It Motivates You To Succeed
Good stress, also known in the scientific community as eustress, may be just the thing you need to get job done at work. “Think about a deadline: It’s staring you in the face, and it’s going to stimulate your behavior to really manage the situation effectively, rapidly, and more productively,” says Dr. Shelton. The key, he says, is viewing stressful situations as a challenge that you can meet, rather than an overwhelming, unpassable roadblock.
Eustress can also help you enter a state of “flow,” a heightened sense of awareness and complete absorption into an activity, according to research from psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Flow can be achieved in the workplace, in sports, or in a creative endeavor , and Csikszentmihalyi argues that it’s driven largely by pressure to succeed.
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But even short-term stress can have a profound impact on your heart if its bad enough. The condition cardiomyopathy, also known as broken-heart syndrome, is a weakening of the heart’s left ventricle that usually results from severe emotional or physical stress.
Although the condition is in general rare, 90 percent of cases are in women.
Cardiomyopathy can occur in very stressful situations, such as after a huge fight, the death of a child, or other major triggers, Dr. Haythe says. Patients come into the emergency room with severe chest pain and other symptoms of what we call acute heart failure syndrome, though their coronary arteries are clear. They can be very sick, but with treatment, most of the time, people recover.
What Are Some Strategies For Stress Relief
You cant avoid stress, but you can stop it from becoming overwhelming by practicing some daily strategies:
- Exercise when you feel symptoms of stress coming on. Even a short walk can boost your mood.
- At the end of each day, take a moment to think about what youve accomplished not what you didnt get done.
- Set goals for your day, week and month. Narrowing your view will help you feel more in control of the moment and long-term tasks.
- Consider talking to a therapist or your healthcare provider about your worries.
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Why Is Stress Different For Everyone
Feeling stress? Youre not alone. But not everyone experiences stress the same way.
Three out of every four Americans report feeling at least one symptom of stress in the past month. And 45 percent say they lay awake at night due to stress.
But did you know that feeling stressed is a reaction that dates back to the origins of humanity? And while everybody feels stress, reactions can be different for women and men.
Womens Health Research at Yales new video depicts how the earliest forms of stress were matters of life and death, triggering a response to deal with an immediate crisis. But today, many of the things that cause stress stay around longer, leading people to experience prolonged responses that can negatively impact health.
Stress has emotional consequences. It can make us feel overwhelmed, fatigued, nervous, and sad. Stress can also cause changes in eating and sleeping habits, headaches, and weight gain. Over time, stress can even increase the risk of depression, anxiety, heart disease, and type-2 diabetes.
But while everyone feels stress at times, reactions to stress can be different for women and men.
In general, women are more likely to think and talk about what is causing stress. Women also are more likely to reach out to others for support and seek to understand the sources of their stress.
Men typically respond to stress using distraction. And men often engage in physical activities that can offer an escape from thinking about a stressful situation.
When To See Your Gp About Your Stress Levels
If you’ve tried self-help techniques and they aren’t working, you should go to see your GP. They may suggest other coping techniques for you to try or recommend some form of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.
If your stress is causing serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, you may need to take medication or further tests.
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How Bad Stress Can Become Good Stress
Not all forms of bad stress can become good stress, but it is possible to change your perception of some of the stressors in your life. This shift can change your experience of stress.
The body reacts strongly to perceived threats. If you don’t perceive something as a threat, there is generally no threat-based stress response. If you perceive something as a challenge instead, the fear you would normally experience may turn into excitement and anticipation, or at least resolve. You can often make the shift in perception by:
- Focusing on the resources you have to meet the challenge
- Seeing the potential benefits of a situation
- Reminding yourself of your strengths
- Having a positive mindset
As you practice looking at threats as challenges more often, it becomes more automatic, and you experience more good stress and less bad stress.
Why Am I So Sensitive And Cry Easily
People cry easily for many different reasons. Its important to think about why you are so sensitive and prone to crying when things happen.
