What exactly is stress? It often described as a feeling of being overloaded by demands being placed on you and that your reaction to that pressure is to feel upset, worried and/or unable to cope. When you are stressed, it can feel like you are caught in a loop, and everything that happens to you makes you feel even more stressed. To help you be ready to respond to situations that can seem threatening or stressful your body will respond with physical adjustments to react to the perceived threat. It might release hormones to increase your heart rate or boost your blood pressure or stop your digestion so that you can "fight or flight". Normally this response should only last a few minutes until the threat is gone. Problems can arise when you experience feelings of heightened stress for long periods of time and your body is constantly in a state of "fight or flight", making you feel unwell.
What causes a person to feel stressed? It can vary from person to person but often the following are major causes of stress: death of a loved one, work-related problems, money issues, major illness or injury, family issues (spouse/parent/child) and the future trajectory of the nation.
What are some signs of stress?
- They can be physical and manifest in the form of clenched teeth, headaches, chronic sickness, indigestion, weight loss or gain, heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems (chronic heartburn, GERD, etc.).
- Mental changes such as irritability, inflexibility, short-tempered, lack of sleep and/or difficulty concentrating. Experiencing these symptoms on a continual basis may be a sign that you are under stress.
- Emotional changes such as always feeling anxious, fearful, frustrated, angry or sad for no apparent reason could also be a sign that you are experiencing extreme stress.
- Unusual behavior such as becoming overly reliant on substances such as caffeine, alcohol or other drugs are also indicators that you may be handling stress in a negative way.
How can I manage stress?
- The first step is to recognize the symptoms of stress and its causes so you can take steps to break the cycle. The next time you notice you are feeling bad because of stress, pause and take a few deep breaths. You might want to try relaxation techniques, time management tools, or learning new ways to think about things you have no control over.
- Keep a Journal - writing things down can help. Research has shown that spending 10 minutes a day writing down how you feel can help lower stress, relieve anxiety & help you better cope with depression.
- Exercise - Physical activity causes your body to produce powerful endorphins that can help you sleep and also lower your stress levels.
- Talk with friends - getting social support, clarity on an issue and advice from people you love and trust can remind you that the whole world is not against you.
- See your physician to rule out other health issues, try medication and/or get a referral to a mental health Provider.
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