Stress is a normal response our body has when changes happen and can occur from any circumstance or thought that makes you angry, frustrated, or nervous. It results in emotional, physical, and intellectual reactions, with varying distress levels.
It is your body’s response to an unfamiliar situation or need. Sometimes, stress can be positive, like when it helps you avoid trouble or when you need to meet a deadline. It becomes harmful if it lasts for a prolonged period. Stress can be experienced in different forms, such as feeling uptight, anxious, apprehensive, nervous, and tense.
What are the Common Symptoms of Stress?
Stress can affect a person in so many ways. It can affect your emotions, behavioural patterns, thinking capability, and physical well-being. People manage stress differently; hence stress symptoms can vary. The symptoms of stress can be emotional and/or physical. The following are some of the symptoms of stress:
Behavioural Symptoms of Stress:
- Differences in appetite – either overeating or under-eating.
- Avoidance of responsibilities and procrastination.
- Being more dependent on drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes
- Occurrences of nervous behaviours, such as nail-biting, pacing, and fidgeting
Physical Symptoms of Stress:
- Very low on energy
- Stomach upset such as constipation, diarrhoea, and nausea.
- Tense muscles, aches, and pains
- Chest pain and fast heartbeat
- Periodic colds and infections
- No longer having the sexual desire or ability
- Feeling nervous and shaking, cold or sweaty hands and feet, and ringing in the ears
- Dry mouth and a hard time ingesting food
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
Cognitive Symptoms of Stress:
- Worrying constantly
- Having racing thoughts
- Being forgetful and disorganised
- The inability to focus and lack of concentration
- Poor judgement
- Always being pessimistic
Emotional Symptoms of Stress:
- Easily being frustrated, agitated, and having frequent mood swings.
- Feeling overwhelmed by everything around you. It feels as if you are losing control, or you feel the need to take control.
- Having a difficult time unwinding and quieting your mind.
- Having low self-esteem. Feeling bad about yourself and feeling lonely, depressed, and worthless.
- Avoiding other people.
What is the Main Cause of Stress?
Stress comes in different forms for different people. The causes need not be the same. Sometimes you can be stressed from good challenges as well as bad ones. Some of the common sources of stress are:
- Entering into a new relationship or getting out of a relationship. Like a marriage or a divorce.
- Beginning a new job
- The demise of a spouse or close family member
- Getting laid off
- Having a kids
- Financial troubles
- Moving to a different place
- Having a severe illness
- Difficulties in the workplace
- Issues at home
What are the Tell-Tale Signs of Stress?
When you’re feeling stressed, your body responds to it by releasing hormones. One such stress hormone is cortisol. It’s the primary stress hormone. These hormones make your brain more attentive, increase your pulse and cause your muscles to spasm. These responses could be manageable for a short duration because they can help you control the circumstances causing stress. It is your body’s way of safeguarding itself. Occasionally, you may not realise the symptoms of stress. Here are some of the signs of stress that may be impacting you:
- Constant diarrhoea or constipation
- Being forgetful
- Frequent aches and pains in the body
- Having headaches
- Lack of energy, concentration, or focus
- Sexual problems
- Having a stiff jaw or neck
- Having trouble sleeping, i.e., insomnia or sleeping too much
- Upset stomach
- Usage of alcohol or drugs to relax
- Weight loss or gain
But when you have chronic stress, your body stays attentive, even though there is no trouble. It can be harmful over time and can jeopardise your physical and mental health. And you may face issues like high blood pressure, menstrual problems, heart disease, skin problems like acne, diabetes, anxiety, depression, and obesity.
What are the Three Types of Stress?
There are three types of stress:
- Acute Stress
- Episodic Acute Stress and,
- Chronic Stress
1. Acute Stress
Acute stress is a common type of stress, and it is the body’s instantaneous response to an unfamiliar and challenging circumstance. Acute stress can be positive if the outcome is positive. It feels like a somewhat terrifying yet exhilarating sensation like how you feel on a roller coaster.
Acute stress doesn’t usually harm you if the result is joyful. Stressful circumstances give your mind and body training in conceiving the best reaction to forthcoming stressful situations.
When the threat departs, your body systems should return to normal.
It is a whole distinct story in the case of severe acute stress. It is the kind of stress one gets when encountering a life-threatening situation, which can lead to mental health problems such as PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder.
