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What are the key signs of stress affecting mental health?

What are the key signs of stress affecting mental health?

Stress is a response to a challenge or change. In the short term, stress can be useful. It makes you more vigilant and gives you the energy to finish your tasks. But long-term stress can steer to serious health problems.

We have all felt stressed at different times in our lives. Sometimes it is for a brief moment and due to some situation, such as being in heavy traffic. Other times, it is more complex and persistent such as when we have problems with our relationships, a family member is ill or due to the death of the spouse.

Stress is a normal body response to challenging circumstances. In people, stress can be physical (similar to having an illness), emotional (such as feeling sad about the death of a precious one), or psychological (like feeling dread). And it can be triggered by both happy and sad moments. It is the brain and body’s way of responding to any demand. Any type of challenges, such as performance at work or school, a significant life change, or traumatic events, can cause stress.

Stress can have an emotional impact on your health. It is vital to be considerate about how you deal with minor and major stressful occasions so that you know when to ask for help.

What is the reaction to stress?

Did you know?

The capability to handle stress varies from person to person. How you sense a situation and your general physical health are the two main factors that determine how you will react to a stressful event or frequent stress.

Allostasis is the process by which the body acts in response to stress, be it acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term).

Flight or fight response.

The best-known response to acute stress is the “fight or flight” reaction that ascends when the body perceives a threat. In that case, the stress reaction initiates the body to send numerous hormones (for example, cortisol and adrenaline, also called epinephrine) into the blood. These hormones upsurge your concentration, aptitude to react, and strength. They also accelerate the heartbeat, intensify blood pressure, boost the immune system, and improve memory. After confronting short-term stress, the body returns to normal.

Not all stress is bad.

In response to danger, stress signals the body to prepare to face a threat or flee to safety. In these situations, the pulse and respiration speed up, the muscles tense, and the brain consumes more oxygen and increases activity. The purpose of all these functions is survival, and they arise in response to stress. In situations where life is not in danger, stress can influence people, such as when they need to take an exam or interview for a new job.

However, continuing or chronic stress presents a problem. If you are frequently challenged, your body constantly produces a higher level of stress hormones, and you don’t have time to pull through. These hormones excite in the blood and can cause serious health problems over time.

Effects of stress.

Our nervous system is not so good at differentiating between physical and emotional threats. If you are stressing over a work deadline or an argument with your friend, or you are worried about the piled up bills, your body can react in the same intense way as if you are experiencing a death situation. As your emergency stress activates increasingly, the more quickly it triggers and harder it becomes to shut it off.

Changes in the body that happen during times of stress can be very constructive when they take place for a short time. But when this occurs for a long time, overproduction of stress hormones can destruct your health. Long-term chronic stress deteriorates the body.

These health consequences can include:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart diseases
  • Weight problems
  • Memory problems
  • Skin conditions
  • Sleep problems
  • Any kind of pain
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Reproductive issues
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Lack of interest in everything

Symptoms of stress:

Stress can be as hazardous as how easily it can grow on you. If it stays for longer, you can get used to it. You even start feeling normal. You are unable to notice how badly it is affecting you. That is why it is imperative to be aware of the symptoms and warning signs of chronic stress.

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Sleeping too little or sleeping too much
  • Increase in alcohol consumption
  • Nervous habits such as pacing nail-biting etc.
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Eating more or less
  • Taking drugs to relax
  • Excessive smoking

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Poor judgment
  • Constant worrying
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Anxious thoughts
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Greater sensitivity to criticism

Physical symptoms:

  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Flu or frequent colds
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Increase blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Aches and pains

Emotional symptoms:

  • Isolation
  • Loneliness
  • General unhappiness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Excessive anger issues
  • Moodiness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Other mental and emotional health problems

What can be the causes of stress?

Stress is a known depression trigger, and it can also affect our physical health. That is why it is crucial to identify the causes of stress and try to minimize them.

The pressures and circumstances that initiate stress are known as stressors. Usually, we consider stressors being negative, for example, a debilitating work routine or a bad relationship. Nonetheless, anything that puts high pressure on you can be upsetting and stressful. It also incorporates positive occasions like, buying a new house, receiving a promotion, getting married, or going to college. 

Not all pressure is because of external factors. Stress can likewise be inner or self-produced. When you stress too much over something that might possibly occur, or have irrational negative thoughts about your life.

Lastly, what causes pressure depends on your perception of it. Something obnoxious to you may not fluster another person. They may even appreciate it. At the same time, a few of us are scared of getting up to speak or perform in front of people.

Where one individual flourishes under tension and performs best even with a tight deadline, another will shut down when the workload increases. It concludes that causes of stress differ from person to person.

Common internal causes of stress may include:

  • Lack of flexibility
  • Rigid thinking
  • Pessimism
  • Perfectionism/ unrealistic expectations
  • Negative self-talk
  • Inability to accept uncertainty

The common external cause may include:

  • Financial problems
  • School or work
  • Family
  • Children
  • Major life changes
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Being too busy/ being free

What can you do to reduce stress?

Learning to deal with constant worry effectively is a worthwhile endeavor, even if you already consider yourself capable of handling any situation that life throws at you.

Many of the most common long-term stressors (illness in the family, recovery from injuries, work pressures) arise many times concurrently and without warning.

Stress management is principally valuable if your family has a record of hypertension and other kinds of heart disease.

Categorize the cause. You may find that your stress ascends from something that is easy to correct.

By taking practical steps to manage your stress, you can reduce your risk of adverse health effects. Here are various strategies that can assist you to cope with stress:

  • Be observant. Know how to recognize the signs of how you respond to stress, such as difficulty sleeping, increase in alcohol consumption and other illicit substances, getting angry easily, feeling depressed, and having low energy.
  • Get regular exercise. A day-to-day walk of just 30 minutes can benefit you improve your mood and health.
  • Try a relaxing activity. Find out about relaxation or wellness programs that may include meditation, muscle relaxation, or breathing exercises—regular schedule times for these and other relaxing and healthy activities.
  • Consider what you have accomplished at the end of the day, not what you have not been able to do.
  • Stay connected. You are not alone. Stay in touch with people who can offer you emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, ask friends, family, and community or religious organizations for help.
  • A psychologist can assist you in defining and analyzing your stressors and developing an action plan to deal with them.
  • Observe your moods. If you feel strained during the day, write down what caused it, along with your thoughts and mood. Again, you may find that the cause is less severe than you first considered.
  • Give yourself some personal time for atleast three times a week. Ten to fifteen minutes a day of “personal time” can benefit refresh your mental vision and reduce or stop your body’s stress response systems.
  • Turn off the phone. Spend some alone time in your room and exercise, or meditate on your favorite music.
  • Take a minute away from the situation when you feel angry. Before you react, take time mentally to calm down, counting to ten. Then look at the situation again.
  • Eliminate tasks that you should do but are not essential. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others. Don’t expect perfection.
  • Study your priorities and delegate whatever tasks you can. For example, order food out after a busy day, share responsibilities at home.

You can always take practical steps to reduce stress. Moderate and frequent exercise improves mental processes and mood. Other approaches include getting a good night’s sleep, relaxing, and seeking emotional assistance from family and friends. 

You can also diminish the long-term impacts of chronic stress by eating a healthy, low-fat diet and avoiding smoking and heavy drinking. However, if your indications continue or get worse, you should see your doctor.

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