Stress is an increasing phenomenon in our society today. It is appalling that more than a third of the population suffers from some form of stress or another. Another fact is that reported levels of stress seem to be increasing with each year.
There is no indication of the level of stress that you may be feeling. There is no stress-o-meter that can warn us to take medication or manage symptoms that we may be experiencing. In fact, most of the times, stress-related physical symptoms are attributed to some other ailment. A series of investigative and diagnostic tests are then conducted to find the cause of the symptoms that are being observed. If the stress does not kill you, the bills at the end of this fruitless investigation surely will!
Types of Stress
There are essentially three kinds of stress that humans face.
Acute stress – This one is the most common and it is something that the body was prepared to handle. Acute stress is a result of a specific occurrence like a loud noise or sudden danger. It results in a flight or fight response from the endocrine system increasing levels of adrenalin in the body to fight or run. The heightened levels of hormones decrease quickly as the danger is dealt with.
Episodic stress – Our lifestyles allow for many instances of episodic stress to take place. These occur when we feel rushed, run around to meetdeadlines, and must multitask. While the body responds to this stress in a similar manner, it is still a short-term phenomenon.
Chronic stress – Chronic levels of stress are the most damaging since the body remains in an elevated state for long periods of time. Chronic stress occurs due to extended issues that just won’t go away in the mind. Some of the causes include long term financial problems, death of someone close, demanding circumstances at work and toxic relationships.
Effects of Stress
Stress effects everything from our physical health to emotions, moods, thoughts and behaviour too. Since the connection between stress and health related issues was not too obvious to begin with, there have been various medical studies that have been carried out to confirm the risks that chronic stress brings along.
Stress effects the gastrointestinal tract and causes issues like frequent upset stomach, peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis and acid reflux. Over time This occurs due to heightened levels of various chemicals that are released in the body to combat a stressful situation.
Issues with the muscular and nervous system are also common occurrences due to prolonged stress. The taut muscles cause backpain, shoulder pain and muscle tension. Arrhythmias have also been known to occur in chronic stress cases. Due to this constant state of alert, patients have also reported constant headaches, endless fatigue, dizziness and chest pain. In some extreme cases arthritis has also been traced back to stress.
The respiratory system is also compromised when you undergo chronic stress. It can cause asthma and respiratory issues.
Lifestyle problems like diabetes, elevated cholesterol levels, and higher risk of cardiovascular diseases has also been linked to stress. Overall, continued stress suppresses the immune system making colds, flus, and fatigue a common thing and allowing for other pathogens to attack easily.
Mood issues related to stress include restlessness, listlessness, lack of motivation, anxiety, depression and anger.
Behaviourally, anger outbursts, drug abuse, higher levels of alcohol consumption, social withdrawal and eating disorders are associated with stress too. Sudden increase in weight due to binge eating or sudden weight loss due to lack in motivation and depression are some signs to watch out for.
There hardly seems to be a magic wand that one can swirl and ensure that the world becomes far more relaxed, slow and calm. These social changes take centuries. Most of us will not be around anymore to see it happen assuming that awareness of this sets in now.
What we can do however, is to learn to manage stress since it is within our control to look at things from different perspectives. Just as the manifestations of stress are physical and mental, the management of stress requires a combined approach. Here are some things you can do:
- Exercise at least 4 to 5 times a week. Physical activity releases happy hormones called endorphins that keep the body from producing stress hormones.
- Learn some basic relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga and tai chi and take some time out each day to practice these. You can use your relaxation techniques just before going to bed. A quick yoga schedule for 15 minutes can make you feel much better through the day.
- Certain behavioral changes can ensure that you do not get into the claws of depression due to stress. Surround yourself with happy and humourous people. Make some real friends (not only those on social media) and go out during the weekend with them. Listen to peppy music and make time for periodic vacations