We all feel stressed at some point in our lives: stress is in itself unavoidable, as it is a natural response to challenges in life. It can be caused by work, relationships, financial issues, and many other factors.
While some stress can be beneficial and help individuals perform at their best, too much, or when we experience stressful situations constantly or over long periods, can make us feel overwhelmed and have a negative impact. It can bear consequences on all areas of life.
In this article, we will explore what truly defines stress, the different types of stressful instances, how it impacts us and the best ways to managing stress when it occurs.
What Exactly is Stress?
Stress refers to two things: “the psychological perception of pressure, on the one hand, and the body’s response to it, on the other. Stress involves multiple systems, from metabolism to muscles to memory” – psychologytoday .
It is a normal response to challenges and can be good or bad, depending on the amount and type being experienced.
There are several types of stress, including:
This type is short-term and is typically caused by a sudden event or situation, such as a car accident or a job interview. It is a normal response to a perceived threat and stress levels usually dissipate and are resolved once the situation has passed.
This type is long-term and is caused by ongoing and persistent stressors, such as a difficult, challenging, or toxic work environment, problematic relationship with significant others, or when experiencing financial difficulties. Over the long-term, chronic stress can have serious health consequences if left untreated and lead to long term impacts such as burnout and stress-related illness.
Episodic Acute stress
This occurs when an individual experiences a series of stressful events over a short period of time. One example of an acute stressful event would be domestic abuse, another example might be a traffic jam. Although hugely different examples, they can both occur intermittently and, in the moment, have the same effect as each-other due to their episodic nature.
This type of stressful scenario caused by a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, or military combat. It can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s mental and emotional health.
Good stress, also known as eustress, is manageable and helps individuals to perform at their best. This is the lesser-known version of stress.
Understanding the Impact of Stress
Bad Types of stress
Distress is overwhelming and can have negative consequences on one’s health, well-being, and life. It can manifest as stressful physical, mental, emotional or spiritual times in life, and it’s important to have a clear understanding as to how stressful occasions impact us in all these areas.
The impact on the physical body is extreme and can have a significant impact on an individual’s physical health. Symptoms are endless and can lead to several health problems in the body, including endocrine problems. This system is related to the stress response and hormones whereby adrenal glands are activated when stressful situations happen. The adrenal glands regulate many areas of the body such as metabolism, blood pressure the immune system. Other physical symptoms include:
Cardiovascular Disease: High blood pressure, rapid breathing, heartburn and increased risk of heart attack or disease by raising blood pressure and contributing to the build-up of plaque in the arteries.
Digestive Problems: Such as stomach aches, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and acid reflux.
Headaches: Tension headaches, migraines and even cluster headaches are resultant from stressful occasions.
Insomnia: Chronic stress can make it difficult for individuals to fall asleep and stay asleep, leading to insomnia and over time potential chronic fatigue syndrome and burnout.
Weakened Immune System: A stressed immune system makes individuals more susceptible to illness, viral infection and other symptoms experienced from being run-down.
High Blood Sugar: The liver to release extra sugar (glucose) which can lead to type 2 Diabetes.
Reproductive Issues: Missed periods, low libido and fertility problems can be prevalent.
Muscular System Complaints: muscle tension and tense muscles lead to muscle pain and aches. Body pain can deter us from exercise. When muscles aren’t used, over time, it can result in muscle weakness.
Mental or Emotional Stress
Stress can also have a significant stressful impact on the brain which in turn affects mental health and emotional well-being. It can lead to issues with concentration and brain fog and affect the mood and feelings. From feeling anxious and depressive, to anger, frustration, and irritability.
Stress can impact your spiritual well-being. It can lead to stressful feelings of hopelessness and a loss of meaning and purpose in life. People can struggle to find peace and happiness, which can affect their spiritual connection. It can also interfere with the ability to practice religion or spiritual beliefs and can make it difficult to find comfort in prayer or meditation.
Good Types (Eustress)
Although it has a bad press, it can actually be a force for good in our lives. In small doses, when we feel stressed out, it can motivate us to act and perform at our best. This good version of feeling stressful can be beneficial in many ways:
Emotional pressure can push us to work harder and achieve our goals. It can also help us to be more productive and efficient, allowing us to complete tasks in a timely manner.
It can also help us to become more creative and think outside of the box. When we are under stress, our brains are more likely to search for innovative solutions to problems. This can lead to new and creative ideas that can improve our work and personal lives.
Effects on Daily Life
Stress can have a significant impact on daily life both from a personal and professional perspective. It can negatively impact relationships and lead to conflicts with family and friends.
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It can also lead to poor sleep, decreased energy, and a loss of interest in activities that were once perceived to be enjoyable activities. Stressful events can interfere with work performance and decreased efficiency and lead to absenteeism.
What Not to Do When Feeling Stressed Out
When we feel overwhelmed and unable to cope, it’s important to avoid making decisions that can make the situation worse. These can include:
Turning to smoking, drugs or alcohol to cope with stress is not a solution and can lead to more problems in the long run.
Withdrawing from Others
Isolating from friends, family, and support systems can make the situation worse and lead to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness.
Pretending that it’s not there or ignoring it will not make it go away and can lead to long-term negative consequences.
Tips to Better Manage Stress
The human body is not designed to be stressed all the time. Stress management techniques are therefore a must as constant stress does not a healthy person make. Ways to cope with it are of paramount importance in life and enable us to better manage and work with pressure than against it. It’s a more beneficial approach to focus and deal with stress by exploring what we can do to start feeling less stressed and more in control.
There are several effective, helpful self-care strategies to help control and deal with stress:
Regular exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters thus reducing feelings of pressure.
Practising mindfulness, such as meditation, yoga or breathwork, can help with focusing on the present moment and reducing anxiety.
Prioritizing tasks and creating a regular schedule provides a sense of control and organization.
Eating healthy foods, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, provide the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly.
Getting enough sleep is important for improving overall health.
Talking to a family member and/or friends can be helpful in the quest to cope when feeling strung out.
Massage helps to reduce muscle tension, prompt muscle relaxation, is helpful to relax the body and reduce pain.
Where to Get Help to Deal with Stress
If stress becomes overwhelming, there are a multitude of management resources all of which can help the controlling the stress response. These include:
Therapy: Talking to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, therapist, or stress coach can help individuals manage and improve their mental and emotional health.
Support Groups: Joining a support group can provide individuals with a sense of community and a safe space to talk about their experiences and receive support from others who are dealing with similar situations in life.
Medication: In some cases, medication, such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication, may be recommended by a healthcare professional.
Stress is not always a negative experience. In small doses, it can be a positive force in our lives, motivating us to perform at our best, develop resilience and creativity, and improve our physical and mental health.
It is important to manage it effectively, and to seek help if it becomes overwhelming, but it is also important to recognize the positive aspects of stress and embrace stressful scenarios and view them as opportunities for growth and development.
Talking about stressful feelings is one of the best ways to deal with it; don’t ever suffer in silence.
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- psychologytoday.com – Stress – found on 22/02/2023
Link to page on psychologytoday.com