Constant stress is so common know adays that I think we as a society has normalised it as part of daily life, especially for us in the West. However, the amount of stress that most of us go through shouldn’t be part of daily life and it shouldn’t be normalised as it is. In this article I will provide the following:
What is stress?
Stress is a physical and emotional response to a situation, a feeling, event or expectation that interferes with your sense of calm and safety. The factors or tiggers that cause you to feel anxious, tense, or afraid are called stressors. Perception of stress is also based on individual response. What may be stressful for one may be thrilling and challenging for another.
It is normal to experience stress as it triggers your fight-or-flight response in order to fight what is causing you concern or run away from it. We need all need it and all of us as animals and humans alike has this natural response otherwise we would not survive.
We needed it to run away from ferocious animals that are life threatening. If we were to freeze, we would need to not survive. We need to react appropriately to protect us. Your body and mind does not distinguish between running from wild animals and feeling stressed through being stuck in traffic. It just responds appropriately to what you as an individual, perceives as a threat.
Normally what should happen is that after the response occurs, your body should relax. This is where Stress becomes difficult to deal with where we don’t return to this state of relaxation. However stress can range in it’s intensity. The more it you experience stress, the more chronic and acute it becomes both physically and emotionally.
Types of stress
There are several types of stress. The main ones include:
Episodic acute stress
Acute stress is normal stress that happens to everyone. It is normal to feel stress at times as it is the body’s reaction to new and challenging situations.
It can even come from things you enjoy doing that is frightening but yet thrills you i.e. being on a roller coaster, going karting or abseiling.
These incidents of acute stress don’t normally do you any harm. In actual fact, they might even be good for you. Stressful situations give your body and brain practice in developing the best response to future stressful situations.
Once the danger is over, your body systems will return back to normal.
Episodic acute stress
Episodic acute stress happens when you have frequent episodes of acute stress.
This usually happens when you are often worried or anxious about things. This could be things that has already happened that goes over in your mind or things that you are concerned about happening.
Certain jobs can bring about acute stress if relaxation isn’t managed properly. Professions like Teaching, health care, firefighting or law enforcement can lead to frequent high stressful situations.
One of the main problems with episodic acute stress is that it can start to affect your physical and mental well-being.
Chronic stress can arise from certain jobs above where over a period of time, your self-care balanced with high stressful situations become unmanageable. You could also experience chronic stress after going through trauma where there is also a build-up of trauma from the past and current situations become difficult to manage.
Chronic stress very often leads to physical health problems which is described below
Causes of Stress
Not a complete list but stress either acute or chronic can be caused by:
- Health issues either acute or chronic
- Someone you are caring for who has physical or mental health
- Living with parents with unmanageable mental health issues or substance misuse
- Financial problems
- Concerns about employment
- Problems at work
- Natural or manmade disaster
- Build-up of trauma from the past
- Being a perfectionist
- Low self esteem
- Environmental i.e. poor air quality, traffic, noises, lack of nature, local crime
- Lack of quality of food
- Family problems
- Lack of work life balance
- Lack of emotional and physical support
How stress affects your health
When you are stressed, the hypothalamus triggers your Stress Hormones (andrenaline and cortisol). which in turn triggers your body’s fight or flight response.
Your heart rate increases, digestive system slows down.
When the perceived stress is over, the body then knows it can rest. Everything in your body relaxes and calms down.
With frequent and chronic stress, the body basically doesn’t switch off so it is constantly stressed and on high alert. Here are some of the things you might experience if you have Episodic or Chronic Stress:
- Chronic pain
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Lower sex drive
- Digestive problems
- Eating too much or too little
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Whether you’re aware of it or not, you may be drinking or smoking more than you used to.
- Stress headaches, also known as tension headaches, are due to tense muscles in the head, face, and neck.
- Stress eating – Some people react to stress by eating, even if they’re not hungry
- Can eventually lead to heart disease, exacerbating breathing problems, chronic stomach problems such as stomach ulcers
How to cope with Stress?
There’s a lot of things you can do to help yourself.
First you need to try and understand what is causing you the stress and find out if there is anything you can do about it.
- Would it help to talk to someone?
- Can you change it?
- Do you need to ask for practical help?
- Is there a better way of doing things for you?
The problem is if you don’t get to the root cause of what caused it in the first place and try and change things, the problems will persist and managing your stress could continue to be difficult.
Also read the section again on “what caused it”. If there are issues from your past, or you have low self-esteem, perfectionism, maybe it is time to address those issues.
In the meantime, Self-Care and relaxation is the key. One of the major things that could help is meditation. I have explained the benefits of meditation here – Benefits of Meditation – It’s Not just Mamby Pamby.
And I have links to useful meditation videos as well – A Collection of Meditation Techniques for Beginners.
How I can help you
Talking with me, a psychotherapist and counsellor, I can support you explore the root causes of your stress.
I would support you in looking at how what is happening with your mind, body, spirit and what is in your environment is impacting on how you are feeling. We will work together for a plan and a way forward for you.
The work I do with you is based on 35 years of research and client work with thousands of people. We provide Holistic Integrative sustainable, workable solutions that work!
Find out how we can help you today
Stress management with me will help you tackle your depression and move forward with a positive outlook on your life.
Call me now or complete my online booking form to make an appointment with me
I am a Therapist based in Sutton Coldfield, UK also available online.
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