How Can You Help Yourself
If you’re feeling stressed, there are some things you can try to feel less tense and overwhelmed.
1. Recognise when stress is a problem
Its important to connect the physical and emotional signs youre experiencing to the pressures you are faced with. Dont ignore physical warning signs such as tense muscles, tiredness, headaches or migraines.
Think about whats causing your stress. Sort them into issues with a practical solution, things that will get better with time and things you can’t do anything about. Take control by taking small steps towards the things you can improve.
Make a plan to address the things that you can. This might involve setting yourself realistic expectations and prioritising essential commitments. If you feel overwhelmed, ask for help and say no to things you cant take on.
2. Think about where you can make changes
Are you taking on too much? Could you hand over some things to someone else? Can you do things in a more leisurely way? You may need to prioritise things and reorganise your life so youre not trying to do everything at once.
3. Build supportive relationships
Find close friends or family who can offer help and practical advice can support you in managing stress. Joining a club or a course can help to expand your social network and encourage you to do something different. Activities like volunteering can change your perspective and have a beneficial impact on your mood.
4. Eat healthily
5. Be aware of your smoking and drinking
8. Be mindful
Health Issues Anxiety Can Cause That Shouldn’t Be Ignored
It’s easy to assume anxiety only affects a person’s mental state, but it can show up in physical ways as well, especially when it comes to excessive anxiety. There are quite a few surprising health problems anxiety can cause, from vision issues to cardiac troubles. Thankfully, though, most of these conditions, as well as anxiety itself, are treatable.
For the most part, physical symptoms are a common way anxiety affects people. In fact, about 7 to 8 percent of “patients seen in a primary care medical office suffer from anxiety, and most suffer from a physical symptom rather than a mental health issue such as fear, worry or nervousness,”Dr. David Clarke, president of the Psychophysiologic Disorders Association, tells Romper. In other words, most medical professionals are well aware of the many ways anxiety can cause issues throughout the body. It is definitely not “just in your head.”
Stomach And Gastrointestinal Issues
Feeling nausea is another common symptom of anxiety. Therefore, its no surprise that ongoing anxiety with little relief can lead to stomach and gastrointestinal issues.
Gastrointestinal issues, like diarrhea, stomach aches, nausea, and burping, are also fairly common symptoms of anxiety, psychologist Crystal I. Lee told Bustle. Anxiety affects your digestive system, which can lead to unpleasant issues.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that those with anxiety are more likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome, while a 2013 study published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology found a higher degree of diagnosed ulcers in patients who also lived with anxiety.
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Untreated Anxiety Disorders And Depression
Untreated anxiety disorders can lead to serious depression. Depressive illness is common about 17% of Australians will suffer from depression at some time in their life.Depression is about twice as common in women as in men. The most common time in life for people to suffer from depression is in their 40s. However, it can develop at any age. Depression is often associated with an increased incidence of suicide. The annual suicide rate for people with depression is three or four times higher than that of other psychiatric disorders.
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.
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Your Response To Stress
Your attitude, personality and approach to life will influence how you respond to stress. Factors that play a part include:
- How you think about a problem
- How anxious you feel generally
- How severely the problem affects you
- Whether you have experienced anything like this before
- Whether you can control what is happening
- How long the event affects you
- How important the outcome is to you
- The different ways a person copes with difficult situations
- Your life experiences and life history
- Your self-esteem
- Whether you have people around who can provide support.
What Are The Symptoms Of Stress
Stress can affect all aspects of your life, including your emotions, behaviors, thinking ability, and physical health. No part of the body is immune. But, because people handle stress differently, symptoms of stress can vary. Symptoms can be vague and may be the same as those caused by medical conditions. So it is important to discuss them with your doctor. You may experience any of the following symptoms of stress.
Emotional symptoms of stress include:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Feeling bad about yourself , lonely, worthless, and depressed
- Avoiding others
Physical symptoms of stress include:
- Low energy
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Does Stress Take A Toll On Your Body
The answer is yes, in some cases. If you experience chronic stress, the same chemicals produced to prepare your body to response keep going for longer periods of time and can impede other bodily functions including weakening your immune system and preventing your digestive, excretory and reproductive systems from working as they should. Chronic stress can lead to sleep and digestive issues, headaches and body aches, depression and irritability, just to name a few potential issues.
