Stress can be a normal human reaction to both positive and negative situations, manifesting with mental and physical symptoms. Scientifically supported stress management techniques can promote resiliency in many, appealing to a range of individual stress responses. This guide explores some of the most common stress-management strategies, as well as common causes and symptoms of stress to support you in your preventative care strategy.
What Is A Stress Response?
Stress can be a natural response to new or challenging situations. During a stress response, your body may release stress hormones like cortisol to help your body respond to the perceived threat and enhance your reaction speed. Current scientific evidence suggests that chronic stress may predispose the brain to mental health conditions, such as anxiety and mood disorders. Episodes of overwhelming stress can potentially happen to anyone. During these episodes, the stress in someone’s life might become too much to handle, causing one to experience difficulty controlling emotions and completing daily activities (e.g., going to work or engaging in social interaction). Lifestyle changes, accessible stress management techniques and online therapy can all be useful tools in helping someone to secure a higher overall quality of life, even if they are experiencing stressful external circumstances.
What Are Common Symptoms Of Stress?
Symptoms of chronic stress may vary from person to person. While stress may be a standalone experience for some people, it could be an indication of a secondary mental health condition. A licensed mental health professional can help to determine if a person may be experiencing symptoms due to stress alone, or symptoms that may be a result of something else. They can also offer insight and recommendations for working through it in as healthy of a way as possible.
Here are some common signs that an episode of stress might be impacting a person’s life:
- Social withdrawal: This can take on several different forms, and may look like someone missing school or work, communicating less with friends and family, skipping favorite activities or spending more time alone. Physical symptoms and panic attacks: There are many different symptoms that could indicate chronic stress, a panic attack or generalized stress that is affecting one’s life. Symptoms can include sweating, nausea, trembling, rapid heart rate, chills, hot flashes, shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness, fainting or asense of impending doom,
- Lifestyle changes: Overeating, loss of appetite, fatigue, low energy levels, insomnia, oversleeping, reduced physical activity and substance use** may indicate the presence of chronic or overwhelming stress.
Mood swings and intense emotions: Those who are experiencing periods of stress may have difficulty with emotional control. As a result, they may experience impatience, irritability, agitation, nightmares or excessive worry.
*If you or a loved one are experiencing difficulties related to substance use, please consider reaching out for help immediately. You can reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline 24/7 at 1-800-662-4357.
Potential Causes Of Stress
Overwhelming stress can have a wide range of causes, and generally occurs on an individual basis. Understanding the possible causes can promote a stronger preventative care strategy, building general awareness of contributing factors to the condition. We’ve listed some examples below:
- A significant life event, like moving to a new city or getting a new job
- Anxiety disorders, depression, or another mental health condition
- Lack of sleep
- Financial struggles
- Substance use disorder
- Toxic work environments
- Overwhelming responsibilities
- Starting a relationship or getting married
- Going through a breakup or divorce
- Abuse* (*any form, including physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or emotional types)
- Grief or trauma
- Chronic health conditions
*If you or a loved one are experiencing abuse in any form, please consider reaching out right away to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
Is Online Therapy Effective For Those Experiencing Stress?
Once the cause of stress has been determined, one may consider attending online therapy. It’s been scientifically suggested as a convenient option for those experiencing overwhelming stress, as it can eliminate lengthy commutes and other barriers to mental health care. According to the American Psychological Association, online therapy can offer many of the same benefits as in-person therapy for many. Online sessions can also ease stress about therapy because they can be done from home on any device with an internet connection.
Treatment Options For Overwhelming Stress
There are several different types of scientifically-supported strategies to try if you’re experiencing stress. We’ve summarized several of them below:
Talk To Your Doctor
Some health conditions can cause symptoms that are similar to those of overwhelming stress. A healthcare provider can examine the symptoms and run any necessary tests that might help rule out possible underlying health conditions. This knowledge alone can support you in living a healthier life, as you’ll have the assurance of what your condition is (if any). Your provider may also be able to support you with a medication or supplement regimen to help you attain a higher quality of life.
Medication may help alleviate symptoms of mental health disorders and make them easier to handle. A licensed psychiatrist or physician can help a person determine if it’s in their best interest to try medication, even as a temporary solution. We always recommend speaking with your provider before beginning any route of medication or supplementation to ensure that it’s the best possible thing for your unique health needs.
Speaking with a qualified mental health professional about overwhelming stress and challenges in life can be beneficial for some. Additionally, therapy can help identify the cause(s) of stress and coping mechanisms or lifestyle changes that might ease the symptoms.
Self-care is considered by many to be an informal form of stress management, and can help people care for themselves during periods of stress. Examples of healthy self-care habits can include:
- Listening to music or playing an instrument
- Drawing, painting or coloring
- Eating healthy foods
- Walking in nature
- Spending time with friends and family
- Doing yoga
- Personal hygiene activities (e.g., taking a bath)
- Practicing mindfulness
- Getting on a good sleep schedule for your needs
- Cooking or baking
- Doing puzzles or brain games
- Making time for favorite hobbies (i.e., board games, video games, scrapbooking, reading, gardening or playing a sport — whatever this looks like for you!)
Many may feel like they won’t have time for self-care during a period of stress. However, self-care can be helpful even in small doses — such as 10-20 minutes each day.
How Can Online Therapy Help Those Experiencing Stress?
In many cases, those experiencing stress may find the thought of going out for personal self-care needs overwhelming or unattainable — presenting a possible barrier to care. Online therapy is considered a more convenient and accessible option for many, as it can be used any time from the smart device of your choosing.
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