Here is a list of the most common reasons:
- You dont like it when people hurt your feelings
- You find yourself in negative thought spirals
- You feel emotions more intensely than other people
- You are very sensitive to your environment
Lets take a closer look at each of these in order to better understand them.
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Getting Sick More Easily
If the body is busy dealing with the constant threat of stress, Lin says the immune system can easily get run down, which means someone might catch sickness more easily.
When youre stressed, your body is on hyper-alert all the time because its waiting for a treat, she says. So when you get exposed to a virus or another infection, youre not able to fight it as well because your resources have been stretched.
One scientific theory about why stress weakens the immune response has to do with lowered white blood cells the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces the number of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight sickness.
Do Women React To Stress Differently Than Men Do
Yes, studies show that women are more likely than men to experience symptoms of stress. Women who are stressed are more likely than men who are stressed to experience depression and anxiety.21 Experts do not fully know the reason for the differences, but it may be related to how mens and womens bodies process stress hormones. Long-term stress especially is more likely to cause problems with moods and anxiety in women.22
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Can Happy Events Cause Stress
Some of the situations listed above are often thought of as happy events for example, you might feel expected to be happy or excited about getting married or having a baby.
But because they can bring big changes or make unusual demands on you, they can still be very stressful. This can be particularly difficult to deal with, because you might feel there’s additional pressure on you to be positive.
“I’ve never been more stressed in my life than the 6 months leading up to my wedding… everyone kept asking me if I was happy and expecting me to be excited all the time, but I just couldn’t feel it. I ended up getting really ill.”
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Stress affects your digestive tract. The gastrointestinal tract is filled with nerve endings and immune cells, all of which are affected by stress hormones, says Dr. Dossett. As a result, stress can cause acid reflux as well as exacerbate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease. Not to mention create butterflies in your stomach.
Stress messes with your immune system. A number of studies shows that stress lowers immunity, which may be why youre likely to come down with a cold after a crunch time at school or work right on the first day of your vacation. Patients with autoimmune disorders often say they get flare-ups during or after stressful events, or tell me that their condition began after a particularly stressful event, says Dossett.
Stress can muddle your brain. Brain scans of people with post-traumatic stress disorder show more activity in the amygdala, a brain region associated with fear and emotion, says Haythe. But even everyday kinds of stress can affect how the brain processes information.
We see actual structural, functional, and connectivity-related brain changes in people who are under chronic stress, adds Gupta. All of these can affect cognition and attention, which is why you may find it hard to focus or learn new things when you are stressed.
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The Effects Of Stress On Your Body
Youre sitting in traffic, late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick away. Your hypothalamus, a tiny control tower in your brain, decides to send out the order: Send in the stress hormones! These stress hormones are the same ones that trigger your bodys fight or flight response. Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly. But when the stress response keeps firing, day after day, it could put your health at serious risk.
Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesnt stop firing, and these stress levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your overall well-being. Symptoms of chronic stress include:
Youre Having Trouble Thinking Clearly
If youve been having a tough time concentrating on one task at a time, remembering things accurately, or just generally operating on a higher level, stress could be to blame. Stress makes it difficult for you to think clearly, as it clouds your thinking and makes it difficult to focus.
This mental fatigue sometimes happens when small stressors pile in at a volume with which we cant keep up. Things like making multiple tough decisions at work, handling ongoing interruptions, and juggling social commitments all of these can accumulate and start to weigh on you . If you dont have a chance to hit the pause button and reset, brain fog could set in. Focus is a finite resource and when stretched thin, it falters.
The unfortunate reality of this mental fatigue is that it can affect your physical energy levels, too. If youve spent the whole day feeling exhausted just doing the tasks you that you normally knock out in one afternoon, your body will feel tired. For some, this perpetuates the stress cycle no energy for stress-busting outlets like meditation, creative endeavors, or exercise means nowhere to release that stress, and it remains a looming burden.
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Q: Does Stress Make You Age Faster
Dr. Sinha: As if heart disease, brain fog, lack of sleep and fatigue arent enough, chronic stress can also cause you to age more quickly than normal.
