Managing Stress: What Causes It and What it Does to Your Health

How does it feel to have a demanding boss at work pressuring you to meet deadlines? Or when you have children at home, and they just won’t stop screaming? Or even that moment you realize that you still owe the loaning company more than a thousand dollars that is impossible for you to pay back?

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Do you feel a certain anxiety creeping in? Like the same feeling you get when you’re preparing for a test or preparing for a speech. Yes, that feeling you’re having? It’s called stress.

 

Why do we become stressed?

Stress is a normal response to any living being. Even animals feel stressed in their respective situations. Often, there are good points to being stressed. It helps you to become motivated and generally just do better. Stress is also necessary for our survival. It helps trigger a ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism in response to incoming danger. However, if it’s triggered too fast and you become unable to deal with your stress properly, it can deliberately take a toll on your health and in your life.

Stress is relatively a negative emotion a person feels when he or she is overburdened and struggling to keep up with life’s demands. Short-term stress is generally not harmful. However, many major health problems are associated with long-term-stress.

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In the United States, an annual national survey has identified an increase in stress levels of more than half of the population over the years. The common reasons for the stress triggers are money as well as employment.

 

What happens to the body when it is stressed?

When we are stressed, our body releases a set of hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. They are responsible for that feeling we get like rapid heartbeats, heightened awareness in the muscles, sweat, and increased alertness. These are the responses that occur when we are faced with a dangerous or difficult situation.

The factors in our environment that are responsible for these reactions are called stressors. Examples of stressors can include violent behavior, loud noises, scary movie scenes, or even when we are going out for a first date.

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When we experience stress, our body functions will start to slow down. These functions include the immune as well as the digestive systems. It is because all our body resources become focused on fast and heavy breathing, use of muscles and alertness. That is why when stress is experienced for an extended period, our body starts to succumb to health problems. Some of these diseases include diabetes, obesity, heart attack, stroke, and cancer.

 

 

What are the common stress triggers?

People have different reactions to stressful situations, and that can also dictate how it affects our health. There may be circumstances where a situation may be more stressful for some than others. Below are common events in our life that can cause stress:

 

–    Unemployment or difficulty looking for a job

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–    Domestic relationship problems

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–    Divorce

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–    Financial issues

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–    Death of a loved one

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–    Moving to a new home or country

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–    Thoughts of abortion and miscarriage

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–    Fear of traffic accidents

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–    Fear of neighborhood crimes

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–    Loud noises, congestion, and pollution

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–    Being pregnant and becoming soon-to-be parents

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However, some of these situations may be less stressful to some people but not to others. A person’s reaction to a stressful situation can also depend on his or her past experiences. There are also times when a cause is not identified. People with mental health problems like depression can feel more easily stressed than others.

 

What are the symptoms of stress?

The effects of stress are both physical and psychological. When stress becomes difficult to handle, we begin to develop negative symptoms in both aspects.

The physical aspect includes:

–    Constant back and chest pains

–    Cramps of spasms in the muscles

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–    Loss of libido

–    Excessive sweating

–    Constant headaches

–    Fainting spells

–    Difficulty sleeping

–    Stomach problems (indigestion)

–    Easily affected by cold or flu

–    High blood pressure levels

–    Nervous twitching

 

The psychological or emotional aspect includes:

–    Feelings of anxiety and burnout

–    Loss of concentration

–    Memory problems

–    Irritable and moody

–    Depressed

–    Feeling insecure

–    Prolonged sadness

–    Lethargy or fatigue

–    Angry

–    Feeling restless

 

Stress is also linked to certain behaviors in response to dealing with the anxiety. These behaviors include:

–    Overeating and constantly craving for food

–    Eating less

–    Abrupt angry outbursts

–    Use of drugs and alcohol

–    Excessive smoking

–    Getting away from society

–    Crying frequently

–    Problems in relationships

 

How do we manage stress?

Health specialists or doctors do not usually prescribe medication for dealing with stress. The doctor would only do so if the patient has underlying health issues. Treatments would usually involve self-help or therapy. There are plenty of resources available on self-help treatment when it comes to controlling stressful situations. Certain types of therapy can also help encourage us to relax like reflexology, acupuncture or aromatherapy.

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Managing stress would usually mean changes in your lifestyle choices. Doing so would ultimately prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. These lifestyle changes include:

 

  1. Exercise

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2. A healthy diet

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3. Avoid cigarette smoking and using drugs and alcohol

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4. Limit caffeine consumption

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5. Set aside some time for yourself and engage in fun activities

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6. Taking some meditation and yoga classes

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7. Organize your time and know your priorities

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8. Avoid multi-tasking as much as possible

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9. Go out with friends and talk to your family to blow off steam

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10. Recognize what triggers your stress

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Stress can significantly hamper you from having a quality life. If you sense that stress is affecting you greatly, then it is time to seek medical or professional assistance. There are stress-management sessions that psychologists or therapists can recommend for you. There are also stress-management online courses that are available and self-help books. It is important to address your stress issues as early as possible rather than waiting for further problems to occur.

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