2. Episodic Acute Stress
Episodic acute stress is the type of stress you get when you have periodic bouts of acute stress. It can happen if you’re often anxious and pessimistic, like being worried about things you suppose may happen. Under this kind of stress, you feel that your life is in chaos, going from one crisis to the next. Sometimes, certain occupations, such as law enforcement or firefighters, can lead to recurring high-stress situations As with severe acute stress, episodic acute stress can also impact your physical fitness and mental well-being.
3. Chronic Stress
Stress symptoms that last longer than normal lead to chronic stress. You suffer from chronic stress when you have high-stress levels for an extended period. Long-term stress like this can negatively influence your overall physical and mental health. It may contribute to:
- Anxiety or depression
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- A weakened immune system
Chronic stress can also lead to frequent ailments such as headaches, an upset stomach, and sleep difficulties.
What does Stress Do to the Brain?
Stress is the “fight or flight” response by the body to a threat. This activates the “fear centre” of the brain called the Amygdala and results in the production of the stress hormone cortisol, increased heart rate, and a boost in blood flow to the muscles in the arms and legs. The body will return to normal after the threat has passed.
Although, in the case of chronic stress, the amygdala is continuously activated, which means that the body is in a constant state of stress. Cortisol levels are also always elevated, which can start to cause difficulties with digestion, sleeping, and the immune system. And because the brain is constantly stressed, it may not have sufficient energy to perform its functions properly. As a result, here are various ways that stress can affect the brain:
- Stress impairs the brain’s memory.
- Stress can change the brain’s structure.
- The brain can be more susceptible to mental health problems caused by stress.
- Research suggests that chronic stress can kill brain cells.
- Chronic stress can eventually shrink the brain.
How can you Cure Stress?
If you’re feeling that your stress is getting out of hand and overpowering you and you need quick stress relief, here are some tips for taming your stress:
1. Become more active
Physical movement is a stress reliever and can pump up your feel-good hormones such as endorphins and other natural chemicals inside your brain that improve your sense of well-being. Exercise also helps with concentration and refocusing your mind on your body’s motions, eventually enhancing your mood. Some types of physical activities include walking, yoga, house cleaning, jogging, weightlifting, gardening, swimming, and biking.
2. Have a healthy diet
Eating healthy is an essential part of taking care of oneself. Try to consume fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Having a healthy diet can keep you away from distress.
Meditation can make you feel calm and at peace and balances your emotional well-being and overall health. Guided meditation helps you focus your awareness and quiet the stream of thoughts that may be crowding your mind. It can be practiced anywhere at any time.
4. Get enough sleep
Stress can cause you to have problems falling asleep. When you have too much to do and think about, your sleep can suffer. Sleep is the time when your brain and body can recharge. Even the quality and quantity of sleep are important. Try to have a relaxing bedtime routine with good music and no electronics.
5. Talk to a professional counsellor
You may try therapy or counselling if self-care efforts aren’t relieving your stress. Therapy could also be a sound idea if you feel overwhelmed, worry too much, or have trouble carrying out day-to-day tasks or meeting obligations at work, home, or school.
Professional counsellors or therapy can help you recognise the origins of your stress and help you manage your stress. Other stress busters include:
- Avoid bad habits like the influence of alcohol, cigarettes
- Laugh more, use humour as a tool to manage stress
- Connect with people.
- Try keeping a journal to record your thoughts.
- Listen to music as a great stress buster and be more creative.
Stress is a part of life, and how you handle it matters the most. Listen to your body when it shows signs of stress and understands your symptoms.
It’s natural and normal to be stressed occasionally. But stress that lasts for long can cause physical and emotional symptoms and harmful behaviours. Try relieving and managing stress using a few simple techniques. But if you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor.
Can stress cause me to gain or lose weight?
Stress can lead to both overeating and under-eating. When this problem is not dealt with properly, it can lead to variations in one’s body weight depending on how one reacts to stressful stimuli.
What can you do to reduce your stress?
Some stress relief techniques include being more active, meditation, journaling, eating healthy, connecting with people, and talking to a therapist.
What are some of the signs of stress?
Some signs of stress are stress headaches, variations in weight, high blood pressure, exhaustion, low energy, and lack of focus.
How does stress affect your brain?
Stress has a powerful impact on the amygdala, which is the brain’s fear centre. Stress keeps you in “fight or flight” mode all the time, which can be unhealthy as your brain is constantly engaged with stress, resulting in the inability to execute other functions.