Stress

Stress is the feeling we get when we are under intense pressure. A lot of situations cause stress. The most typical event is due to work, relationships, financial and family matters. Problems with work, divorce, unemployment, bereavement or sometimes for no apparent reason at all, can trigger stress. Some traumatic and stressful events like child abuse or torture leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress may sometimes be good for us because it makes us do better, be more alert and face challenges with grace but long term stress leads to emotional and physical exhaustion. Stressful events may be exciting for some like engaging in extreme sports or ‘high-risk’ activities.

There are a lot of self-help ways to manage stress. If self-help does not seem useful, consult your doctor.

Symptoms

Physical changes

When the body is stressed, you produce ‘fight or flight’ chemicals to prepare the body for emergency. Noradrenaline and adrenaline helps to increase the blood pressure and respiration and heart rate. These chemicals are also capable of reducing the blood flow to the skin and stomach activity. Cortisol is responsible for releasing sugar and fat into the body but it also reduces the immune system by doing so. All of these make it easier to run away. But these changes become a liability if you are in a work environment or a crowded train. You cannot fight nor run away and because of this, the chemicals cannot be used to protect the body from stress. This may lead to serious damage to your health. Physical effects like nausea, constipation or headaches may happen. Long term stress puts the person at a higher risk of developing strokes and heart attacks.

Emotional changes

You feel a lot of things when you are stressed like anxiety, depression, frustration, anger or fear. These negative feelings may feed on one another or produce physical symptoms of stress. Extreme stress causes headache, constipation, heart palpitations and giddiness. These things make the person even worse and make them think that they may have serious conditions like cancer or heart disease. This makes the person even more stressed.

Behavioural changes

You behave differently when you are stressed. The person may become socially withdrawn inflexible or indecisive, and irritable. The person may also develop sleep disorders and become tearful. This also changes your sexual habits and your attitude.

Who gets stressed?

Everyone of has felt these emotions at some point in our lives. Studies have shown that 12 million adults consult their doctors for mental problems every year. Of these people also suffer from depression and anxiety. Around 45 million working days a year are lost to stress-related events which costs the industry £3000 million. A lot of people become susceptible to stress more than the others.

Self-help to manage stress

  • To realize that stress is causing you problems is a start. Connect your ill feelings to the stress that you feel. Never ignore the physical symptoms like migraines, headaches or tension in your muscles.
  • If you become upset or angry quickly, take a breather or a break. Drink water or walk around to make you calmer.
  • Calm yourself and relax those muscles by breathing deeply and slowly. Take a very deep breath and hold it for three seconds and then breathe out. Continue doing this until you feel relaxed and calm.
  • Identifying the underlying causes for your stress is the next step. Sort the reasons out and try to solve them practically. Realize that some of these reasons may be really hard for you to solve on your own so let some of them go. Do not worry about things that you cannot change.
  • If you are having problems with your marriage, try talking with your partner. If things do not go well between the two of you, try asking for professional help from organizations such as Relate.
  • Change your lifestyle if you have identified the cause of your stress. Prioritize your work and things that you have to do at home with your friends and family. Try doing less work and hand the responsibility to someone else if possible. Start organizing your life and your tasks.
  • Protect yourself by eating proper diet which prevents you to gain unnecessary weight. This also reduces your risk of having diet-related disorders.
  • Do not smoke and drink or minimize your intake of alcohol and nicotine. Remember that these two may seem to reduce your anxiety but their effects are only temporary and can make you feel worse. Also reduce you caffeine intake because it induces stress-like effects to the body.
  • Doing regular exercise is efficient to reduce stress. If you are angry, play a game or do exercise because it increases dopamine levels in the brain. Do relaxing things to get you distracted from getting stressed.
  • Take a break and relax. Balance your work and your ‘play’ time to give yourself enough time to unwind. This reduces stress and makes you control your muscle tension and breathing. Take up sports or some leisure activities or hobbies.
  • Sleep disorders are typical if you are stressed. Make sure you sleep well and take sleeping pills no more than for two nights.
  • Make sure you enjoy yourself and have fun into your life and work. Treat yourself to good things and reward yourself if you have done good thoughts, action and behaviour. Take a long and relaxing bath or a leisurely walk or buy a good book to relax yourself.
  • Keep in mind that everyone has bad days so take it easy.

To seek help

Never be afraid to ask for professional help especially if you cannot handle your problems on your own. A lot of people are reluctant to ask for help because they see it as failure. To seek help immediately spells out recovery at an earlier time. Consult your doctor because he is able to recommend a specialist, if needed, or a good treatment that will suit you. Talk therapies encourage the patient to talk about their problems to someone they trust or to a psychiatrist. A lot of support groups are available to help and give you information on your situation.