One study compared a group of women caring for disabled children with a group of women whose children had no disabilities. In particular, the researchers compared their telomeres, protective sections of DNA that are known to be a genetic marker for aging. Telomeres routinely wither and get shorter with time, but external factors, including stress, can accelerate this process.
The study found more prominent premature aging in the high-stress mothers caring for disabled children. In fact, it translated into that group being 10 years older at a cellular level than the other group, who were the same chronological age. The 35-year-old stressed mothers looked closer to 45.
Bottom line? Keep an eye on how stressed you are and what you can do about it. Your body will thank you.
Breathing And Relaxation Exercises
Many people find exercises that focus on breathing and muscle relaxation to be helpful in relieving stress. The playlist below will help you to understand how stress works and start feeling better. These exercises can be done anywhere and are designed to help you feel more relaxed in general, as well as helping you feel calmer if you are becoming stressed.
This playlist is free to download, and you can also stream it using the Soundcloud website or app. You can download and listen to individual tracks if there are particular exercises that work best for you. If you’re listening to it for the first time, it’s best to start from the beginning.
To access a BSL version of this playlist, .
Find out more by checking out these 10 stress busters.
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Questions To Ask Yourself
Whos in my support network? Everyone should have people in their life who are positive influences, support providers, and role models for healthy living. They can be friends, family members, mentors, spiritual leaders, colleagues, and mental health professionals.
What activities do I enjoy? Your work might be enjoyable, but everyone needs hobbies that arent about competition or personal accomplishment. What helps ease your worries and makes you more mindful about your body? These activities might include reading, dancing, gardening, board games, crafts, etc.
What are my sleep habits? If youre getting roughly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, youll be able to think more clearly, boost your immune system, and concentrate better on work and relationships. A simple step such as turning off screens an hour before bed can make a huge difference in your sleep quality.
Am I saying no to unnecessary tasks? Ideally you should be able to pass on tasks that demand too much of you, arent your responsibility, or dont fall in line with your personal values and objectives. If youre not sure where to start, take a look at your schedule and to-do list, and see what can be delegated or removed completely.
Am I organized? Start to declutter your life. When you can manage tasks with an accurate schedule and prioritized to-do list, you reduce the unnecessary anxiety that can accompany a cluttered and confusing agenda.
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.
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Central Nervous And Endocrine Systems
Your central nervous system is in charge of your fight or flight response. In your brain, the hypothalamus gets the ball rolling, telling your adrenal glands to release the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones rev up your heartbeat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it most in an emergency, such as your muscles, heart, and other important organs.
When the perceived fear is gone, the hypothalamus should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the CNS fails to return to normal, or if the stressor doesnt go away, the response will continue.
Chronic stress is also a factor in behaviors such as overeating or not eating enough, alcohol or drug abuse, and social withdrawal.
What Stress Does To Your Brain
Your brain reflects the way that you think throughout your lifeits actually shaped by your thoughts and your behaviors.
Prolonged stress changes the brain. The part of our brain that helps process threatening situations, the amygdala, can appear larger in people who are chronically stressed. Researchers have also seen that areas of the brain involved in rational thought and planning, the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, can appear smaller.
So what do the brains of meditators look like?
The exact opposite: more capacity for decision-making, less trigger-happy when faced with a perceived threat.
Thats probably not anything specific to meditation, but its just that reducing stress and changing patterns of thinking over a period of time is reflected in the structure of the brain, author Jo Marchant told host Terry Gross on NPRs Fresh Air last week.
Marchant, who holds a doctorate in genetics and medical microbiology and has written for New Scientist, Nature, and Smithsonian, recently wrote a book titled Cure that investigates the healing power of the mind, looking at the placebo effect, meditation, prayer, conditioning, and hypnosis.
If you play violin for eight hours a day, then the parts of the brain responsible for helping you to play the violin will get larger. If youre thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day then those parts of the brain are going to get larger and other parts of the brain will deteriorate.
Jo Marchant, author of Cure
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