Effects of stress on mental health

Effects of Stress on Mental Health

Everyone knows that stress is not healthy, but often it cannot be prevented. 

Mental stress: what you need to know?

In earlier centuries, stress was merely a reaction to life-threatening circumstances – such as the attack of a saber-toothed tiger. Nowadays, you feel stress much more often and in situations that are nowhere near life-threatening.

The body’s response, however, is the same, you are put into fight-or-flight mode. It is useful in some situations. But if it happens every day, it can have a strong negative impact on your psyche. Chronic stress is, for example, a major risk factor for developing depression.

In a stressful situation, our body releases the stress hormone cortisol. It keeps you awake and can lead to sleep disorders. In turn, sleep disorders also increase your risk of developing depression.

Since your body is in a supposed escape situation, it also signals to your psyche that you should feel fear. Over time, this can lead to a chronic anxiety disorder or panic attacks.

Your libido also reacts negatively to stress. You may ultimately lose your lust.

Constant stress can also lead to chronic fatigue. It, in turn, leads to a lack of drive. You are also much more irritable.

This tiredness also affects your mental performance. People who are stressed have difficulty concentrating and often have memory problems.

Chronic fatigue syndrome or burnout is also a severe psychological consequence of constant stress.

Physical reactions to stress are unfavorable to mental health.

Not only is your psyche negatively affected by stress, but your body can also feel the effects. Many of these physical reactions, in turn, are detrimental to your mental health.

For example, stress can trigger headaches. The increased pulse and shallow breathing characteristic of stress also lead to feelings of fear.

Other pains can also occur. Often these are psychosomatic because your muscles tense under stress. It leads to tension.

Your digestion is also susceptible to stress. Here it can manifest itself as constipation, as well as diarrhea or even nausea and vomiting.

The consequences sometimes go beyond short-term symptoms. Years of high stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease.

Stress can also cause conception problems for both women and men. For a couple who want to have children, this means enormous stress.

Stress and its impact on mental health.

Most people experience stress as negative, i.e. the associated feelings, thoughts, body sensations and behaviors are perceived negatively. Examples of feelings that people associate with stress, either as a result or cause, are anger, insecurity, sadness, weakness, anger, bitterness, etc.

It is necessary to note here that these feelings usually go around with the feeling that one has little or no power over the situation.

As a result of a negative feeling of stress, one can experience unpleasant physical consequences, such as physical stiffness (e.g. back and neck), tremors, abdominal pain, headache, difficulty sleeping etc. 

Such negative chains can have very harmful effects on mental health and lead to aggressiveness, depression, increased alcohol consumption, tendency to radicalism, uncontrolled food intake, etc.

Stress can also be experienced positively. 

There are feelings such as excitement and tension that are associated with stress, and these feelings can also be perceived in different ways, positive or negative. 

For example, if two people are watching a horror film and both find the experience exciting. For one, the experience is a positive one – she finds the film “entertaining” and “funny”. For the other, the experience is a negative one – she finds the film “creepy”, “bloody” and “terrifying”.

Whether a person perceives a situation as negatively exciting or positively exciting, it has a lot to do with our ratings. That doesn’t mean that we always have full conscious control over this process. 

It is often the case that this evaluation process is entirely involuntary and automatic, without our being able to influence it consciously. The fight-or-flight mechanism switches itself on quickly and automatically in situations that our body perceives as threatening.

Be that as it may, the process does not entirely remove our entire conscious control either. If one has such feelings as excitement and tension, and anger, etc., then one experiences physical consequences such as an increase in the pulse, shallow breath, palpitations, etc. These physical consequences, even if they are automatic as a result of a physical fight-flight-reaction, can be assessed as positive or negative. 

So it is that some people find their physical reactions to these situations exciting and others find the same reactions terrifying.

Permanent stress and its consequences.

Stress is an uncomfortable term. In positive form and dose it is namely an elixir of life, in excess and permanently suffered (distress) on the other hand, the root of many health evils.

