Understanding Stress Is The Key To Keeping It Under Control
Youre up against a deadline at work. Your kids are fighting as youre trying to finish an assignment. You are stuck in traffic and have dinner in the back seat. On top of all that, your email pingsyoure late to pay your credit card bill. Your heart rate spikes, you start sweating, and your mind begins to race.
If you felt yourself respond to the thought of being in those situations, youre experiencing a reaction to stress. While we all experience stress each day, an unhealthy amount of stress can be dangerous to both our physical and mental health.
Wait Where Did You Put Your Phone/keys/brain
Here’s the funny thing: A tiny jolt of stress in some situations can make your mind do totally amazing, somewhat super-human things . But when every project, paper, practice, etc., etc., etc. is weighing on you to the point where you just feel stuck? Your memory goes fuzzy, your focus becomes non-existent, and your ability to actually listen gets squashed. It’s like stress hijacks your brain.
How To Know If Stress Is Negatively Impacting Your Life
Stress is something that we all face daily. However, according to the American Institute of Stress, 33% of people feel extreme stress, 77% of people feel stress that has some impact on their physical health, and 73% of people have their mental health impacted.
Over 48% of people report having sleep problems as a result of stress.
When youre stressed, signals are sent to different parts of the body to alert them, which can lead to physical manifestations ranging from headaches to nausea.
One of the best things you can do is understand how your body reacts to stress. With all the different emotions your brain can cycle through and all the feelings your body can feel, it can be tough to know when youre dealing with stress.
Here are some physical symptoms you may have if youre experiencing stress:
- Aches and pains
- Scattered, racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
Of course, everybody reacts to stress differently, so you likely would only experience some of these symptoms. If youre experiencing these symptoms, its possible that theyre a direct result of stress in your life.
Numerous studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between long-term stress and the development of serious mental health and mood issues.
Based on a research study published by the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress and a similar number experience psychological symptoms.
Read Also: How Do You Check Your Stress Level
Recognising Your Stress Triggers
If you’re not sure what’s causing your stress, keep a diary and make a note of stressful episodes for two-to-four weeks. Then review it to spot the triggers.
Things you might want to write down include:
- the date, time and place of a stressful episode
- what you were doing
- a stress rating
You can use the diary to:
- work out what triggers your stress
- work out how you operate under pressure
- develop better coping mechanisms
Doctors sometimes recommend keeping a stress diary to help them diagnose stress.
Appetite Changes And Weight Gain
Changes in appetite are common during times of stress.
When you feel stressed out, you may find yourself with no appetite at all or overeating without noticing.
One small 2006 study of 272 female college students found that 81 percent reported that they experienced changes in appetite when they were stressed out, with 62 percent stating they had an increase in appetite .
Changes in appetite may also cause fluctuations in weight during stressful periods. For example, a study involving 1,355 people in the United States found that stress was associated with weight gain in adults already living with extra weight .
A third study from 2017 found that individuals with higher cortisol and insulin levels and higher levels of chronic stress were more likely to gain weight in the future . However, the study was limited in the scope of research in that participants were predominantly white females.
While these studies show an association between stress and changes in appetite or weight, more studies are needed to understand other possible factors are involved and how stress impacts different people.
Don’t Miss: Can Too Much Stress Lead To Depression
What Is Acute Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that may occur within one month after experiencing a traumatic event. ASD can last anywhere between 3 days and 1 month. It differs from posttraumatic-stress disorder (PTSD, but causes symptoms also seen in people with PTSD, such as dissociative symptoms, reexperiencing the traumatic events, and avoidance.
What Are Some Ways To Prevent Stress
Many daily strategies can help you keep stress at bay:
- Try relaxation activities, such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation. Programs are available online, in smartphone apps, and at many gyms and community centers.
- Take good care of your body each day. Eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep help your body handle stress much better.
- Stay positive and practice gratitude, acknowledging the good parts of your day or life.
- Accept that you cant control everything. Find ways to let go of worry about situations you cannot change.
- Learn to say no to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed.
- Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. A friend, family member or neighbor can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesnt become overwhelming.
Read Also: Can Stress Cause Pancreatic Cancer
The Most Common Emotional And Cognitive Symptoms Of Short
When youre under a lot of stress, you may find that youre more emotional than usual or crankier. Here are some signs to look for:
- Anxiety or nervousness in the American Psychological Associations 2017 Stress in America survey, 36 percent of people report that stress makes them feel more nervous or anxious.
- Anger or irritability in the APA survey, 35 percent of people report this.
- Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
Coping With Stress And Anxiety
Learning what causes or triggers your stress and what coping techniques work for you can help reduce your anxiety and improve your daily life. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you. Here are some activities you can try when you start to feel overwhelmed:
- Keep a journal.
- Exercise, and make sure you are eating healthy, regular meals.
- Stick to a sleep routine, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Avoid drinking excess caffeine such as soft drinks or coffee.
