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Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Stress Impacts Our Lives
Stress is a natural part of life. Our lives are challenging and undeniably stressful. There are times when stress can seem too much or overwhelming. In addition, there are other moments where it can serve as a motivator. Maybe your intent is to achieve a goal at work. You want to impress your boss, and the stress you’re under pushes you to perform and do well. However, there are times when stress isn’t helpful and can have a negative effect on your wellbeing. It can impact your health, relationships, career and family life. When we’re experiencing a stressful time, we can take our anxiety out on our loved ones. But, we don’t have to engage in that behavior if we learn to manage our stress appropriately.
How Stress Affects Your Health
Our bodies are biologically wired to fight against stress. When we feel stressed out, our bodies naturally jump into action. Your nervous system releases a stress hormone called cortisol. This triggers your mind and body go into the “fight or flight” mode. Your heart rate rises, Your large arteries expand, your digestions slows down, and you may start to sweat as your body prepares to defend you against a potential threat. The body’s biological response to stress is to fight it. It wants to protect you. That’s why hormones are propelled into action and tell your body that something dangerous is happening. Your body and mind typically recover from short-term episodes of stress. However, if you’re exposed to long-term instances of stress you’ll start to see a decline in your health.
Long-Term Stress or Chronic Stress
Some stressful situations are temporary. Maybe you’re moving to a new house, or you just started a new job. These are short-term stressors. Some things cause persistent long-term stress. When stress occurs over time, it can severely impact a person’s wellbeing. Chronic stress can lead to severe health issues such as heart disease, heart attack, ulcers, fertility issues or stomach problems. When your body is continuously releasing stress hormones, it’s put into overdrive. It doesn't have a chance to shut down and heal, which negatively impacts you over time. When you’re consistently stressed out your body’s immune system is compromised, and you’re more prone to illness. That’s why it’s essential to get treatment for chronic stress. When you seek help for stressors in your life, you’re taking care of your body and mind.
Stress and the Mind-Body Connection
When you experience stress, it’s affecting both your mind and body. Maybe you’re always worrying about something bad happening to you or your family. Perhaps you’re obsessing about getting fired from your job. These are stressful thoughts to cope with on a regular basis. When your mind is preoccupied with worries, your body may suffer as well. You might find that your muscles are tense, your back and neck may begin to hurt, or you could have numbness or tingling in your body. Stress can affect each of us in different ways. Regardless of how it impacts you, it’s crucial to seek help for stress so you can learn to manage it. The consequences of ignoring stress are more severe than confronting it. Your health matters and counseling can help.
Here are some commonly asked questions about the topic:
Counseling Helps with Stress Levels
One of the best ways to manage stress is to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional. Seeing a therapist or counselor can help people cope with stress. In therapy, a person who is dealing with chronic stress can learn coping strategies such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and deep breathing. An individual dealing with stress can talk about how chronic stress is impacting their family life and relationships. A counselor is trained to teach people ways to cope with stressors and show them how best to deal with the challenges life brings. Stress doesn’t have to break you. You can seek help from a mental health professional.
We hope that the information we've compiled related to stress will help you understand the causes, and how to cope with these feelings. Whether you’re managing a short-term stressful situation or you’re dealing with chronic stress, there’s hope. If you're interested in speaking with a licensed professional about stressful situations and emotions that you're dealing with, check out the BetterHelp database of professional online counselors who are ready to help you manage your stress.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are the common signs of stress?
People experience signs and symptoms of stress differently. Common signs and symptoms include aches and pains, upset stomach, difficulty sleeping, changes in mood, nail-biting, problems staying focused, changes in eating habits, isolation, low sex drive, and fatigue. When it comes to maintaining your health, stress at low levels may be beneficial upon knowing ways to manage it. It's important to be aware of the common signs of stress.
They are typically made up of cognitive symptoms, emotional symptoms, behavioral symptoms, and physical symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is the changes in eating habits. Persons that are stressed have a change in the way they eat. Due to work overload, food becomes their least priority or their highest priority, which may have serious health implications.
