Life is full of a variety of events than can be stressful. These events are typically considered as STRESSORS.
Stress is unavoidable in modern life but you do not have to allow it to weigh you down.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of threat or demand and is the body’s way of protecting you.
Stress is not always bad. In small doses, it helps you stay focused, energetic and alert – helping you perform under pressure and can even motivate you to do your best, even helping you rise to meet whatever challenges life brings you. In emergencies, it can even save your life. But when you are constantly running in emergency mode, stress will go beyond a certain point that your mind and body can handle, and then it stops being helpful and starts causing damage to your physical health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships and therefore, your quality of life.
Types of Stress
This is the type of stress that throws you off balance momentarily. It comes on quickly, and often unexpectedly, and does not last too long but requires a response and shakes you up a bit. For example, going for an exam which you are not adequately prepared for or having an argument with a loved one.
The pain of emotional stress can hit harder than some other types of stress. For example, the stress from a complicated relationship usually inflicts more distress than stress from the workplace.
Burnout is the result of prolonged chronic stress of situations that leave people feeling a lack of control over their lives. Certain conditions of a job can cause a greater risk of burnout including unclear expectations, lack of recognition et cetera. When one reaches a burnout, they often have poor motivation.
Causes of Stress
The usual causes of stress are:
- Major life changes
- Work or school
- Relationship difficulties
- Financial problems
- Being too busy
- Children and family
- Rigid thinking with lack of flexibility
Top Life Stressful Events
Events that are known to trigger a high amount of stress in people:
- Death of a spouse
- Marriage separation
- Death of a close family member
- Injury or illness
- Job loss
Symptoms of Extreme Stress
Cognitive symptoms include memory problems, inability to concentrate, poor judgment, seeing only the negative, constant worrying and anxious or racing thoughts.
Emotional symptoms include depression or general unhappiness, anxiety or agitation, feeling overwhelmed, loneliness or isolation.
Physical symptoms include aches and pains, diarrhoea or constipation, nausea, loss of sex drive, chest pain.
Behavioral symptoms include eating more or less, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from others, procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities, using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax.
Complications of Stress
If not managed properly, stress can lead to the following medical issues:
- Heart disease
- Depression and Anxiety
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Accelerated aging
- Premature death
How to Manage Stress
The following are some practical evidence-based steps to keep the effect of stress at bay, and leave you feeling normal:
- Keep a positive mental attitude
- Smile and laugh
- Accept that there are things you cannot control
- Exercise regularly. Your body handles stress better when you are fit
- Eat healthy, well balanced meals
- Learn to manage your time more effectively
- Set limits appropriately and learn to say “no” to requests that would create excessive stress in your life
- Make time for hobbies
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs enough time to recover from stressful events
- Do not rely on alcohol, drugs or compulsive behaviours to fight stress
- Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those whom you enjoy their company
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques, try meditation
- Seek treatment with a medical doctor, psychologist, mental health professional trained in stress management to learn healthy ways of dealing with stress in your life.
Remember that wellness is not just physical but also mental and we hope that these tips will allow you to maintain a balanced life!
Contributed by Dr Emeka Okolo.
Photo credits: Pixabay