What is is stress and how does it affect me?

Stress is the feeling you get when you are handling more than you are used to or changes in your life. Your body response by releasing hormones that speed up your heart beat, make you breathe faster, tenses muscles and give you feelings of energy. Stress is a normal response of the body. In fact, it helps you work harder or react quicker so that you can finish tasks. However, if you are stressed for prolonged periods of time, or the stress lasts too long, it can have detrimental affects on the body. Stress is linked to causes of headaches, upset stomach, skeletal muscle pain, trouble sleeping, weakened immune, digestive, excretory and reproductive systems, and causing changes in mood that can lead to depression. All of these symptoms are not always present when the body is under stress. Stress over prolonged periods of time can cause serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, along with many others.

So stress is good for me?

Yes, in fact acute stress is adaptive and helps you make beneficial decisions. The hallmark hormone/chemical associated with acute stress is adrenaline (epinephrine). This hormone is released from the adrenal glass that sit on your kidneys.

When is stress bad for me?

Everyday stress can lead to chronic stress if the stressors don’t go away. Chronic stress leads to high levels of adrenaline in the blood and this along with the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, can lead to present health problems to get worse. For example, heart disease, obesity, depression and immune system suppression can all develop under chronic stress.

What types of stress are there?

There are different types of stress, but the most common are routine stress, traumatic stress, and stress brought on by changes in lifestyle.

  1. Routine stress: this type of stress is related to pressures at work, family and daily responsibilities.
  2. Traumatic stress: this type of stress is brought on by some sort of traumatic experiences like a major accident, war, assault, natural disaster or death of loved ones.
  3. Stress brought on by life changes: this type of stress occurs when you have sudden negative changes in your life like losing a job, divorce, or illness.

How can I deal with my stress?

The biggest thing you can do to deal with stress is figure out what is causing stress in your life. Everyone responds to stress differently. Therefore, tracking when you are stressed can give you insight into what activities get you more stressed. Everyone has a different way to manage their stress. There are a multitude of different things you can do:

Exercise: This is a great way to relax your muscles and take your focus away from the things that are giving you stress. You can start with a simple stroll to running or Yoga classes. Any activity that can release some energy and release chemicals that make you feel better and keep you relaxed.

Hobbies: Hobbies are a great distraction from the world around you. It’s a great way to dive into a project and forget about your life’s stressors. Studies have shown that volunteer work or work that helps others is a great stress reliever. Doing something you love also can release chemicals that gives you feelings of calm and happiness.

Relaxation: There are many ways you can relax your body like breathing and relaxation exercises, massages, or aromatherapy. Yoga and meditation are a great way to relax your body that includes the breathing and relaxation exercises. Other relaxing exercises include tai chi or qi gong.

Avoid compulsive use of substances: Compulsive use of substances or behaviors can also be harmful during bouts of stress. These substances or behaviors may include food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping or even use of the internet. These encourage the body to stay in a stressed state instead of relaxing the body. Therefore, the substance and behaviors encourage a vicious cycle of a distressed state in your body and thus, should be avoided.

No more multitasking! Another great way to counter stress is to pay attention to what is happening around you. The biggest cause of stress in daily life is multitasking. People are always on the move and always attacking multiple problems at once. Even just talking on your phone while you drive to work, or checking the news while you’re at work is all considered multitasking. Because people are so busy to try to get their tasks completed, they forget about what is happening around them. Keeping an eye on all the things that you’re doing and making sure you don’t get engrossed in one task is a great way to keep track of your stress.

How does my anxiety play into my stress?

Anxiety is the feeling of fear, worry or uneasiness. Anxiety related to anything in your life can cause stress. The symptoms of anxiety and stress are very similar because the same chemical is released from the brain when the body undergoes both anxiety and stress. However, stress and anxiety are not the same feeling. The main difference between anxiety and stress is that anxiety is a feeling that stems from fear of the unknown or things in your life and stress stems from external situations in life.