Understanding Stress – Signs, Symptoms and Causes

Millions of people struggle every day with stress and stress-related problems. Let’s understand stress, what are its harmful effects, and the best ways to deal with it.

In the 21st century, our lifestyle has become extremely modern which is filled with various demands, deadlines, and frustrations. For thousands of individuals, living with stress has become so common that it has become a part of their life.

Many psychologists say that stress isn’t always bad. If stress stays within a manageable level, then it can help people to perform better when under pressure, gives motivation to perform your best, and sometimes even keeps you safe when dangerous situation arises. However, you need to keep in mind that stress can damage your health, relationships, mood, performance and quality of life to a great level, when it becomes overwhelming.

By understanding how human body’s stress response functions, you can protect yourself from the negative impact of stress. You can also fight with stress by taking steps to reduce its harmful effects and identifying the major signs and symptoms of excess stress.

  • What Is Stress?

When a human body feels any kind of demand or threat, then it responds with stress. The body is awakened for emergency action by adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones which are released by the nervous system when it feels threatened. Your senses become sharper, breath speed increases, blood pressure rises, muscles tightens, and the heart starts pounding faster. Your focus is enhanced, reaction time speeds up and strength and stamina increase because of these physical changes.

It is your body’s way of protecting you and this is called as ‘fight or flight’ stress response. You can stay focused, energetic, and alert when stress levels are working appropriately. Stress can even play a significant role in saving your life in emergency situations by providing you extra strength to defend yourself. It increases the speed of your reaction to avoid accident situations.

Stress can also help you to deal with various types of challenges. Stress keeps you on your toes during different types of daily activities you perform at your workplace or home. It influences you take up different work when you are more interested in having a rest.

However, stress starts causing major damage and stops being helpful to your mind and body, if it crosses the mark of your comfort zone.

Signs And Symptoms Of Chronic Stress

Here are a few lists that indicate some of the common signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The chances of you getting chronic stress increases when you notice more signs and symptoms in yourself.

  • Cognitive Symptoms Of Stress
  • Constant worrying & negative thoughts
  • Seeing only the negative aspect of everything
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Bad or poor judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Emotional Symptoms Of Stress
  • Depression
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Moodiness
  • General unhappiness
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Physical Symptoms Of Stress
  • Frequent colds
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Aches and pains
  • Behavioural Symptoms
  • Using drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes to relax
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating more or less
  • Nervous habits like nail biting, pacing
  • Neglecting or procrastinating responsibilities

Always remember that the signs and symptoms of chronic stress can also be caused by other medical or psychological issues. If you have been witnessing any of the above mentioned warning signs of stress, then it becomes quite essential to visit a doctor to find out whether you’re suffering from stress or not.

How Should We respond to The Problem of Chronic stress?

There have been many researches done and one of its done into the brain shows that humans have 3 different ways of managing the nervous systems and responding to stress:

1. For keeping our mind and body feeling calm and safe, social engagement is surely one of the most evolved strategy. The brain is connected to sensory receptors in the eye, heart, ear and face by the vagus nerve. Therefore, you can calm down and avoid defensive responses like ‘fight-or-flight’ by:

  • making eye contact
  • feeling understood
  • listening in an attentive way, and
  • socially interacting with another person

While getting indulged in social engagement, you are allowed to think and feel clearly. Also, your body functions such as heartbeat, digestion, blood pressure, and the immune system keeps on working uninterrupted.

2. Mobilisation or readiness is also known as the fight-or-flight response. The body prepares for mobilisation when it doesn’t consider social engagement as a proper response and we are supposed to either protect ourselves or run away from eminent danger. The body starts releasing chemicals to deliver the energy you require to protect yourself from the danger.

At that moment, body functions such as the digestive and immune systems, which are not needed for fight or flight response stop working. After the danger is over, the nervous system starts to calm the body by lowering the blood pressure, slowing the heart rate and going back to its normal balance.

3. The third response to stress from our body is immobilization. This response to stress has evolved minimum and body uses this response only in cases where social engagement and mobilisation fail to deliver favourable results. A person might find himself/herself highly traumatised or fixed in a state of anger, becoming panic-stricken or dysfunctional and unable to move ahead.

In cases of extreme and life-threatening situations, a person can lose consciousness, which enable him/her to endure high levels of physical pain. However, the person should prompt his/her body to a mobilisation response level, or their nervous system will be unable to go back to its pre-stress condition or balance.

Responding to stress using social engagement isn’t always possible, and most of the people have transformed to respond to every minor stressor by quickly adopting fight or flight response. For the reason that this response discontinue other body functions and creates problems in judgment and feeling, with time it can result in stress overload and a damaging effect on the individual’s physical and mental health.

Chronic stress is a very serious health condition which shouldn’t be neglected. Stress is also a major sign and a symptom of various diseases such as Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, Hypoglycemia etc. Visit your doctor, if you think you’re suffering from chronic stress.

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