- Identify and challenge your negative and unhelpful thoughts.
- Reach out to your friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way.
Recommended Reading: What Is Stress Management Techniques
Your Sleep Schedule Is Wildly Unpredictable
Stress can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule.
Too much stress can cause you to have a bad sleep, leading to mental and physical health issues which can, in turn, cause stress in daily life, leading to poor sleep at night, the American Institute of Stress explained.
Remember those stress hormones mentioned above? Those same hormones can cause your body to stay awake as it thinks its now in fight or flight mode. And because your body can never quiet down, neither can your mind. On top of that, your daytime stress could be causing some odd dreams as well.
“When people had these really frustrating, upsetting experiences in their everyday , they had dreams where they felt stressed, sad or frustrated,” Netta Weinstein, a senior lecturer in social and environmental psychology at Cardiff University, and lead author of a study on stress and dreams, told Live Science. As she noted, stress can even cause very specific dream scenarios.
“The link between the experiences and the content of the dreams was less robust,” Weinstein explained. “But we found some evidence that falling, being attacked by someone, being locked up or trying repeatedly to do something and failing at it could be linked to a frustrating experience during the day.
Whats The Difference Between Stress And Anxiety
Knowing the difference can ensure you get the help you need.
Whats the difference between stress and anxiety?
Theres a fine line between stress and anxiety. Both are emotional responses, but stress is typically caused by an external trigger. The trigger can be short-term, such as a work deadline or a fight with a loved one or long-term, such as being unable to work, discrimination, or chronic illness. People under stress experience mental and physical symptoms, such as irritability, anger, fatigue, muscle pain, digestive troubles, and difficulty sleeping.
Anxiety, on the other hand, is defined by persistent, excessive worries that dont go away even in the absence of a stressor. Anxiety leads to a nearly identical set of symptoms as stress: insomnia, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, muscle tension, and irritability.
Both mild stress and mild anxiety respond well to similar coping mechanisms. Physical activity, a nutritious and varied diet, and good sleep hygiene are a good starting point, but there are other .
Anxiety disorders are common. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of Americans over the age of 18 had an anxiety disorder in the past year, and 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder during their lifetimes.
Recommended Reading: How To Stop Yourself From Stressing
You’re Eating Too Little
On the contrary, Nief says that some people forget to eat or experience little appetite when stressed. Nief says that he is one of those people in particular, and that when he is stressed, he often needs to remind himself to eat and fuel the body. If you experience this, set an alarm as a reminder to nibble regularly.
You’ve Got A Case Of The Dropsies
You’ve probably heard the stories about someone visiting a museum, stumbling, and accidentally destroying a priceless treasure. At home, you might be doing the same thing on a smaller scale. Suddenly unable to to put your coffee down without knocking it over, or dropping more things that you’re holding onto? According to Dr. Charles B. Swanik of the University of Delaware, there’s usually two things at work here. One is how distracted we are at that particular moment, and the other is stress.
Stress and distraction go hand-in-hand, and according to Dr. Swanik, stress makes it next to impossible to concentrate on what’s going on around you like you could if you weren’t thinking about whatever is causing your stress. Too much stress actually causes things like a loss of peripheral vision, and it can also change what’s going on in your muscles. If you’re stressed, you’re tense, and if you’re tense, then your brain isn’t necessarily going to get the reaction it’s expecting when it tells, say, your hand to reach out and grab that cup of coffee. While your brain might be giving instructions based on your normal resting state, if stress is making your muscles tight and tense you’re going to be suffering from a case of the clumsies when your brain and your body start crossing signals.
Read Also: Can Stress Give You Migraines
Know Which Types Of Stress Need Professional Help
Stress is a recurring condition within our lives. But it doesnt need to become a long-term problem. Dont be too hard on yourself.
By looking for ways to reduce our stress, developing good habits and stress management techniques, we can reduce the chances of suffering from the long-term health impacts of stress.
If you feel that you cant manage your stress or stress-related symptoms, its important to obtain professional help.
Learn more about how BetterUps expert coaches can help you. Dont let stress get the better of you.
Can Stress During Pregnancy Hurt My Baby
Regular, everyday stress during pregnancy, such as stressing to make a work deadline or finish the babys nursery, wont hurt your baby.
But extreme , chronic and long-term stress can, in some cases, increase the risk of:
- Developmental delays in the baby
Babies born too soon or too small can face more complications than full-term, normal-weight newborns.
Don’t Miss: How To Relieve Stress Quickly
Symptoms Of Uncontrolled Stress
Like in any medical condition, the starting point towards the resolution of the problem that is stress is symptom recognition. Stress is your bodys way of protecting you it is a normal physiological response to any threatening event that comes your way. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing harm to your health and life in general. Below are some of the common warning signs and symptoms of too much or uncontrolled stress. If you seem to be experiencing many of the symptoms listed, then it likely indicates that you are not coping with the stress in your life effectively.
