According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 2/3 of family doctor office visits concentrate on stress-related symptoms. The emotional, mental, and physical drain associated with stress is one that can involve a multitude of factors that range from a newborn baby to lack of sleep to mounting credit card bills. Stress prevention is rather important (especially in this day and age of economic and social woes), as this uncontrolled condition can lead to serious health complications.
What is Stress?
When physical, emotional, or mental strain attacks an individual â€“ stress is commonplace â€“ a natural response to the pressures regarding their surroundings.
Each and every person will experience stress. It is impossible to live without coming face-to-face with a situation, circumstance, or decision that involves some sort of stress-inducing response. Children feel stressed when faced with the anxiety of starting their first day of kindergarten. Teenagers become stressed under the pressure of pop quizzes, report cards, and making new friends. Job interviews, putting food on the table, making mortgage payments, and battling health concerns are common stress triggers for adults.
Some stress can lead to positive outcomes, as it creates excitement, stimulates the mind, serves as a personal warning system, and pushes individuals to do their best . However, when stress is allowed to spiral out of control â€“ health complications, failed relationships, and decreased happiness can occur.
When it comes to detecting stress, both physical and mental symptoms can arise. Yet, not every person displaying common signs will exhibit the same responses. Common reactions to stress include the inability to focus; irritability and mood swings; muscle tension; increased heartbeat; intense headaches; and nausea.
Mentally, an individual may also face excessive tiredness and sleepless nights. Physically, an upset stomach, dry mouth, frequent urination, and sweaty palms are possible. Tightness in the muscles may also emerge, where an individual is overcome with pain and trembling .
To assess your level of stress, four categories of signs exist that may involve changes in your:
a) Body Functions and Physical Health:
An individual battling stress may fight backaches, muscle spasms, nervous stomach, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and fatigue.
b) Emotions and Feelings:
Stress can cause feelings of worry, sadness, nervousness, and anger.
Stress sometimes causes drug abuse, increased alcohol consumption, and appetite loss or increase. Some people experience changes in sexual relations â€“ wanting less or more than before. Some people display trouble remembering things, concentrating, or recognizing positive aspects in their life.
A person may think they are hopeless or helpless to the circumstances causing their stress.
Causes of Stress
There is a misconception that all sources of stress are bad or negative. However, gaining a lucrative job position can sometimes cause just as much stress as losing a job. While getting accepted to college is a cause for celebration â€“ struggling to pay for the tuition is a common source of stress. Other positive changes in life that tend to bring about stress include bringing home a newborn or planning a wedding.
In one study â€“ when asked to name the top causes of stress, the typical answers of the average participant included the death of a loved one, divorce, pregnancy, buying a new home, and surprisingly â€“ Christmas.
Negative Effects of Stress
Too much stress is not good for the mind, body, and even the face, as wrinkles and frown lines are more likely to attack the skin during times of frustration. Other negative effects associated with stress, includes:
Â· The digestion process stops in order to allow energy to tend to other parts of the body, meaning weight gain becomes a great possibility.
Â· Muscle tension increases â€“ sometimes unbearably.
Â· Stress has an effect on the blood cells that are responsible for combating infection. This puts an individual at a higher risk for catching a cold or suffering other medical conditions.
Â· Stress can cause an asthma attack to worsen.
Â· Stress is a rather strong trigger that can bring an individual closer to death, as people harbor the tendency to overeat, abuse drugs and alcohol, as well as smoke.
Â· The chances of suffering a heart attack increases, especially when overcome with anger.
Â· Blood pressure levels and the risk of stroke can also increase.
Â· Some people are unable to achieve an orgasm or enjoy sexual encounters when under a great deal of stress.
Â· Stress also makes it much harder for individuals to stick to plans regarding improvements in their health, such as following a diet plan or kicking an unhealthy habit â€“ like smoking cigarettes.
Risk Factors of Stress
When it comes to preventing high levels of stress, it is important to become familiar with some of the common triggers that bring about changes to the body, mind, and emotions, such as:
a) Life Events:
Undergo a recent birth or death, marriage, or divorce and you face high levels of stress.
Anything that affects your daily responsibilities, such as lack of money or unemployment can trigger stress.
c) Work and Study:
Job-related stress is tremendously common, where careers like the President of the United States, firefighters, senior corporate executives, taxi drivers, and racecar drivers face a higher risk for on-the-job stress. Both the work and school environment can cause stress for people of all ages. Tests, entrance exams, project deadlines, interviews, and landing that ‘big’ client can all cause stress levels to rise.
According to Reuters Health, 1/3 of teens in the United States say they feel “stressed-out” on a daily basis. Researchers suggest the pressures of parents and society is to blame. A study conducted at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor found close to 2/3 of teens were stressed “at least once a week.” The numbers of stressed-out children, teens, and college students are also increasing .
d) Personal Relationships:
If you are experiencing conflict or mistrust in a relationship â€“ you will most likely encounter high levels of stress.
If you are following a lifestyle that places yourself in danger (such as not getting enough sleep or excessively drinking alcohol) â€“ stress is inevitable.
f) Early Exposure:
When individuals are placed in stressful situations at an early age (like child abuse), these acts can permanently shift their response to stress in the future.
