What is stress?
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. It can come from any experience or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand. Stress can be positive too such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline.
Stress is a condition experienced by almost everyone. It is an unwanted and unpleasant thing but it is not an illness in itself. But yes, stress and mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD)are related. The more we understand about stress, its causes, effects on the body, and its links to mental health, the better we can tackle it.
Stress causes physical changes in the body by increasing heart rate and breathing. Sometimes it’s effect is towards the positive side. The muscles tense and our short-term memory becomes stronger. It is a kind of stress response to keep us safe and it prepares the body for the condition of ‘fight or flight’ on sensing danger. According to research, it has been proved that thinking skills improve when stress increases. So stress can in this way be a good thing as it can help us prepare for a sports match, a job interview, or an exam.
Causes of stress
Many situations can lead to a stress response in the body like work-related changes, illness, accidents, problems in relationships, family, money or housing matters, etc. Even daily chores and their tussles can cause stress for us. All these situations are linked by the fact that we are unable to predict and control what is happening to us and so our body and mind go into a state of increased alertness. When the stress response becomes prolonged(chronic) it can impact attention, memory, and the way we deal with emotions negatively. The long term stress can lead to both physical and mental illness through effects on the heart, immune and metabolic functions, and hormones acting on the brain. Some of the emotional and behavioral symptoms of stress overlap with those of mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Under the control of stress, one may feel worried, down, unable to concentrate or make decisions, feel irritated and angry.
By taking a lot of stress the risk of developing depression and anxiety increases in people. The earliest response to stress happens in the brain within seconds of perceiving a ‘stressor’. In this way, chemicals that signal between nerve cells(neurotransmitters) are released. These include serotonin and adrenaline. After this stress hormones are released which affect areas of the brain important for memory and regulatory functions.
Ways to heal the stressed
There are lots of ways to heal stress. The first choice is to try and identify the cause of stress and tackle it. By avoiding the problem we make it worse. It is not sometimes possible to change a situation and prevent stress but there are many ways to help control it and stress management may be effective in improving health. If you want to manage stress practice the 4 A’s of stress management which are-Avoid, Alter, Adapt, Accept.
You must avoid unnecessary stress. You must learn to say no. You must know your limits and stick to them. Whether it’s your personal or professional life taking on more than you can handle is a surefire way for stress. You must try to maintain a distance or avoid people who cause stress for you. You must take control of the environment that affects you in good or bad ways. You must try to alter the unavoidable situation which involves changing your way of communication and daily life dealings. You must express your feelings and not bottle them up and try to compromise too when required in a situation. You must try to create a balanced schedule. You must try to adapt to the stressor and change yourself if need be.
You must accept the things that you can’t change as some sources of stress are unavoidable. You must always look for the upside of things. And try to share your feelings with someone you trust. You must try to get moving with your work in hand and never sit idle. Because we all know that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Physical activity is a huge stress reliever. You must connect with others and spend quality time with friends and loved ones. You must make sure you have plenty of time for fun and relaxation. The importance of maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle cannot be underrated.