talk About Stress
Stress is defined as:
A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
It is essential that we consider the physiological effects of long-lasting stress. The body produces a hormone called cortisol as a response to stressful situations, as well as the hormone adrenaline.
Cortisol suppresses certain functional systems and suppresses the immune system. When the body experiences stress over a long period of time, it can have a significant effect on the body. Stress can increase the risk of heart disease, anxiety and other chronic medical conditions.
In this article, we will talk about stress and how it affects us, as well as providing effective ways of reducing stress on a daily basis.
According to the American Psychological Association most Americans are suffering from moderate to high stress levels. With approximately 44 percent stating that their stress levels have increased over the past five years. Money worries, employment and the economy were cited as the main factors.
Types of Stress
According to the American Psychological Association, there are three types of stress. Acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress.
Acute stress usually does not last for a long period of time. It is fleeting and is often caused by reactive thinking, or overthinking. Thinking about people, situations or past events in a negative way can often lead to acute stress symptoms.
For example, if you recently lost your job, you might experience negative thoughts pertaining to the loss of your job. However, over time these thoughts and feelings should subside.
Effects of Acute Stress
- Anger and Irritability
- Tension headaches
- Back Pain
- Neck pain
- Joint and ligament problems/pain
- Stomach and digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Sweaty palms
Episodic Acute Stress
People struggle with acute stress on a regular basis have episodic acute stress. They experience a constant battle of negative emotion and low mood.
Effects of Episodic Acute Stress
- Anger, anxiety, depression, quick temper and tension
- Low attention span
- Inability to maintain healthy relationships
- Headache, back pain, muscle aches
- Digestive issues, Irritable bowel syndrome, gas
- High blood pressure, fast heartbeat, heart palpitations, sweaty palms, headaches, cold hands and feet, chest pain
- Higher risk of heart disease and other health issues.
- Immune System Compromise: frequent colds/flu, allergies, asthma, and other immune system compromise illnesses.
Chronic stress is the most difficult type of stress to cope with. If chronic stress is not dealt with it can cause long term damage to your physical, emotional and mental health.
Chronic stress is often caused by difficult childhood experiences, trauma and challenging life experiences. People with chronic stress often experience periodic mental breakdown.
People who suffer with chronic stress require long term psychological treatment.
How To Handle Stress In Your Day To Day Life
These are some of the ways in which you can deal with stress in your day to day life according to scientific studies and evidence.
Make a Plan
Studies have shown that planning can help to reduce stress and overall feelings of anxiety or panic. For example, if preparing meals on a daily basis creates stress, plan your meals in advance on the weekends. Write down the tasks you have to complete in a day and work through them.
Practice deep breathing. Whenever you are feeling stressed or anxious, take a minute to breathe deeply. Close your eyes, count to five and breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth and count to five once more. Do this several times until you feel calm.
Often we place too much expectation on ourselves. We focus too much on the things we need to do in the future, we forget about the here and now. Lower the bar and give yourself a break.
Know the signs
Know the signs of stress, when you know what it feels like, you will be more capable of handling it when it slowly creeps up on you.
Make a budget
Plan out your finances, set a budget for your daily, weekly and monthly spending. Reduce the fear of running out of money.
Eat healthy Food
Your diet should consist of plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, greens to help reduce anxiety and good fats like avocado, nuts and seeds to balance hormones and emotions.
Have you ever heard of the saying laughter is the best medicine? Well there is some truth behind it. Laughter inhibits the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and dopamine. It encourages the body to produce happy hormones like endorphins. Therefore, if you want to give your body a break from stress, laugh more.
Talk it through, release your fears, worries and pent up emotion by talking to a friend.
Listen to calming music
Studies have shown that listening to calming music can reduce the amount of cortisol that your body produces. Listen to classical, pan pipes and easy listening jazz to calm you down and reduce the overall feeling of stress.
Move your body
Cardiovascular exercise such as running, walking or cycling can help you to feel less stressed because the body produces feel good hormones such as endorphins when we exercise. Move more and feel less stressed.
When cortisol levels are high, sleeping can be very challenging. However, if you practice various stress coping mechanisms before you go to bed, you should experience better sleeping patterns.
- Drinking camomile tea before bed
- Deep breathing
- Listen to calming music
- Switch off all devices one hour before bed
Take a break
Give yourself a break, take a breather, do less. Feeling overwhelmed with a multitude of things to complete on our things to do lists, can contribute to stress in a significant way. Therefore, instead of adding more tasks to your things to do list, reduce the list and take a break.
Running away from the things that are causing you stress will not make them magically disappear. Instead write a list of the things that trigger stress reactions and start tackling them one by one.
Talk to an expert
If you are experiencing ongoing chronic stress, talk to an expert. Do not try to tackle it on your own. Stress can have a negative impact on your physical, emotional and mental health. Therefore, talk to an expert before your symptoms progress further.