When a person feels that they are not in control over their basic necessities, such as food, shelter, health, freedom, and progress in life â€“ they face a high risk of suffering chronic stress .
h) Personal Stress Triggers:
The triggers associated with stress are different for everyone, as varying levels of patience, confidence, and tolerance play a role in averting an increase in stress. For instance, one person may love speaking in public, while another is simply terrified when it comes time to delivering a speech. Some people thrive on deadline pressure, while others hit a brick wall. One individual may have a hard time voicing their opinions and suffer in silence â€“ while their sister never hesitates to be heard.
i) Sensory Factors:
Bright lights, loud music, and pain can cause stress.
How to Prevent Stress
Completely avoiding stress is impossible, as life definitely has a way of handing everyone unexpected obstacles to overcome. However, there are methods and lifestyle changes that can lessen and avoid unnecessary stress, including:
a) TARP Method :
A stress management technique to consider is called the TARP method â€“ proven effective in protecting individuals against the harmful effects of stress. The method was created to serve as an uncomplicated approach towards controlling natural responses to stressful situations.
The ‘T’ stands for “tune in” â€“ getting into the habit of recognizing the early signs of stress. ‘A’ is for “analyze” â€“ thinking about where the source of your stress originates. ‘R’ is for “respond” â€“ learning how to deal with the cause of your stress and the results that it brings. ‘P’ is for “prevent” â€“ establishing solid habits that reduces stress and promotes healthy living.
b) Take a Time Out:
Some people can feel the exact moment when a stressful situation will arise. However, they ignore the signs and push through whatever is causing a strain in their life. Learning how to take a “time out” before becoming completely overwhelmed is a good way to avoid the unwanted effects of stress. Perhaps, you can step away from the activity that is causing tension. If you were talking to someone who was causing you frustration, try removing yourself from the situation; going to another room; or taking a short walk. If this is not possible, silently count to ten in your head before you start to speak again.
Stress can cause people to change their normal breathing patterns, but if you are able to learn how to control your breathing, you can avoid encountering the effects of stress. An effective approach is to allow your abdomen to expand while breathing in and keeping the focus away from the chest. Practicing abdominal breathing helps to slow down your body and also aids in the transport of oxygen to the brain.
d) Seek Professional Help:
Sometimes, there are mental or physical barriers that repeatedly trigger high levels of stress, where only a professional can help. Psychologists and physicians are trained to aid patients in solving, identifying, or easing these causes of stress. Other professionals more than willing to lend a hand include nurses, exercise instructors, dieticians, and psychotherapists.
e) Sip a Cup of Tea:
There is something to be said for the volumes of studies and information concerning tea drinkers and health benefits. According to a University College London study, drinking daily cups of black tea can help you recover quicker from the stresses of everyday life by effecting hormone levels found in the body. Specific types of herbal tea are also known to work wonders, such as chamomile and jasmine.
f) Herbal Remedies:
The world of herbal remedies has an assortment of cures for your consideration, including ginseng tinctures (restores the nervous system); catnip tea (relaxes and soothes the nerves); lemon balm infusions or tea (decreases tension; eases aches and pains); Siberian ginseng (decreases the effects of stress); reishi extracts and powders (restores emotional balance); and ashwaganda tinctures and capsules (battles fatigue).
g) Routine Relaxation: Giving yourself time to relax (if even for 15 minutes) can help prevent stress that comes when pent-up emotions and tension are allowed to build. Some people enjoy a session of yoga, while others like to stretch to music, read a book, or soak in a bubble bath. Meditation is another widely embraced technique of relaxation, as it possesses the power to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, and adrenaline levels.
h) Regular Exercise:
Those who swim, run, jog, or bike regularly tends to exhibit less stress than those who do not receive an ample amount of exercise. Getting your body in motion is also the perfect remedy to look and feel better, improve your mood, and combat stress. Contrary to popular belief, you donâ€™t need a membership to the gym or $1000-equipment to fulfill your daily requirement of exercise. Popular activities include cross-country skiing, dancing, walking the dog, rowing, roller-skating, following Taebo tapes, hiking in the nearby woods with friends, or climbing the stairs instead of taking the elevator.
i) Snag a Hobby:
Regular activities that allow you to indulge in leisurely pleasures can keep people stress-free for longer periods of time. Whenever the itch to lose control arises â€“ you can rely on your positive outlet and welcomed distraction â€“ like painting, gardening, writing poetry, or photography.
j) Eat a Balanced Diet:
The body is better able to resist stress when it receives necessary vitamins and minerals from a well-balanced diet. It is suggested to include three solid meals per day â€“ packed with essential fruits and vegetables. When hunger emerges in-between your daily meals â€“ allow a bagel, yogurt, or piece of fruit to steer you away from junk food.
k) Sense of Humor:
Did you know that laughing provides relief for tense muscles and assists in keeping a positive attitude regarding all of life’s little ups and downs? This doesnâ€™t mean you have to rush to the nearest comedy show, but simply call up a funny friend on the phone, pop in your favorite comedy, or invite family and friends to compete in an entertaining board game.
l) Massage Therapy:
When the body is relaxed with less muscle tension, stress levels are reduced. Massage therapy allows the tissues in the body to heal and gain relief. Added benefits include a reduced heart rate; decreased blood pressure; improved blood circulation; and the production of endorphins that create what are known as the “body’s natural painkillers.” Popular massage therapy techniques include Shiatsu, Swedish, and full body.