What is stress?
Stress can be defined as any emotional, mental, and physical factor that causes bodily or mental pressures. Or it is the degree at which you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope as a result of pressures that are unmanageable.
Stress is a normal thing in life, it can be good at times like motivating you to work hard towards achieving a goal. But it can be harmful or long term if not taken care of or handled well.
What causes stress
Before looking at the causes of stress it will be good to know the various types of stress, signs, symptoms as well how one can overcome it.
- Emotional stress; emotional stress comes when you are depressed, angry, over anxiety, loneliness and isolation, guilt, low self esteem.
Signs of emotional stress
- Change in your eating habit,
- Finding it difficult to sleep or sleeping a lot,
- Being emotional over everything,
- Difficulty in making decisions or keeping track of things,
- Taking much alcohol or drugs in other to get over things etcetera.
Symptoms of stress
When you are emotionally stressed up, you have symptoms like;
Headaches, neck pains, chronic back pain, as well as gastrointestinal problems.
How to manage emotional stress
Though recovering from a stressful situation may not be easy, emotional stress can certainly be managed and reduced. Here are a few ways that can help you effectively cope with emotional stress:
- Accept Things for What They Are: Thinking you can control everything around you is unrealistic and only leads to more stress. Accept the fact that things don’t always go as planned, that there are certain situations over which you have no control. Learning to accept certain things for what they are is vital to reducing emotional stress levels.
- Distract Yourself from Emotional Pain: Many people advocate sharing painful and unpleasant experiences as a way of coping with emotional pain – and most of us have done so with mixed results. To some extent, this advice holds true as bottling up emotions can have serious consequences on a person’s mental, and sometimes even physical, health. However, studies have shown that distracting yourself from emotional pain and engaging in emotionally healthier activities is a better way of dealing with emotional stress. You can go to the movies, hit the gym, or even take a vacation – anything that distracts you from your emotional pain will help you feel better.
- Take Up Meditation: Meditation is a great way to deal with emotional stress. In fact, it can help you recover from a variety of stress-related issues. Meditation helps in eliminating emotional tension and diverts your thoughts towards better alternatives. Over time, regular meditation can even improve your focus and boost your self-confidence.
- Look for Positivity: Oftentimes, being surrounded by the wrong company or being in a negative environment can contribute to emotional stress, rather than help you manage it. The environment in which you live has a great deal of influence over your personal stress levels, so living in a positive environment is paramount. When dealing with emotional stress, it’s imperative that you immerse yourself in a positive environment and surround yourself with people who bring positivity in your life and make you feel good. Depressing and pessimistic people can only add to your pain – avoid interacting with negative people as much as possible.
- Diet and Exercise: Something as simple as a balanced diet can also contribute to reducing stress levels. At the very least, don’t skip meals. While it’s understandable that food would be one of the last things on your mind during a stressful time, an empty stomach can never make you feel good. It’s also worth remembering that a fit body means a fit mind. Studies have shown that regular, light to moderate exercise helps keep stress levels low.
- Visit a therapist who can talk you out of your stress as well as administering medications which will help ease your stress
- Physical Stress
The most apparent form of physical stress is through an acute injury. An acute injury is an injury that has occurred as a result of a specific event. Pulling a muscle slipping, fracturing your wrist bowling, dislocating a shoulder skiing; these are examples of acute injury that constitute physical stress. Acute injuries encompass everything from muscle pulls, fractures, and ligament sprains to dislocations.
However, not all types of physical stress come in such obvious form. The most common and under treated form of physical stress comes from a longstanding condition or overuse, both of which are also known as chronic stress. The accumulation of sitting with bad posture daily or conditions such as arthritis, create a stress on the body that can be just as harmful as any injury.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
· Low energy
· Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
· Aches, pains, and tense muscles
· Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
· Frequent colds and infections
· Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
· Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
· Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
· Clenched jaw and grinding .
How to manage physical stress
You may find some strategies work better for you than others. Here are some things to try.
- Physical activity Being active is effective. Even going for a short brisk walk to give yourself some space and time for you could be planned as a regular part of your day. If the person you care for is stressed, exercise will help them too but it may have to be modified to suit any physical limitations.
- Eat healthily When stressed we tend to eat more convenience foods which are higher in salt, fat and sugar. Try making extra portions of healthy food to freeze as a back up when you are really stressed or when you are tired and tempted not to eat much at all.
- Rest and relax- this may be a warm bath, listening to your favorite music, or having a power nap after lunch.
- Take a deep breath. It sounds simple but in a stressful situation taking a deep breath, counting to ten and not reacting impulsively can be the best way to cope in the short term. Removing yourself from the situation, go and make a hot drink, do something routine, anything which will change you focus so that when you come back you will be calmer and feel more in control.
- Release your own body tension. Many people feel stress in their neck, shoulders and back muscles because they are under chronic stress. Tense muscles can be a problem when you have to do any physical or manual handling tasks. This can put you at risk of injury. Muscles can become tense over time without you being aware of this. Take a moment to stretch, move and release the muscle tension. There are relaxation techniques which may help. It may be useful to attend a relaxation session locally if you can. This also gives you some valuable “me time”. It can have positive effects on your physical and psychological well being by reducing the triggers which can increase heart rate and blood pressure
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgment
- Seeing only the negative
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Eating more or less
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
- Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing).
The tips below can help you handle cognitive and behavioral stress
Get moving. Regular exercise can lift your mood and serve as a distraction from worries, allowing you to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress. Rhythmic exercises such as walking, running, swimming, and dancing are particularly effective, especially if you exercise mindfully (focusing your attention on the physical sensations you experience as you move).
Connect to others. The simple act of talking face-to-face with another human can trigger hormones that relieve stress when you’re feeling agitated or insecure. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.
Engage your senses. Another fast way to relieve stress is by engaging one or more of your senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, or movement. The key is to find the sensory input that works for you. Does listening to an uplifting song make you feel calm? Or smelling ground coffee? Or maybe petting an animal works quickly to make you feel centered? Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so experiment to find what works best for you.
Learn to relax. You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the polar opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities can reduce your everyday stress levels and boost feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.
Eat a healthy diet. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress, while a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Get your rest. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep. Whether you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep so you feel less stressed and more productive and emotionally balanced.