Respiratory And Cardiovascular Systems
Stress hormones affect your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. During the stress response, you breathe faster in an effort to quickly distribute oxygen-rich blood to your body. If you already have a breathing problem like asthma or emphysema, stress can make it even harder to breathe.
Under stress, your heart also pumps faster. Stress hormones cause your blood vessels to constrict and divert more oxygen to your muscles so youll have more strength to take action. But this also raises your blood pressure.
As a result, frequent or chronic stress will make your heart work too hard for too long. When your blood pressure rises, so do your risks for having a stroke or heart attack.
What Leads To Chronic Stress
Chronic stress can often be difficult to spot, as it can emerge in the absence of a severe or acute incident. Different factors, such as a disrupted sleep schedule, feeling perpetually undervalued at work, and not having close relationships with friends or family members can all independently contribute to chronic stress.
How Can We Avoid Stress
Experiencing stress from time to time is normal, but it is important to prevent stress build up that leads to high levels of stress and possibly burnout. Some simple ways to avoid stress include finding effective ways to balance all your responsibilities, getting enough sleep, not taking on too much, eating a healthy diet, and taking part in physical activity.
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How Does Stress Harm The Immune System
Ongoing stress assaults the immune system, making us more vulnerable to disease. Although stress hormones ready the body for emergencies, they also depress the immune system by decreasing inflammation and decreasing white blood cell production. Stress may therefore contribute to illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and others.
Where To Get Help
If you think that you or someone you know may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk with your doctor, clergy person, or employee assistance professional. They may suggest you visit with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other qualified counselor.
In crisis? If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.
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Healthy Foods For Stress
Instead of reaching for these quick and less-healthy options, consider adding fresh whole foods such as fiber-rich fruits and veggies, fish, nuts, and even dark chocolate to your stress management arsenal. It might also help to put away your phone and focus on eating as a sensory experience. Turn on some soft, soothing music, close your eyes between bites, and savor the textures and flavors to reduce anxiety.
How Does The Response To Stress Work
While the complete story is not fully known, scientists understand much about how the response to stress works. The two main systems involved are the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system . Triggered primarily by an area in the brain stem called the locus coeruleus, the SNS results in the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine. The following are the five most important concepts to remember about these two systems:
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Not All Stress Is Bad
In a dangerous situation, stress signals the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense, and your brain uses more oxygen and increases activityall functions aimed at survival and in response to stress. In non-life-threatening situations, stress can motivate people, such as when they need to take a test or interview for a new job.
How Can I Protect Myself From Stress
A lot of what is spoken about above comes down to one thing: how we interpret the situation around us. This is, in essence, what determines who struggles with stress more deeply. Stress occurs in response to external or internal stimuli this stimuli can either be interpreted as a threat , or an opportunity / manageable challenge. When we encounter a stressful situation, we typically make two appraisals: what is needed to cope with this situation? And, secondly, do I have the resources available to me to cope with this situation?
Exercise and diet
Exercise is a great stress-buster it floods your brain with feel-good endorphins and ensures your brain and body are getting the oxygen they need. Taking time away from a stressful situation to exercise also serves as a distraction and may enable you to make better decisions when you return to tackle whatever needs your attention. On a sunny day, try to exercise outside , to get a dose of much needed vitamin D.
Anti-oxidant rich foods can protect against the damage caused by free radicals created by stress and taking the time to prepare nutrient-dense food that your body and brain needs is a great part of any self-care routine. Periods of stress also deplete our nutrient stores , so it’s really important to give your body the fuel it needs to perform.
Friendship and social support
Being flexible also involves accepting the things you cannot change.
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How To Manage Stress
There are both physical and psychological approaches to blunt stress. Physical steps include meditation, yoga, and exercise. Psychological strategies include leaning on loved ones or in more severe cases seeing a mental health professional.