According to the Center for Disease Control/National Institute on Occupational Safety & Health, the workplace is the number one cause of life stress. The American Institute of Stress reports 120,000 people die every year as a direct result of work-related stress. Additionally, healthcare costs resulting from work-related stress totals an average of $190 billion a year.
The NIH says continued strain on your body from routine stress is often the hardest to detect but could lead to serious health problems such as:
- Heart disease
- Anxiety disorder
- Other illnesses
Chronic stress is linked to six leading causes of death including heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide, according to the American Psychological Association.
It is important to take steps to manage chronic stress to ensure your body is functioning as it should and for your overall health and well-being.
Morbidity Mortality And Markers Of Disease Progression
Psychosocial intervention trials conducted upon patients following acute myocardial infarction have reported both positive and null results. Two meta-analyses have reported a reduction in both mortality and morbidity of approximately 20% to 40% . Most of these studies were carried out in men. The major study reporting positive results was the Recurrent Coronary Prevention Project , which employed group-based CBT, and decreased hostility and depressed affect , as well as the composite medical end point of cardiac death and nonfatal MI .
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Act Now To Get Ahead Of A Mental Health Crisis Specialists Advise Us
Now at least eight months into the pandemic, alongside a divisive election cycle and racial unrest, those effects are showing up in a variety of symptoms.
“The mental health component of COVID is starting to come like a tsunami,” says Dr. Jennifer Love, a California-based psychiatrist and co-author of an upcoming book on how to heal from chronic stress.
Nationwide, surveys have found increasing rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. But many medical experts say it’s too soon to measure the related physical symptoms since they generally appear months after the stress begins.
Data from FAIR Health, a nonprofit database that provides cost information to the health industry and consumers, showed increases in the percentage of medical claims related to conditions triggered or exacerbated by stress, such as multiple sclerosis or shingles. The portion of claims for the autoimmune disease lupus, for example, showed one of the biggest increases 12% this year compared with the same period last year .
Express Scripts, a major pharmacy benefit manager, reported that prescriptions for anti-insomnia medications increased 15% early in the pandemic.
Perhaps the strongest indicator comes from doctors reporting a growing number of patients with physical symptoms for which they can’t determine a cause.
“We, as humans, like to have the idea that we are in control of our minds and that stress isn’t a big deal,” Love says. “But it’s simply not true.”
How Stress Affects Mental Health
When someone is under chronic stress, it begins to negatively affect his or her physical and mental health. The bodys stress response was not made to be continuously engaged. Many people encounter stress from multiple sources, including work money, health, and relationship worries and media overload.
With so many sources of stress, it is difficult to find time to relax and disengage. This is why stress is one of the biggest health problems facing people today.
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How Is Stress Diagnosed
Stress is subjective not measurable with tests. Only the person experiencing it can determine whether it’s present and how severe it feels. A healthcare provider may use questionnaires to understand your stress and how it affects your life.
If you have chronic stress, your healthcare provider can evaluate symptoms that result from stress. For example, high blood pressure can be diagnosed and treated.
Sexuality And Reproductive System
Stress is exhausting for both the body and mind. Its not unusual to lose your desire when youre under constant stress. While short-term stress may cause men to produce more of the male hormone testosterone, this effect doesnt last.
If stress continues for a long time, a mans testosterone levels can begin to drop. This can interfere with sperm production and cause erectile dysfunction or impotence. Chronic stress may also increase risk of infection for male reproductive organs like the prostate and testes.
For women, stress can affect the menstrual cycle. It can lead to irregular, heavier, or more painful periods. Chronic stress can also magnify the physical symptoms of menopause.