Only chronic stress is harmful.

Short-term stress doesn’t hurt. If a recovery phase follows a stressful phase, the body and mind quickly come back into balance. 

If, on the other hand, stress becomes a permanent burden, then the tolerance limit drops, one becomes thinner, and it is not possible to switch back to relaxation even during recovery phases. It leads to gradual exhaustion up to severe physical and mental illness. 

Constant stress can also influence social behavior. A possible stress reaction is the avoidance of interpersonal contact or even social withdrawal.

The consequences of constant stress.

If stress perseveres over a long period of time, it usually has mental, emotional and physical consequences. If we ignore the signals from our body and permanent stressful situations determine our everyday life, this can lead to significant health impairments. 

Adverse effects on the course of existing diseases are also possible. Widespread attempts to cope with stress, such as smoking, alcohol and tablets, add to the negative health consequences.

Physical consequences.

Possible physical consequences of long-term stress are: impaired brain performance, cerebral infarction, high blood pressure, heart attack, gastrointestinal ulcers, diabetes, increased cholesterol levels, frequent infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, diarrhea or constipation, tinnitus, sudden hearing loss, chronic muscle tension (lead to chronic pain), decreased pain tolerance, menstrual cycle disorders, infertility, impotence, allergies, skin rashes, cold sores, sleep disorders, asthma, etc.  

Too much stress can affect every organ in the body. In times of stress, there is also an increased risk of accidents.

Psychological consequences.

Stressed people quickly feel annoyed and overwhelmed. You are in a spiral of stress. They feel as if they are not in control of their lives anymore. Even the smallest of occasions can make the barrel overflow. Relaxation fails, and recovery no longer wants to occur. Long-term stress can lead to exhaustion, depression, addictions or burnout.

Spiritual consequences.

Stress does not just arise from the occurrence of a stressor but depends above all on how the person concerned deals with it and whether he/she subjectively assesses the situation as stressful. While a particular amount of stress helps to improve one’s performance (e.g. in school exams), constant stress impairs the ability to concentrate, attention, the ability to learn and memory.

Hormones play a significant role in stress.

During an acute stress reaction, the autonomic nervous system (not subject to voluntary control) directs – namely the sympathetic nervous system. This part of the nervous system is in charge, among other things, for activation, flight and combat. 

The parasympathetic nervous system is the antagonist of the sympathetic nervous system and regulates processes that appear when the body is at rest, e.g. Ingestion or growth.

At the beginning of the acute stress reaction, our body releases adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are hormones from the adrenal medulla. They cause enlargement of the bronchi, an increase in blood pressure and blood sugar.

The hormone cortisol is also released from the adrenal cortex in stress reactions. Its effects last for several hours. This hormone also causes blood pressure and blood sugar to rise. Cortisol also affects brain metabolism. It keeps the body on alert. 

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), on the other hand, dampens the effect of cortisol. It is his opponent and prevents the stress system from getting out of hand.

How to reduce the risks?

There are ways to control the stress we feel, to prevent it from taking up too much space in our lives and affecting our health. Here are some tips to better manage your stress:

  • Recognize the events that cause you stress. Pay attention to symptoms of stress and make a note of the types of events that affect you the most.
  • Identify the problem. When you identify the problem, it is easier to deal with it.
  • Talk to people you trust about your problems. By expressing your feelings, you will decrease your stress. Do not hesitate to get help from a professional if you feel the need.
  • Learn about stress management techniques. You can consult a health professional for help or consult books on the subject.
  • Reduce tension with physical activity.
  • Be less harsh on yourself.
  • Get a good night’s restful sleep.

In a productivity-driven society, stress can have devastating health effects. It affects more and more people, regardless of age and social status. However, it can be addressed by listening to your body and learning to recognize the symptoms of stress. 

You will be able to reduce the tensions that torment you and develop strategies to cope.

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