We see a lot of questions being asked about stress. Here’s our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions which should give you a good overview of what stress is, how it affects you, and what can be done to relieve it.
What is stress?
We have all felt stressed before but most of us would struggle to define exactly what stress is. This is partly because no universal definition exists.
Many people would associate stress as being some form of mental or emotional strain placed on them by external factors, also known as stressors. The body perceives these stressors to be an excessive demand on its coping mechanisms, leading to psychological and physical responses.
In Western culture stress is usually related to a loss of control whereas in Eastern culture it is often considered to represent the absence of inner peace.
What causes stress?
Stress can be caused by pretty much anything that leads you to experience mental or emotional strain. This includes work pressures, employment issues, financial problems, difficult relationships, bereavement, long-term illness and situations for which you have little or no control over.
It is important to realise that you can still get stressed by events which are typically associated with joy and happiness such as weddings and the birth of a baby.
What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
Stress is highly individualised and affects different people in different ways – both emotionally and physically. It can affect the way you feel, the way you behave, as well as your physical state. Below are some examples of the symptoms of stress.
The Way You Feel
- Overwhelmed or helpless
- Neglected or lonely
- Low self-worth
- Nervous, worried or anxious
- Disinterested in life
- Lost your sense of humour
- Difficulty to switch off and relax
- Difficulty to enjoy yourself
- Irritable, aggressive and worked up
The Way You Behave
- Poor concentration and memory
- Decreased productivity
- Avoiding certain situations
- Short tempered and agitated
- Fluctuating appetite
- Fluctuating mood
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty staying still
- Increase in bad habits such as smoking, drinking and drugs
- Changes in personal relationships
- Racing thoughts
- Shallow breathing or hyperventilation
- Feeling sick or light-headed
- Experience a panic attack
- Blurred vision
- Insomnia and other sleep problems
- Sexual problems and lack of interest in sex
- Grinding your teeth
- Headaches and migraines
- Chest pains
- High blood pressure
- Bowel and digestion problems including heartburn and IBS
- Skin problems such as acne
- Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia
How does stress affect the body?
Stress is often associated with the activation of your body’s fight-or-flight response. When experiencing mental or emotional strain, the brain sends messages to the autonomic nervous system which releases stress response hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. These hormones work as chemical messengers, instructing the different parts of your body how to respond, leading to:
- Increased rate of respiration and oxygen intake
- Increased heart rate increasing blood pressure and flow around the body
- Increased blood glucose synthesis in the liver providing extra short term energy
- Enhanced central vision
- Poorer peripheral vision and hearing
- Toned down non-vital processes for short term survival such as digestion
- Relaxed bladder
Other physical responses such as shaking, flushed face and dry mouth
How does stress affect your health?
Short-term stress can be great for you. It’s this type of stress that makes you get out of bed in the morning, gives you the extra energy to compete in a sports competition as well as the focus to succeed in an intellectually involved situation. In these instances, our bodies benefit from the short term boost that stress response hormones such as adrenaline give us and the stress is over before some of the harmful side-effects can take their toll.
On the contrary long-term stress, also known as chronic stress, can adversely impact your health. Common problems caused by chronic stress include:
- Mental health problems including depression, anxiety and personality disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks and strokes
- Problems associated with a weakened immune system and chronic inflammation such as cancer, Crohn's disease and even Alzheimer’s
- Lower testosterone levels
- Memory problems
- Muscle and headaches
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain and obesity
Can stress kill you?
The answer is yes, chronic stress can kill you.
If you suffer from stress it is important that you understand the potential severity of doing nothing about it. The good news is that there’s plenty you can be doing. The bad news is that men are the worst at opening up about it and taking action.
What is stress management?
Stress management relates to the range of techniques and treatments which are designed to keep stress levels, particularly from chronic stress, under control. Managing stress can improve the quality of your life and improve health outcomes. Read on for a full list of popular stress management techniques.
How to deal with stress? / How to relieve stress?
The good news is that there is plenty that can be done to deal with your stress. Here are fifteen ways to relieve stress which you can start today.
- Understand what is causing you to feel stressed
- Get organised
- Socialise better
- Speak out and seek support
- Be assertive
- Meditate or practise breathing exercises daily
- Get your sleep
- Give yourself time off and get closer to nature
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily and take stress relief supplements
- Listen to music
- Turn off your phone and other screens
- Be mindful
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Learn something new
There you have it, the most frequently asked questions related to stress. If you have any more questions that you would like to have answered, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in finding out how stressed you are? Take our stress quiz now to find out.