That simple little word stress can have a profound impact on how you feel and how you ultimately end up living your life. Stress management is an important part of maintaining mental health as a whole, as well as overall physical health.
If left unchecked, stress can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, impaired concentration, short-term memory loss, increased susceptibility to colds and other illnesses, changes in sleep patterns or overeating. If you see yourself in this then it's time to take back control and relieve the stress that has been controlling you for so long!
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any event that you feel frustrated, angry or nervous about. In some incidents stress can actually benefit your body by giving it more energy for something important like avoiding danger - where we get the well-known 'flight or fight's response from - but when it is too intense and lasts too long, the repeated feelings of despair could start to wear on your body and mind until they are no longer able to function properly.
There are many factors which can cause stress. Stressful situations can be attributed to a major upheaval in important life events such as divorce or unemployment. Or it could be certain irritations such as feeling undervalued at work or arguing regularly with friends or family members.
The most common issues surrounding stress involve work, money matters and relationships with those closest to us - partners, friends or family. But it's worth noting that sometimes there are no obvious causes of stress, and there may be little rhyme or reason for the way we feel.
Stress is your body's reaction to something perceived as a threat happening externally and against your control. When 'danger' is near the body essentially starts to go into overdrive. Your brain sends out a signal that it's not happy and as a result, your blood pressure rises, heart starts pounding and breathing quickens. All-in all, stress levels sky rocket!
More dangerously, stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline are released to help the body respond to the 'threat' and decided how it will act. When these stress hormones are released regularly it could have a devastating impact on long-term mental and physical health.
When stress is experienced in short bursts or not particularly regularly, physical symptoms include raised blood pressure, increase sweating, insomnia and a change of appetite or sex drive. Stress hormones release fat and sugar to help aid the 'fight or flight' response which in turn can lead to headaches, nausea, muscle fatigue and indigestion.
Behaviourally, the sufferer may feel they are experiencing more angry outbursts, lack of patience and motivation, fatigue and social withdrawal. If the stress is inhibiting the person's life to the point where they feel they need a 'quick fix', they may turn to drugs and alcohol. We know that good work life balance, a decent night's sleep, a healthy diet and recognising the triggers will all help with the management of stress.
Long-term stress or chronic stress is a more intense form of stress that wear sufferers down over a longer period of time - usually months or sometimes years. Because of the body's constant release of stress hormones and the physical affects of this release alongside an ongoing increase in heart rate and blood pressure, chronic stress can contribute to long-term issues for the heart and blood vessels. It takes a huge toll on the body and long-term risks can include high blood pressure (hypertension), heart attack, or stroke.
The affects on mood can be just as devastating with anxiety and depression being potential mental mental issues to look out for. Chronic stress should be managed with professional medical help.
As many people have experienced stress or a stressful situation at some point in their life, the signs may be easy to spot - and knowing these triggers remain important - however there are a few you may not be aware of. These are the common signs as recognised by the NHS:
How to combat stress can be really tricky for many people but there are many techniques and strategies to try out to make everyday life just a bit easier. The fundamental step is to take back some control over those matters you find stressful but that you can control. And it's more than you might think.
If you've tried some of the tips mentioned but you don't feel you're getting any better then see your doctor. He or she may refer to your a qualified professional or it may be a diagnosis that's altogether different from stress but they will help identify the causes and lead you on the path of healing.