Since the stress response begins in the brain with the perception of danger or the unknown, researchers now believe that the most basic, and likely most effective, way to diffuse stress is to change the perception of certain situations so that they are not seen as stressful in the first place.
Studies show that helping people see certain experiencessuch as final examsas demanding rather than dire protects them from the corrosive effects of stress while still delivering its positive effects, such as focused attention and speedier information processing. Changing the stress mindset not only minimizes the harms of stress, studies show, but it also enhances performance and productivity.
What Causes Stress In The Workplace
There is no one cause of stress in the workplace. Every worker is an individual with their professional and personal lives bringing different factors that may influence their reactions to conditions in the workplace. However, there are factors within workplaces that have been shown to influence feelings of stress in the workplace. Some examples include:
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Who Is This Stress Quiz For
Answer the quiz questions below to see if you or a loved one may be suffering from too much stress.
The questions below relate to life experiences common among people who are enduring a significant amounts of stress. Please read each question carefully, and indicate how often you have experienced the same or similar challenges in the past few months.
What Causes High Stress Levels
Anything that puts high demands or pressure on you can result in high stress levels, especially if you struggle to manage feelings of stress. Some common stressors that can lead to high levels of stress include high-pressure jobs, financial difficulties, taking on too much, conflicts at work or home, and failure to take time to relax.
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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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Is There Anything I Can Do To Help Myself Deal With The Stress I Am Experiencing At Work
There are many ways to be proactive when dealing with stress. Mental fitness, self help, taking healthy steps, stress management training, and counselling services can be helpful to individuals, but do not forget to look for the root cause of the stress and take steps to address them.
However, in some cases, the origin of the stress is something that cannot be changed immediately. Therefore, finding ways to help maintain personal good mental health is also essential.
Please see the OSH Answers on Mental Health â Dealing with Stress in the Workplace for more information.
What Is Stress And How Does It Affect Our Brains And Bodies
Stress is our reaction to a threatening event or stimulus. Such events and stimuli are called stressors. People perceive and react to stressors differently. Something one person would rate as highly stressful might be rated as considerably less stressful by someone else. These responses are affected by such factors as genetics and life experiences.
Stress can be classified as positive, tolerable or toxic. Toxic stress occurs when we are faced with a continuous stressor or triggered by multiple sources and can have a cumulative toll on our physical and mental health. It is an experience that overwhelms us and leaves us feeling powerless and hopeless.
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How Do I Manage Stress
Plan and organize your time, reflect on your values and strengths, and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Additionally, reframe negative thoughts about a situation to neutral or positive thoughts so that you can see the full picture. Research shows that these strategies and others can successfully curb stress.
Find The Help You Need
If youre diagnosed with stress, dont fretthere is hope for people dealing with both acute and chronic stress. There are many things you can do to avoid stressful situations and manage the stress youre already dealing with.
The first step is figuring out what your triggers are so you can avoid them. Even if you cant avoid your triggers, understanding them so you can proactively deal with stress is important.
If you are having trouble managing stress and its mental and physical effects, you may need help from a health care professional. You dont need to struggle on your own. Call your primary care physician or a local mental health facility, like McLean, to find the care you need.
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The Role Of Stress Hormones
Stress can come from any number of sources, whether relationship issues, actual trauma, or a dialogue in your own head, says Dossett. Whatever the cause, your brain has a specific pathway by which stressors get processed, which involves the activation of the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal axis, followed by the release of cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and other hormones that affect every single organ in your body. Thats why its so important to be able to manage stress effectively, so you can save that all-hands-on-deck response for the situations that really count.
Stress Management Techniques To Look Into
So, what can you do to shift yourself into a healthier pattern and reduce stress? One of the most effective and rewarding techniques is meditation, which encourages you to relax your mind and examine your inner self with a sense of honesty and compassion rather than judgment and criticism.
