Contrary to popular opinion, stress isn’t particularly a negative thing. It’s the body’s way of responding to an imminent danger. The body usually releases some biological chemicals when stressed. Examples of these are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is also referred to as the “fight or flight hormone”, while the cortisol is typically released when the body or mind is stressed. Stress can actually be good for the body when it’s in little amounts. The body goes into the fight or flight mode when it senses stress or an imminent danger. It receives a sudden boost of energy that it might need in that instance.
This is useful in cases of emergency when a quick action has to be taken.However, it becomes toxic when individuals are stressed consistently. Stress can come in form of the inability to pay ones consistently rising bills, or an illness that is making life difficult, it might come in form of a heartbreak or the loss of some money At this point, stress becomes a cankerworm, that would keep eating into the fabric of one’s life until the cause of the stress is removed. Stress can do serious damage to the body.
Effects of Prolonged Stress on the Body
The body is not excellent at differentiating between real life physical emergencies and just some mental stress. The body doesn’t know when you’re just worried about the bills you’re yet to settle, or the heated argument you had with your significant other, or when you have to escape from a burning on fire. The body essentially interprets all these situations as one, and it sets off the emergency stress system every time it perceives one.
The world now has been more challenging than ever, real estate has become more expensive, phones now sell for thousands of dollars, terrorism is on the rise. It’s become so easy to become stressed, and this is the reason, there have been the increased occurrences of heart-related diseases, cancer, and mental diseases. Below are some of the problems that are associated with prolonged stress
1. Depressive Disorder
Prolonged stress and over thinking can lead people to get depressed. Although, some people through genetics, are more prone to becoming depressed, overthinking and constant worrying makes this happen much faster.
2. Memory Problems
Apart from the possibility of causing depressive disorders, stress does worsen the memory. There have been cases of people having some form of dementia, because of stress.
3. Heart-Related Diseases
Stress triggers the release of cortisol( the stress hormone), whenever the body is stressed. This biological chemical increases the arterial blood pressure, and may eventually lead to hypertension.
One of the effects of cortisol, released when the body is stressed, is the suppression of the immune system. This gives room for microorganisms and diseases to attack the body system.
5. Increased Blood Sugar
A prolonged elevation of body cortisol level (due to stress), leads to an increased blood sugar.
Constant stress leads to sleep problems. Stressed people find it difficult taking a proper rest, and when they eventually sleep, they wake up after a short time.
7. Accumulation of Fat
Stress in most people leads to weight gain. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases the deposition of fats in some places in the body such as the face, the nuchal area, and the abdomen.
8. Reduced Sexual Drive
A stressed person loses libido. A low sexual drive has been the cause of so many relationship break ups and divorces. People sometimes never get to figure themselves out early enough, before the damage is done.
9. Metabolic Syndrome
Cortisol, as said earlier elevates the blood sugar level. This if not properly controlled leads to metabolic syndromes such as diabetes, obesity and the likes. In addition to this, hyperlipidemia is also associated with high cortisol level in the body
10. Skin Diseases
Diseases such as eczema and skin scarring are associated with stress. In addition to this, stress leads to the falling off of hairs and hastens the greyness of hair.
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
Stress easily creeps on people, if they don’t take proper care of themselves. It begins to feel normal, although it’s already affecting the body. This is why it is always important to look out for the signs and symptoms of stress. They include the following;
- Memory deficits
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Anxiety and over worrying
- Depressive disorders
- Get irritated easily
- Mental instability
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
Physical Manifestations Include
- Body pains
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Running nose and cold
- Fatigue and vertigo
Other Symptoms of Stress Include
- Addiction to drugs and alcohol
- Feeling of loneliness
Causes of Stress
There are a number of things that could be responsible for stress. It’s a general opinion that stress is only caused by bad things, however, whatever puts a high demand on you, and causes you to worry can be stressful. This is inclusive of both positive and negative things. Below are some of the causes of stress;
- Financial difficulties
- Emotional breakdown
- School and work
- Poor view of life
- Relationship problems
- Accidents and injury
- The loss of a loved one
People do have different stress thresholds, it’s therefore important to know the amount of stress your body and mind can withstand without caving in. Below are some of the factors that influence how we tolerate stress
- Information: According to a research, it has been noticed that the more people know about a situation, the better they can handle it. As an illustration, cancer patients who before undergoing treatment, understands the process and outcome of the procedure, fare and go through the treatment better, than those who don’t. This drastically reduces the stress the patient will go through because the patient is prepared mentally for it.