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Stress Management And Relief
There are many ways that you can help your mind and body adapt, and become more resilient to the negative impacts of lifes stresses.Exercise, dietary changes, relaxation, stress management courses, counselling, and medications can all play a role in managing, relieving or coping with stress.Exercise and Diet
Diet and exercise often play a central role in the relief of stress. It is important to eat a balanced healthy diet and avoid foods that may increase stress, eg: coffee, tea, and foods high in sugar. Exercise helps to release built up tension and increases fitness. This, in turn, increases the bodys ability to deal with stress and helps to avoid the damage to our health that prolonged stress can cause. Exercise should be undertaken at least three times a week to be of most benefit. If you are not used to exercise, discuss this with a doctor prior to commencing an exercise programme. Relaxation and mindfulness
Discussing concerns with an impartial person may assist with recognising stressors and deciding upon strategies to deal with them. This could be a professional therapist or a trusted family member, friend or colleague. Often the process of discussing a concern is enough to reduce the stress it is causing. Getting help should not be seen as a sign of weakness. Knowing when to ask for help may be one of the changes necessary to deal with stress more appropriately.Medications
When Should I Talk To A Doctor About Stress
You should seek medical attention if you feel overwhelmed, if you are using drugs or alcohol to cope, or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself. Your primary care provider can help by offering advice, prescribing medicine or referring you to a therapist.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Its natural and normal to be stressed sometimes. But long-term stress can cause physical symptoms, emotional symptoms and unhealthy behaviors. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple strategies. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.
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Effects Of Chronic Stress On Brain Structure
It has been shown that chronic stress is linked to macroscopic changes in certain brain areas, consisting of volume variations and physical modifications of neuronal networks. For example, several studies in animals have described stress-related effects in the prefrontal cortex and limbic system, characterized by volume reductions of some structures, and changes in neuronal plasticity due to dendritic atrophy and decreased spine density . These morphological alterations are similar to those found in the brains of depressed patients examined postmortem, suggesting that they could also be at the basis of the depressive disorders that are often associated with chronic stress in humans. This hypothesis is supported by imaging studies that evidenced structural changes in the brain of individuals suffering from various types of stress-related disorders, such as those linked to severe traumas, major negative life events or chronic psychosocial strain. In particular, Blix and colleagues observed atrophy of the basal ganglia and significantly reduced gray matter in certain areas of the PFC in subjects afflicted with long-term occupational stress . In general, the consequences of these alterations in a brain region can expand to other functionally connected areas, and potentially cause those cognitive, emotional and behavioral dysfunctions that are commonly associated with chronic stress, and that may increase vulnerability to psychiatric disorders.
Whats Really Going On When You Freak Out
Stressful events seem to be lurking around every corner, from a difficult deadline at work to your childs upcoming science fair project and the holidays are just around the corner. According to experts, not all stress is bad. For some people, a little stress acts as motivation to check a few more items off their daily to-do list. But what about when you feel completely overwhelmed?
Mental health experts advise that you know your personal limits to avoid serious side effects from stress. Some people cope with stress more effectively and recover from difficult events quicker so it is important to take a personal inventory every once in a while to avoid a major meltdown.
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Job Loss And Unemployment Stress
Losing a job is one of lifes most stressful experiences. Its normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve for all that youve lost, or feel anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once, which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many steps you can take to come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient, and with a renewed sense of purpose.
Stressors During Childhood And Adolescence And Their Psychological Sequelae
The most widely studied stressors in children and adolescents are exposure to violence, abuse , and divorce/marital conflict . also provide an excellent review of the psychological consequences of such stressors. Psychological effects of maltreatment/abuse include the dysregulation of affect, provocative behaviors, the avoidance of intimacy, and disturbances in attachment . Survivors of childhood sexual abuse have higher levels of both general distress and major psychological disturbances including personality disorders . Childhood abuse is also associated with negative views toward learning and poor school performance . Children of divorced parents have more reported antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression than their peers . Adult offspring of divorced parents report more current life stress, family conflict, and lack of friend support compared with those whose parents did not divorce . Exposure to nonresponsive environments has also been described as a stressor leading to learned helplessness .
Exposure to intense and chronic stressors during the developmental years has long-lasting neurobiological effects and puts one at increased risk for anxiety and mood disorders, aggressive dyscontrol problems, hypo-immune dysfunction, medical morbidity, structural changes in the CNS, and early death .
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How Much Stress Is Too Much
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, its important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is too much differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with lifes punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, lifes pressures dont seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, its easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your lifethat youre at the mercy of your environment and circumstancesstress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If youre generally hopeful and optimistic, youll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.