On the low side, poor nutrition can increase the stress level and lead to tiredness or incapacity to work. Also, there will be an increased probability of developing a certain type of illness over time. On the high side, it increases the risks of obesity, high blood pressure, and tooth decay. Difficulty sleeping ultimately leads to further stress. When there's a bad sleeping habit, the body is unable to rest at critical times, which leads to the individual breaking down due to high-stress levels.
How does stress affect your body?
Research facilities such as the National Institute of Mental Health continue to learn how stress affects the body. Signs and symptoms of stress affect the body in different ways. It may depend on the type of stress, such as acute stress or traumatic stress. Stress may cause physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms that can affect the health and human body and how it functions. When stress is left untreated, it may contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and other physical and emotional health concerns.
The National Institution of Mental Health and the Department of Health and Human Services provides health information related to public health concerns such as stress. It is common for people to feel overwhelmed by stress. The Institute of Mental Health and other research facilities continue to provide updated health information so people can learn how to handle stress. Almost every part of the body can be disrupted by stress.
Stress has the ability to affect the immune system in very unhealthy ways. People with high-stress levels often suffer from irritability. Irritability is simply a feeling of agitation towards certain things. When a person is irritable, he or she is typically more frustrated about most things and may easily get angry. In most situations, anxiety is what follows stress. Naturally, the body responds to stress by being anxious.
Anxiety involves a feeling of fear or apprehension about the future. Several things can be causes of anxiety; common ones are the death of a family member, stress from work, or worry about finances. Depression may set in when you are experiencing chronic stress. It's advised that you try consulting a therapist to help you with stress management techniques to avoid depression or anxiety. Therapists help with different ways to manage stress and help you manage your life better.
How do I get rid of stress?
Getting rid of stress involves understanding ways to manage it. Once you know the signs and symptoms that affect you the most, you can take steps to manage them. Ways to relieve stress may include journal writing, chewing gum, limit social media and cell phone use, learning mediation, getting organized, and taking nutritional supplements. Using self-help resources such as health information provided by the National Institute of Mental Health can help handle stress. The Institute of Mental Health and local health and human support agencies suggests talking to your health care provider about how to relieve stress in your life.
Controlling or suppressing stress is has to be a deliberate act of your path. Asides, therapy due to anxiety, controlling stress is direct and easy. A lot of people who complain of stress typically have very high caffeine levels. Understandably, when there's a need to stay active, people may use things like caffeine to stay awake and stay active. Ultimately, caffeine affects a person's stress levels due to sleep deprivation. So, by reducing your level of caffeine, you may be one step closer to getting rid of stress. The importance of physical activity cannot be underplayed. With physical activities, a person will be able to keep his physical wellbeing balanced. Exercises like jogging go a long way in helping reduce stress levels in men and women. When you reduce caffeine, you may have a higher tendency to sleep more. By getting more sleep, the body will be able to repair and prepare for the next day or the next couple of hours as the case may be. There are other benefits of sleep, which include preventing weight gain, increased illness, and heart disease.
How does stress make you feel?
When overwhelmed by stress, you may experience different emotions and physical symptoms that leave you feeling uncomfortable. A person may feel sad, angry, frustrated, or anxious. Since it can affect your health, stress should be addressed by understanding how it affects you. Generally, stress has certain effects on different areas of a person's life.
Physically, stress leads to headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, and problems sleeping. Most of these feelings are common among people with tight jobs or schedules. Psychologically, stress leads to anxiety, restlessness, anger or irritability, sadness, and lack of motivation or focus.
When a person is stressed for a long time, it increases anxiety, which is due to the stress hormones like cortisol. Stress and anxiety are closely related. Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear that makes someone be uneasy. When a person is stressed, he or she may be very restless. For instance, someone who's trying to get work done but feels very uncomfortable may be looking for other ways to get comfort asides resting, which may lead to a high level of discomfort.
Just as stress affects a person's mood and body, it also affects individual behavior. Stress makes individuals have an angry outburst. So, at times where a person isn't meant to overreact, you may find that person overreacting. It could also lead to the misuse of drugs, withdrawal from social activities, and less exercise. When these symptoms are noticed, it is advised that the person adapts ways to handle stress.
