Everyone suffers from stress at some point during his or her life. Some people face stressful situations on a daily basis and others only encounter them on occasion. You may feel stress when trying to accomplish a task at work, when disciplining your children, when managing your finances, or when dealing with a relationship issues.
A little stress can help you make tough decisions and even boost your memory, but prolonged periods of stress have long-lasting detrimental effects on your health. Better understanding how to recognize when you are stressed and what exactly causes stress can help you to lessen its negative health effects and boost the positive ones. Learn more about stress and how it affects your health below.
What is Stress?
Stress is simply the body’s natural reaction to the perception of pressure or to a change that requires response or adjustment. Stress involves many of the body’s internal systems reacting at the same time through hormone signaling. The automatic response system, sometimes known as the fight-or-flight response, comes from a cascade of hormones that include cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones rush throughout your body to prepare it for action.
The stress response evolved to help animals solve life-threatening, short-term problems like getting to safer ground when smelling an enemy nearby or hearing danger coming toward you. Nowadays people do not find themselves having to flee any enemy, but trying to stay calm in the middle of a traffic jam or argument with your partner. Since we encounter situations like these on a daily basis, recognizing when you feel stressed and what it does to your body can help you overcome it.
Common Symptoms of Stress
Stress affects everyone differently and the symptoms of long-term stress are not the same as the symptoms of an immediate stress response. Some people suffer emotional symptoms while others face physical or cognitive ones. Think about the last time you felt stressed out. Chances are you suffered from at least one of the symptoms below:
- Difficulty quieting or relaxing your mind
- Low self-esteem or feeling lonely, depressed, and worthless
- Avoid friends and family
- Becoming more easily frustrated, moody, or agitated
- A feeling of losing control and needing to regain control
- Being overwhelmed even by simple tasks
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure
- Low energy after getting enough sleep
- Rapid heartbeat and chest pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Clenched jaw or grinding teeth at night
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Stomach issues like nausea, diarrhea, or constipation
- Loss of sexual desire
- Ringing in the ear
- Shaking or sweaty or cold hands and feet
- Tense muscles
- Aches and pains without having exercised
- Racing thoughts
- Poor judgment
- Inability to focus
- Constantly worrying
- Disorganization or forgetfulness
- Pessimism and negative thought patterns
The Ways Stress Seriously Effects Your Health
When physicians talk about the serious effects of stress on health, they generally mean the effect of long-term stress. Some of the biggest health risks associated with chronic stress include:
- Hair and skin problems like eczema, hair loss, and acne.
- Gastrointestinal issues from ulcerative colitis and gastritis to an irritable colon or acid reflux/heartburn.
- Obesity, anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.
- Sexual dysfunctions like premature ejaculation or impotence and loss of libido.
- Menstruation issues like skipping a cycle.
- Cardiac disease and other cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, heart attacks, abnormal heart rhythms, etc.
- Mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and certain personality disorders.
Dealing with Stress
If you suffer from chronic stress, do not fear. There are many resources to help you take control of stress. Try talking to do your doctor first to ensure the stress or the symptoms you are attributing to stress are not actually symptoms of another more serious health problem.
Try to incorporate better eating habits and exercise a few times a week if you do not already. Exercise is proven to lower stress levels as is practicing meditation and diaphragmatic breathing techniques. When in doubt, just walk away from a stressful situation and find a safe place to calm down until you get control.