Mental Stress: What You Need To Know
In earlier centuries, stress was merely a reaction to life-threatening circumstances such as the attack of a saber-toothed tiger. Nowadays, you feel stress much more often and in situations that are nowhere near life-threatening.
The bodys response, however, is the same, you are put into fight-or-flight mode. It is useful in some situations. But if it happens every day, it can have a strong negative impact on your psyche. Chronic stress is, for example, a major risk factor for developing depression.
In a stressful situation, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. It keeps you awake and can lead to sleep disorders. In turn, sleep disorders also increase your risk of developing depression.
Since your body is in a supposed escape situation, it also signals to your psyche that you should feel fear. Over time, this can lead to a chronic anxiety disorder or panic attacks.
Your libido also reacts negatively to stress. You may ultimately lose your lust.
Constant stress can also lead to chronic fatigue. It, in turn, leads to a lack of drive. You are also much more irritable.
This tiredness also affects your mental performance. People who are stressed have difficulty concentrating and often have memory problems.
Chronic fatigue syndrome or burnout is also a severe psychological consequence of constant stress.
How To Equip Students To Better Handle Stress
While schools can certainly take action to reduce causes of school-related stress at the sourcerevising testing and homework policies, shifting focus from grades to learning/understanding, and promoting physically healthy behaviors, for examplethe reality is that school-related stressors can never be 100% eliminated. As such, every student needs to be taught tools to help them navigate stress as well as other challenges. And one of the most effective tools available is building social-emotional learning skills.
Stress Can Also Be Experienced Positively
There are feelings such as excitement and tension that are associated with stress, and these feelings can also be perceived in different ways, positive or negative.
For example, if two people are watching a horror film and both find the experience exciting. For one, the experience is a positive one she finds the film entertaining and funny. For the other, the experience is a negative one she finds the film creepy, bloody and terrifying.
Whether a person perceives a situation as negatively exciting or positively exciting, it has a lot to do with our ratings. That doesnt mean that we always have full conscious control over this process.
It is often the case that this evaluation process is entirely involuntary and automatic, without our being able to influence it consciously. The fight-or-flight mechanism switches itself on quickly and automatically in situations that our body perceives as threatening.
Be that as it may, the process does not entirely remove our entire conscious control either. If one has such feelings as excitement and tension, and anger, etc., then one experiences physical consequences such as an increase in the pulse, shallow breath, palpitations, etc. These physical consequences, even if they are automatic as a result of a physical fight-flight-reaction, can be assessed as positive or negative.
So it is that some people find their physical reactions to these situations exciting and others find the same reactions terrifying.
Read Also: How Can You Manage Stress
What You Can Do
Reducing your stress levels can not only make you feel better right now, but may also protect your health long-term.
In one study, researchers examined the association between positive affectfeelings like happiness, joy, contentment and enthusiasmand the development of coronary heart disease over a decade.6 They found that for every one-point increase in positive affect on a five-point scale, the rate of heart disease dropped by 22 percent.
While the study doesnt prove that increasing positive affect decreases cardiovascular risks, the researchers recommend boosting your positive affect by making a little time for enjoyable activities every day.
Other strategies for reducing stress include:
The American Psychological Associations Practice Directorate gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David S. Krantz, PhD, Beverly Thorn, PhD, and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, in developing this fact sheet.
You Have Trouble Sleeping Or Focusing
When youre worried or have repetitive thoughts, you may have difficulty sleeping. Insomnia takes many forms, including not being able to fall asleep easily, waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up too early.
If your brain doesnt get the deep, restorative, and rapid-eye-movement sleep it needs each night, it cant remove toxins, repair cells, or process the days events. In the morning, you may have difficulty waking up or feel sleepy throughout the day. At work or school, you might find it challenging to stay focused and alert.
Your brain cant function optimally when youre tired, so its harder to see solutions when youre faced with a problem. Even small challenges may seem insurmountable, leading to feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and depression.
Don’t Miss: What Health Issues Can Stress Cause
Ways Your Financial Health Affects Your Mental Health
Overwhelming debt can result in stress and depression and has been linked to increased suicide rates. Money issues have also been linked to relationship instability, so both your sense of physical and emotional security can be at risk when debt is a constant presence in your life. The following are ways financial health can affect a persons mental health.
