Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It is caused by an existing stress-causing factor or stressor, and it can occur from an event or even a thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. It is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. In short bursts, stress can be positive, such as when it helps us avoid dangers or meet a deadline. Yet, when stress lasts for a long time, it can harm your health. Anxiety is stress that continues after the stressor is gone and can be harmful to your overall well-being and health.
3 types of stress:
Acute Stress: Short-term stress that goes away quickly. You step out into the street and hear a car honk it’s horn, as the driver-you slam on the breaks, a fight with your partner, or jumping into a cold pool. Acute stress helps us to manage a dangerous situation or occurs when we are doing something new or exciting. Everyone has acute stress at one time or another, and it is a normal feeling that can be thrilling and exciting.
Episodic Acute Stress: One form of this is ceaseless worry – i.e., the “worry wart” – someone who sees disaster everywhere and is tends toward pessimism and negativity. Always in a hurry, yet always late, over aroused, short-tempered, irritable, anxious, and tense. Sufferers can be fiercely resistant to change, and the symptoms of episodic acute stress are the same symptoms of extended over arousal: persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain and heart disease. Often, lifestyle and personality issues are ingrained and habitual and they might not see anything wrong with these feelings, making it more difficult to address and change.
Chronic Stress: This is stress that last for a longer period of time. You might feel chronic stress if you worry over having enough money, you are in an unhappy partnership, or there are issues at work or school. Any type of stress that goes on for weeks, months, or even years, is chronic stress. It can become so much a part of your life that you don’t realize that it is a real problem or could be causing other health problems.
Some of the health problems that can arise from chronic stress are the following:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Depression or anxiety
- Skin problems (eczema or acne)
- Problems with menstrual cycle
If you are already battling some of the above issues, chronic stress can make them worse. This cycle of stress, worry, and illness can wreak havoc on our already overtaxed systems and if not addressed can lead to more severe illnesses such as cancer.
How do you know if you are stressed out? Some of the common indications of stress are listed below and include physical as well as emotional symptoms.
- Upset stomach
- Lack of energy or focus
- Stiff jaw or neck
- Weight loss or gain
- Sexual problems
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Frequent aches and pains
- Use of drugs or alcohol to relax
Because this list is a general list of common symptoms of many things – you might not even realize the effect that stress plays on your well-being, health, and lifestyle. It can find its way into your system and continue to ‘brew’ there for some time before you recognize it as stress.
What Does Stress do to our Bodies?:
When your body thinks it’s being threatened, the nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) into the system. These hormones alert and ready the body for action against a perceived danger. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, you breathe faster, and your senses get sharper. The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When it works properly, it can help you stay focused, energetic, and alert. And in an emergency, stress can save your life – giving you the extra strength to defend yourself or being able to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Stress can also help you meet challenges – a deadline for instance or being on your toes during a presentation or at an interview, and by sharpening your skills for a test or exam. Yet, in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing world, chronic stress is common and lingers, and prolonged stress takes a toll on your mind and body.
Ways to Prevent & Relieve Stress:
Since stress is a normal part of our lives – learning to manage, prevent and relieve it are paramount to good health and well-being. The first step is to recognize that stress is present and continuous and take action to manage it with some of the following strategies:
- Get regular physical activity: Exercise is one of the best ways to relax and it also improves your mood. Most work places offer in-house classes or gym memberships or virtual options – be sure to ask your HR person at work.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi and/or massage: All of these mind/body techniques work as a way to relax the mind and the muscles and body and can make a huge difference in a short amount of time. There are numerous apps for your phone or device that you can do anywhere and anytime. And if time is an issue, know that even just 1 minute focused on deep breathing can help you relax and start to let go.
- Keep a sense of humor: A good laugh is good for the soul, the mind, and the body. If nothing is funny to you – watch a good comedy – even if you’ve seen it before. Humor will lighten your mood and make everything seem a bit more relaxed.
- Find the positive side of things: PMA-positive mental attitude. There are plenty of studies that show the positive effects (no pun intended) of maintaining a positive attitude. Seeing the positive side of each situation allows you to realize that everything situation has multiple perspectives and if you look hard enough, you can always find something positive about it!
- Spend time with family and/or good friends: There’s nothing better than having a good laugh with your sibling or best friend and chillaxing at dinner or lunch while you reminiscence about the good old days.
- Set aside time for yourself to do the things you enjoy such as hobbies like playing music, dancing, reading, or crafting: If you don’t have a hobby, take one up.
- Take a break: take a personal health day from work or school and sleep in, read all day or take a drive to the beach or mountains for a day in nature just relaxing and unwinding.
- Talk to a professional about your problems: sometimes we need a non-biased person to listen to our problems and look at things from the outside. Even in the process of talking to someone, we might hear something different recounting it to a 3rd party person. This can help us to find the positive side, see a possible solution, or at least give us the release of ‘getting it off our chest.’
Taking up any one of the above will help you to evaluate and potentially discover what it is that stresses you out. Figuring that out and taking steps to mitigate or remove these triggers will go far in reducing your stress levels and helping you find mental clarity and peace for your mind and body.
Rejuv At Work offers a Stress Management webinar and series as well as several options for ongoing Yoga classes and other mind-body options such as Meditation, Tai Chi and Pilates. These are all ways to help reduce and manage stress and anxiety.