- Ability to manage emotions: Individuals who know how to manage their emotions well, fare better than those who don’t. People who do not know how to pick themselves up after an unexpected occurrence, are more prone to be stressed. Becoming emotionally mature increases the body’s threshold for handling stress.
- Perception of life: There are two kinds of people, the optimist, and the pessimist. On the one hand, the optimist is generally hopeful, no matter how bad the situation may look. On the other hand, the pessimist always believes that things might go wrong. This kind of people is more likely to be stressed. They are often the ones more prone to becoming depressed.
- The people in your circle: One who has a circle of supportive friends and family around him is more likely to handle stress better than one who doesn’t have people to rely on. The lonelier one is, the more difficult it is to handle stress.
It’s easy to point out the causes and factors of stress, but it’s more important to focus on how to eliminate stress for healthy living.
- Identify the cause of stress: This is the most crucial step to take. Pinpointing the cause and reason for your stress is the first step in the right direction to eliminating them. The way to go about this is to make a list of what stresses during the day, then extend this to what bothers you weekly, then finally monthly. After making the list, try to figure out which one you can eliminate immediately, or within a short time. For the things that can’t be removed, try to find the means reduce the way they stress you.
- Living near water: Living near a body of water has a way of soothing and calming the mind. The quiet noise around water bodies such as slow-flowing rivers, lakes is therapeutic for the mind. As compared to what obtains in the cities, with the loud noises of the traffic and passers-by. In addition to this, the good air around water bodies is good for the mind and body
- Organization: Becoming more organized with the way we do things makes us feel less stressed. The mind subconsciously becomes stressed when things are not well arranged. It can be as arranging the way things are, in the house, or just laying the bedsheet properly. This can go a long way in making people feel good, and less stressed for the day.
- Be on time: As the popular saying goes, it’s better to wait for someone, than to be waiting This goes beyond your morals and being responsible. Being on time is very important. For example, arriving some minutes or even an hour before a meeting would give you an advantage over the guy that rushed in right on time. This is because your mind would have been well rested and settled. You’d be calm and collected enough to make the best decisions and valuable inputs.
- Don’t try to control everything: As we might already, humans have control only on a number of things. We don’t have control over things such as time, age, and some unavoidable things. It’s best to not stress over what we are not capable of changing or have control over. In addition, there is a limit to which we can control people. We have to know these limits and accept them. Apparently, the only person we have control over is ourselves, and we sometimes don’t have control over some things we do.
- Avoid negativity: There are two types of energy. The positive and negative energies. The negative energy is the one that drains us and causes stress. We can also be affected by people who radiate either of these two energies. People should try to avoid those that give negative energies. You’d be happier, more productive and less stressed.
- Don’t rush yourself: Life could get really tough sometimes. People often give themselves deadlines to achieve a goal and perform a task. While this is important, we should also be aware that only the living and healthy gets to enjoy the benefits of his work. Fast doesn’t always translate to better. Sometimes, slow and steady really wins the race. At the end of the day, progress is what matters.
- Charity: This might sound ironic, but according to studies, it has been proven that helping others in one or the other, makes us feel better about ourselves. Helping other people doesn’t just benefit them alone, it’s also an advantage to the giver. For example, according to a research done by psychologists on some patients, with similar accident injuries in a hospital. It was discovered that those who tried to assist other patients recovered faster than those who kept to themselves. Do you want to be less stressed? Then help others in achieving their goals.
- Engage in physical activities and exercise: Exercising on a regular basis, is an efficient way of releasing and overcoming stress. Apart from affording the time to think and contemplate on some issues, it’s also good for our health. Exercising regular would increase our tolerance level for stress
- Be appreciative: This might not be outstanding like the other points, but it’s really important. Being appreciative of even the little things puts us in a better place. It also reminds us of where we are coming from. In addition, it improves the way we see life. If giving thanks becomes a habit, then it’d be difficult for stress to creep into people’s lives.
- Eating healthy and clean food: Eating healthy food, which implies more of vegetables and the low-calorie food is essential for our health. An unhealthy person is prone to having a stressful life
- Set realistic goals
- Don’t procrastinate: There is a mantra highly efficient people follow, they don’t do what could be done now, later. This basically implies that a task that could be done now, should not be postponed
- Make your tasks as simple as possible
- Leave the job that is becoming overwhelmingly stressful for you
- Avoid embarking on too many projects at the same time
- Take regular breaks from work
- Drink water more often
- Go on vacations
- Interact more with people and make new friends
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