Creates additional stress
Stress, especially chronic stress that becomes part of your life for years, has a deeply powerful effect on your mind and body. Stress puts more wear and tear on your cardiovascular system. Constant stress makes it easier to develop mental health problems and can affect the parts of your brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Risk factors for mental illnesses
People in debt are three times more likely to take their lives than those who are not experiencing financial issues. Long-term financial insecurity and consistent poverty, as well as the pressure from lenders and debt collectors to pay bills, can trigger suicidal thoughts and actions.
Developing physical health issues
Debt can lead to anxiety and depression, which can increase headaches, affect sleeping patterns and impact a person’s ability to focus. This type of physical stress on the body can result in more frequent colds and infections and affect a person’s ability to go to work which further enhances financial struggles.
Affects families and communities
Developing behavioral symptoms
Increases poor spending habits
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?
You May Like: How To Stress Yourself Out
Inflammation The Immune System And Physical Health
Despite the stress-mediated immunosuppressive effects reviewed above, stress has also been associated with exacerbations of autoimmune disease and other conditions in which excessive inflammation is a central feature, such as CHD . Evidence suggests that a chronically activated, dysregulated acute stress response is responsible for these associations. Recall that the acute stress response includes the activation and migration of cells of the innate immune system. This effect is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines. During periods of chronic stress, in the otherwise healthy individual, cortisol eventually suppresses proinflammatory cytokine production. But in individuals with autoimmune disease or CHD, prolonged stress can cause proinflammatory cytokine production to remain chronically activated, leading to an exacerbation of pathophysiology and symptomatology.
Children And Teens At Risk
Children, away from their school, friends, and colleagues, staying at home can have many questions about the outbreak and they look toward their parents or caregivers to get the answer. Not all children and parents respond to stress in the same way. Kids can experience anxiety, distress, social isolation, and an abusive environment that can have short or longterm effects on their mental health. Some common changes in childrenâs behavior can be:
Excessive crying and annoying behavior
Increased sadness, depression, or worry
Difficulties with concentration and attention
Changes in, or avoiding, activities that they enjoyed in the past
Unexpected headaches and pain throughout their bodies
Changes in eating habits
Read Also: Does Stress Cause Stomach Pain
Understanding The Stress Response
Stress may feel uncomfortable, but its actually an important part of your bodys physiology. Small doses of stress help us react to threatening situations through a fight-or-flight response that releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. When we feel stress, our heartbeat increases, our muscles tense up, and we have greater mental focus all primitive reactions geared to help us decide if we need to take flight or stay put and deal with the stressful situation.
These hormones act in other ways, too, slowing the digestive process and interfering with normal immune system responses. In essence, the stress reaction slows down the systems it deems nonessential during a stress reaction, conserving energy the body may need to protect itself. The hormones also act on your brain, including the areas of the brain that control your mood.
The flight-or-flight response is a temporary reaction that resolves once the threat goes away. But in chronic stress, those hormonal responses go on and on, and so do the physical reactions associated with stress. Over time, chronic stress can wind up affecting just about every system in the body, including the immune system, the cardiovascular system, and the digestive system. And it can take a big toll on your mental health.
Articles On Stress Management
You’re going to have some stress in your life — we all do, and it’s normal. One of the best things you can do for your health is manage that stress, even when you canât control the source of it.
Some stress can be good. It can be a challenge that keeps us alert, motivated, and ready to avoid danger. But too much stress can make us sick. And it can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases, research shows.
Stress can also lead to emotional problems, depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry.
It’s not just the stress itself that’s the problem. It’s how you respond to it.
For instance, if you smoke, use drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much, or have risky sex, that’s going to cause more problems.
If you think that the way youâre handling life’s stress is taking a toll on your physical health, talk to your doctor so you can start making changes that will be good for your body and your mind.
Read Also: How To Reduce Stress Hormones
Stress Can Happen To Anyone
Anyone can develop stress. Whether it is a one-time occurrence or repetitive over a long period of time, all types of stress are just as important as each other.Stress can vary from being overwhelmed with work at school or in your job, to dealing with a loss or a simple illness it is unpredictable when stress will occur and how it will affect people differently.
Why Is There A Correlation Between Mental Health And Money
Money is one of the most significant stressors for many people. According to the American Psychological Association, 72% of Americans reported feeling stressed about money at some time. One of the main reasons so many people feel stressed about money is how money is viewed and used in our society. Money is required to live and provide for a family, so individuals struggling to make ends meet may experience low self-esteem. Also, watching bills pile up on the kitchen table can easily send someone into a mental spiral of feeling stuck and like there is no way out.