Engaging in regular moderate exercise such as walking, yoga, or swimming has proven stress-reducing benefits, as exercise releases positive stress-busting endorphins and can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with anxiety and depression. In combination with daily activity, eating a healthy whole foods diet rich in dark greens and chlorophyll-containing foods is helpful for treating stress. Since chronic stress can strip your body of essential B vitamins, it is important to obtain these nutrients, as well as magnesium and calcium, through diet or supplementation.* Remember to avoid caffeine and sugar, as these stimulants can contribute to stress and depression.
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A Brief History Of Stress
A key to the understanding of the negative aspects of stress is the concept of milieu interieur , which was first advanced by the French physiologist Claude Bernard. In this concept, he described the principles of dynamic equilibrium. In dynamic equilibrium, constancy, a steady state in the internal bodily environment, is essential to survival. Therefore, external changes in the environment or external forces that change the internal balance must be reacted to and compensated for if the organism is to survive. Examples of such external forces include temperature, oxygen concentration in the air, the expenditure of energy, and the presence of predators. In addition, diseases are also stressors that threaten the constancy of the milieu interieur.
Hans Selye, another early scientist who is known for his studies of stress, extended Cannon’s observations. He included the pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, as part of the body’s stress response system. He described how this gland controls the secretion of hormones that are important in the physiological response to stress. Additionally, Selye actually introduced the term stress from physics and engineering and defined it as “mutual actions of forces that take place across any section of the body, physical or psychological.”
Excess stress can manifest itself in a variety of emotional, behavioral, and even physical symptoms, and the symptoms of stress vary enormously among different individuals.
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.
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In Defense Of Clutter
If the threat is imagined, such as thinking about a potential traffic jam each morning that will make us late for work, these same hormones flow through our bloodstreams. Over time, these hormones use critical energy, causing a detriment to our body and leading to psychological and physical problems.
So what can we do to combat bad stress?
The fact that stress is a perception also means that we can do something about it. We can train ourselves to change our perspective.
Remember that stress is a perceived disconnect between the situation and our resources to handle the situation. Therefore, there are two possible ways we can change our perspective about stress.
First, we might be able to change the situation. If traffic is a chronic source of stress, can we take the train to work?
Second, in situations that cannot be changed directly, we can possibly change the way we view the situation. If we have no other option but to drive to work, can we use that time to our advantage instead of dwelling on how slowly the traffic is moving?
Perhaps we can use the time to mentally plan the day, so that when we arrive to work we are ready to get started. Perhaps we can use the time to relax and listen to some music or an audiobook. Perhaps we can engage in some mild relaxation exercises before we leave the house, so that when we get in the car we are equipped to cope with the traffic.
Angela Grippo is an associate professor of psychology at Northern Illinois University.
How To Deal With Stress
So how can we cope with stress?
- We can make changes, so that our lives are not so stressful and learn how to deal with stress.
- We can also learn stress management techniques, so that we can deal with the parts of our stressful lives that simply cannot be changed at that time.
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Why We Feel Stressed And How To Deal With It
This is your body on stress.
Everyone feels stressed at times. But there are times in our lives when we feel particularly overwhelmed with tension. And during them we can feel really awful and have highly unpleasant stress symptoms to deal with.
Local challenges, national political upheaval and worldwide news, such as the coronavirus pandemic, cause many people a great deal of stress. We live in very uncertain and dangerous times and so it is entirely understandable that many adults are feeling extremely anxious.
This kind of stress can be alleviated just as stress generated from work or personal circumstances can. But most therapists would agree that talking out how you feel with friends and family, whom you know share your views, can be very cathartic and helpful. On the other hand, if some of your friends or, even worse, many of your family members see things somewhat differently from you, you might well want to avoid discussing the current situation with them at least in the short term.
Basically, everyone who feels uncertain, unhappy and stressed usually has a justification for feeling that way. And they should tell themselves that what they are going through is normal for them, especially when the situation is extreme.
Having said that, there are plenty of ways in which you can deal with stress and tension and the symptoms they produce.
Let’s look first at what happens to our minds and bodies when we are stressed.