Cognitive symptoms refer to problems that have anything to do with brain processes like thinking, attention, perception, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. The most commonly observed cognitive symptoms of poorly managed stress are as follows:
Going to the salon every other week gets expensive, but there are useful, free, and creative ways to get the perfect manicure without making that bank account-draining bi-weekly appointment. Check out these hacks for a great manicure.
You Feel Like Gambling
Gambling can take a number of forms, and it doesn’t just mean hitting the casino. It might include things like scratch-off or lottery tickets, and some studies have found that for those who are prone to gambling , stress can make those urges worse.
According to Know the Odds, a national non-profit dedicated to helping spread awareness about problem gambling, stress can be a major trigger in turning back to old habits. Gambling can present a way to destress, and Recovery Ranch, a Tennessee-based treatment facility for addiction, took a look at just what kind of impact stress had on gambling habits. The study took 347 volunteers and asked them about things like stress levels and the methods used to manage their emotions. They found those who reported high levels of stress also connected the use of electronic gambling machines with feelings of avoidance and used it as a coping strategy, and while the correlation between gambling and stress isn’t entirely understood, it does suggest those who are prone to gambling might be even more likely to do so when they’re highly stressed.
Recommended Reading: What Kind Of Doctor Treats Stress And Anxiety
Is It Stress Or Anxiety
Life can be stressfulyou may feel stressed about performance at school, traumatic events , or a life change. Everyone feels stress from time to time.
What is stress? Stress is the physical or mental response to an external cause, such as having a lot of homework or having an illness. A stressor may be a one-time or short-term occurrence, or it can happen repeatedly over a long time.
What is anxiety? Anxiety is your body’s reaction to stress and can occur even if there is no current threat.
If that anxiety doesnt go away and begins to interfere with your life, it could affect your health. You could experience problems with sleeping, or with your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems. You also may be at higher risk for developing a mental illness such as an anxiety disorder or depression. Read more about anxiety disorders.
So, how do you know when to seek help?
How To Know If Youre Stressed Out Or Suffering From Anxiety
We live in a society that applauds stress. You have too much to do? You don’t have a moment to breathe? Good, you’ve made it. Add in the violent current events that seem to be in our newsfeeds every single day, and it’s no wonder we’re all constantly worrying about one thing or another.
Both stress and anxiety are normal feelings everyone experiences, , a licensed psychologist and expert in the treatment of anxiety disorders, tells SELF. Feeling either one so intensely that it impacts your quality of life? That’s another storyand a sign that you might have an anxiety disorder, which deserves the attention of a mental health professional. But the difference between everyday stress and anxiety that comes with the ups and downs of life is actually way more subtle than you might think.
Here are the main differences between stress and anxiety, and how to know when its time to ask for help.
“Think of stress more as a physiological manifestation of what you perceive as an overwhelming threat.” So, you’ve got a huge deadline and have no idea how you’re going to meet it, even if you work around the clock. You’re feeling the pressure, your cortisol levels surge, and your body reacts in various waysmaybe you get a knot in your stomach, your heart rate raises, you get super sweaty, or you might even feel the urge to cry.
Luckily, there are some easy things you can do to both manage stress and calm an anxious brain on a daily basis. Here’s what Pike recommends:
Also Check: How To Control Stress Acne
Your Hair Is Starting To Shed
When stress levels become too much, it’s pretty common for your hair to peace on out. You might notice a bit more shedding, say, when you take a shower. Or, you might experience a more severe form of hair loss called telogen effluvium, Bhanuasli tells me. This can cause noticeably thinner hair all over your scalp. But don’t worry â it can all grow back once you deal with your stress.
Learn The Hidden Signs Of Stress And How To Manage Symptoms
Everyone has their own unique experiences when it comes to stress. Stress can be caused by workplace tensions, a clash of styles, social or home-life problems, or unexpected life events. Although we might know what can cause stress, sometimes its hard to know if were experiencing it ourselves.
Cheryl Carmin, PhD, psychologist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Centers Harding Hospital, and Maryanna Klatt, PhD, professor in the Department of Family Medicine at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, discuss the different causes and signs of stress and ways that you can manage symptoms.
What are hidden signs of stress?Carmin says signals of stress may involve procrastination, engaging in activities that are enjoyable but may involve avoiding tasks you really need to do, or eliminating your stress-reducing activities because you dont have time. Some people find that they become irritable when they experience stress, and it might take a friend or family member to point out that they seem grumpy. For some, stressful events can cause your immune system to weaken and for you to get sick. A hidden sign can be as simple as coming down with a cold. If you seldom catch a cold, this may be a signal that your body is under stress, Carmin says. Other symptoms include:
- Feeling fatigued most of the time
- Having more headaches or muscle tension
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
Don’t Miss: How To Relieve Stress Quickly At Work