Once someone struggles with their mental health, it enters all aspects of their life and can become a vicious cycle. According to the CDC, depression affects job performance and productivity, engagement with one’s work, communication with coworkers, physical capability and daily functioning. Once a person is incapable of focusing or completing their work, they’re unable to bring in income, thus fueling the cycle of debt and mental health.
You May Like: How To Stop Hair Breakage From Stress
How Your Mental Health Can Influence Your Finances
Just as debt can lead to mental health issues, mental health issues can also influence a person’s finances. Someone who is experiencing anxiety or depression may turn to poor financial decisions to cope. This can include making expensive impulse purchases and developing a shopping addiction. Depression can also lead to difficulties in working and keeping a job. In the U.S., depression causes 490 million disability days from work each year. When people experience mental illness, they may struggle to create and stick to a budget and pay their bills, which results in growing bills and debt.
Signs And Symptoms Of Stress Overload
The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You dont notice how much its affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll. Thats why its important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Chest pain, rapid heart rate
- Loss of sex drive
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits
Read Also: Can I Be Stressed And Not Know It
Effects Of Chronic Stress On The Brain
While stress itself is not necessarily problematic, the buildup of cortisol in the brain can have long-term effects. Thus, chronic stress can lead to health problems.
Cortisols functions are part of the natural process of the body. In moderation, the hormone is perfectly normal and healthy. Its functions are multiple, explains the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science. In addition to restoring balance to the body after a stress event, cortisol helps regulate blood sugar levels in cells and has utilitarian value in the hippocampus, where memories are stored and processed.
But when chronic stress is experienced, the body makes more cortisol than it has a chance to release. This is when cortisol and stress can lead to trouble. High levels of cortisol can wear down the brains ability to function properly. According to several studies, chronic stress impairs brain function in multiple ways. It can disrupt synapse regulation, resulting in the loss of sociability and the avoidance of interactions with others. Stress can kill brain cells and even reduce the size of the brain. Chronic stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
How Does Stress Affect Our Body
Stress is directly linked to immunosuppression â so the more we stress, the weaker our immune system becomes. Stress can negatively affect our metabolism and ultimately impair our bodyâs growth. Continued stress may contribute to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses. Additionally, stress can lead to or worsen chronic disease and weight gain.
Stress can prevent your stomach from emptying, which can increase your intestinal bacteria and have a negative impact on blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract. This can cause GI system inflammation and can modify your appetite, GI tract movement, and digestive functions. Further, stress can activate or alter many endocrine processes concerning the pituitary gland and adrenal gland, thyroid, and the pancreas. For those already suffering from a chronic illness that affects these systems, additional stress only exacerbates the issue.
Also Check: What To Do If Your Job Is Too Stressful
How Academic Stress Affects Mental Health
All students know for sure their study is accompanied by stressful situations. That is why they frequently need help writing college papers, in particular. Moreover, when it comes to exam sessions, dissertations, and tests, the intensity of physical and mental strain grows exponentially. It is normal for all the conflicts, efforts, sleepless nights, negotiations with professors, and other challenging things to cause a certain effect on the mental health of students.
I mean, higher education is obviously a way to open many career and life paths, without a doubt. Those ways would be impossible for a person to choose and even consider without studying in college. But the amount of stress put on a students mind is enormous.
Regarding the serious impact of stress, it is useful for students to know more about it. Thats a frequent case for parents, relatives, friends, and even students themselves to underestimate the effect of stress on their health. Once again: academic activities are the synonym of stresses. Here below, youll find an in-depth look at nature, common reasons, and potential consequences of those stresses for students.
How Can I Help Myself
There are things that you can do to help reduce your symptoms of stress. This is also known as self-care. There isnt a set process for where you should start, or what you should do, everyone is different. You may need to try different things until you find what works for you.
If you dont know what is causing your stress, it might help to keep a stress diary for a few weeks. It may help you to identify things that you may be able to change.
You could write down when you feel stressed. You should include what happens just before or after you feel stressed.
It could also help you to identify things which can make you unwell. These things are known as triggers. Identifying your triggers can help you to have more control over your stress levels.
There is a template for a stress diary at the end of the factsheet, which you can download by clicking the link at the top of this page.
Get practical advice
You may be able to take steps to change the cause of your stress. There are lots of places you can get practical advice on different issues. An advice service may be a good place to start. They may be able to support you to solve an issue. For example, you may want advice on:
- money or
You can find details of different organisations that give practical advice in the Useful contacts section at the bottom of this page.
Manage your money
Money can cause many different issues such as poverty, debt and relationship problems.
Plan your time
You May Like: How To Control Your Stress