Why am I stressing for no reason?
Sometimes people are not aware of what triggers their stress. A person may not realize in certain situations stress may result. Sometimes body chemistry such as when your blood pressure rises due to an event or something in your environment could lead to feelings of overwhelming stress. A person may need to take time out to figure out the reasons why he feels stressed out. The reasons may not be obvious; however, you may not easily notice them. Some people like staying busy, especially when they are using that to get rid of a certain level of pain or when they are trying to recover from a hurtful event. So, when a person has a level of anxiety or depression, he may choose to use work to suppress it one way or the other. People mistake stress to stressors. When trying to manage stress, you may need to figure out the exact things you feel are stressing you out. When you discover those things, you need to relieve stress.
What is a stress attack?
A stress attack, also known as a panic attack, occurs when adrenaline and cortisol levels increase dramatically. Mentally, a person may experience racing thoughts and emotions, such as fear. Physically, a person may experience lightheadedness, pressure rises due to heart racing, feeling hot or cold, nausea, difficulty breathing, and chest pain.
Some think they are dying. Before doctors diagnose a panic attack or a stress attack, they look for certain things. For instance, they may search for signs like sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, choking sensation, and nausea. You may refer to a stress attack as acute stress. It normally occurs when a person is overwhelmed by stress.
Overwhelming stress is very unhealthy, and it calls for the need to relieve stress and the need to manage situations stress causes. Doctors often look into a lot of other things that may have caused a stress attack due to chronic stress. It's advised that persons that have stress attacks take immediate steps to handle stress.
What are stress triggers?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, most people experience a form of stress in their lives. It happens when a change occurs suddenly or with routine actions such as work, school, and responsibilities at home. People get overwhelmed by stress from losing a job, a change in family status (divorce, new baby), or financial troubles. Some experience traumatic stress because of experiencing a significant event such as a natural disaster, major accident, or sudden death of a loved one. Traumatic stress events are very overwhelming situations that make an individual fall directly into stress from time. Traumatic stress calls for the need to see a therapist to help with ways to manage stress.
There is health information available through agencies such as health and human support services to help people learn ways to manage their triggers. Understanding how to manage triggers is essential to your health, stress management wellbeing. Depending on the stress trigger, there are different ways a person may respond.
However, the most important thing to do is to relieve stress due to this situation. Chronic stress can have very unhealthy results, especially as regards a person's health. Typically, chronic stress is defined as the response to emotional pressure suffered for a long time in which a person has little or no control over. When an individual is overwhelmed by stress, there's a need to consult a therapist or try noting the sources of stress and managing them.
How do I get rid of stress hormones?
There is plenty of health information available about how to relieve stress. Getting rid of stress hormones is part of learning ways to manage stress. The National Institute of Mental Health encourages people to understand their sources of stress, understand their body’s response to it, and know ways to lower cortisol levels to reduce the risk of stress. Consider activities to help you unwind, engage in a hobby, and learn ways to relax. You can also get personal guidance based on your health, stress levels from your health care provider.
What are 10 ways to cope with stress?
Before getting overwhelmed by stress, it is essential to know the helpful ways to manage it. Understanding how to deal with signs and symptoms of stress include learning stress management techniques you can incorporate into your lifestyle. It's important to take time out to relieve stress in order to avoid being completely overwhelmed by stress. How you choose to relive stress should consist of healthy ways you can practice regularly. Ways to cope with stress include:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Adopting healthy lifestyle habits
- Regular exercise
- Practicing ways to relax through yoga, music, a good laugh, breathing exercises, etc.
- Spend time with people you care about such as family and friends
- Know your limits and say no
- Talk about your feelings or whatever is bothering you with someone you trust
- Getting to bed earlier for more rest
- Make time for leisure activities and things you enjoy
- Look for ways to reduce stress
The Institute of Mental Health also recommends setting and priorities to make better use of your time and energy. The Dept. of Health and Human Services provides ways to manage stress and recommends preparing for stressful events beforehand when possible. There are more ways to manage stress by keeping yourself updated with the latest health information. If you have physical or mental health concerns, contact your health care provider.