In this modern world of ours, stress seems to be all around us. Knowing how to manage stress is important to our physical and mental health.
While some stress is to be expected, and can in some instances be welcome (e.g. getting you out of bed and to work in the morning), an overload of stress may lead to anxiety, depression, bingeing and panic to name but a few.
The cumulation of chronic stress, may, over time lead to extensive damage to the body and mind.
However, other factors in your life such as good food, exercise and restful sleep all play an important part.
Is Stress Always Negative?
As I said above some stress is a normal part of our lives. It’s perfectly normal to worry about an exam, or finances, or an interview as an example. If we think about the solution to the problem that is causing stress, then is there any point in hanging onto it? Probably not! In fact, finding a solution to it can help us to find an answer to a problem.
It’s only when the stress becomes overwhelming and causes changes in our behaviour or mental and physical damage that it becomes problematic.
And, of course, when stress goes on and on stress hormones are produced which may damage the body and overwhelm the mind.
Indications and Symptoms of Stress
Every person’s stress is unique as everyone is different. So, what bothers one person may not be important to another.
But each of us has some stress in our lives, and to manage that stress we first need to recognize it.
Symptoms of Stress affecting the body
There are several ways in which stress can affect the body.
Here are some of the usual ones:
- Stomach Issues: Stress may cause things like acid reflux, bloating and indigestion and can cause or make worse IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
- High blood pressure: Stress is a real risk for heart attacks and strokes. Usually this results from high blood pressure and, in fact, some people get so frightened of having it taken it goes up higher than normal (white coat syndrome).
- Thrombosis (blood clots): Stress can also increase the possibility of blood clots, again this may be due to high blood pressure.
- The Immune system: Stress may weaken the immune system leading you to catch more illnesses; for example, coughs, colds and infections.
- Rise in glucose levels: When people feel stress then their blood sugar levels may rise, in both diabetics and non-diabetics. This may in part be the result of stress harming the metabolism.
Symptoms of stress affecting the mind
There are also many mental symptoms of stress to be aware of:
- Temperament: When people feel stress, it may also lead to other mental health problems such as anger, anxiety, irritability and depression.
- Losing concentration: Stress may also cause difficulties in focusing, which may have an impact on work life.
- Depression: Stress may cause you to be fighting a low mood which may permeate into both work and home life. And in some cases, may lead to avoidance behaviour, particularly in terms of a social life.
- Compulsions: When we feel stress, it can be easy to look for something to provide comfort. So, addiction may become an issue. Alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, junk food, over the counter medication or drugs.
- Exhaustion: Although it may seem strange to put this under the mind section, you cannot only be tired physically but also mentally and then you find you cannot be bothered with anything. Maybe just sitting around mindlessly watching the TV. So, both physical and mental stress is a sign of chronic stress.
When we recognise the signs and symptoms of stress then it may be easier to seek help.
The link between stress and lifestyle:
- Our food choices: Stress is not only connected to a feeling of being over-whelmed but also is connected to the food choices we make. So, eating junk food and a high sugar/starchy diet may lead to inflammation in the body and make it more difficult for our body to process food. On the other hand, good nutrition leads to both an improvement in both physical and mental wellbeing. Of course, when you are feeling stressed, you possibly cannot be bothered with anything and so it’s much easier to opt for something quick and easy. There is a real correlation between unhealthy food and mental health issues.
- Other areas of life affected by stress: Unhealthy food choices are one area that may increase stress levels; there are much more. Not getting enough sleep is one. When people are stressed they may find it difficult to go to sleep or may wake up in the early hours with a mind full of anxiety. They may not take much exercise or get fresh air, resulting in a lack of Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) essential for good health.
Why one person gets stressed and another copes: You could equate this to a pressure cooker. Everyone has pressure in their life of some type. However, depending on the cause, the lid may blow off (the pressure cooker) leading to chronic stress. So really, it depends on what thing/s affect you the most, how well you are, your work, your relationships, your lack of food, your sleep etc., as to how the pressure builds and leads to stress.
The leading causes of stress:
- Worrying about something you need to do
- Waiting in a queue
- Getting ill
- Being anxious about your health
- Wanting to lose weight
- Meeting work deadlines
- Relationship concerns
- Losing friendships
- No one to talk to
- Worrying about money
- The death of someone
- Having too much to do
- Losing your job
- Taking exams
Some of these things are relatively easy to resolve, e.g. worrying about exams – the answer is to ensure you have swotted well. The death of a loved one cannot be resolved because it has happened, however, getting professional support may help you get over the worse.
How can I beat stress
Here are some stress management tips and ideas:
Share your worries
It is said that a problem shared is a problem halved.
So, sharing your worries or problems with an empathetic somebody can really help. Friendships are so important for you particularly if you feel stressed/anxious.
Looking forward to something is a great stress reliever. Even if it’s a visit to the cinema or a drink with friends will result in you feeling more positive.
Chose quality food over quantity
Please ensure that every mouthful of food you eat adds value to your body. Sugar has no benefits at all. Think about the food you are purchasing, if it is natural then go for it if it has been through a factory process then think twice and check the label. Plenty of protein, vegetables and fruit are the way to go.
Get plenty of shut-eye
You will know how much sleep and the quality of it that makes you feel good. So, plan for it. Turn off all laptops, phones, TV an hour before bed. Read a book, have a bath; get yourself in a sleepy state.
Get plenty of fresh air
Exercise, walk, stroll in the fresh air; the seaside, a wood, by a lake. If you move more in the fresh air your body produces endorphins which are a feel good hormone.
Write it down
If you find it hard to share your feelings with others; write them down. This will get them out of your head and when you read them back another day you may realise that there was nothing to stress over, a good lesson for the future.
Relax, relax, relax
Whatever makes you feel chilled then do it! One glass of wine, a nice soak in the bath, watching a funny DVD or listening to a CD. Whatever relaxes you just do it.
Moving more, whether it’s a lunchtime walk or a visit to the gym after work; yoga is very beneficial for relieving stress, you may feel a real downward spiral in your stress levels and a rise in good feelings.
Avoid excess stress
Excess stress may lead to both mental and physical decline in health. If you want to improve your health then it is important to deal with stress, to guard against not only panic and anxiety but also heart disease and strokes.
Of course, additionally, stress may add to relationship problems both at home and work.
So, whilst a little pressure is ok extreme stress is to be avoided.
If you are extremely stressed, then do consider some counseling to help you through a bad patch. I have dealt with many, many people who are stressed, anxious or panicked, through helping you by using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and relaxing Hypnotherapy.
You may wish to visit my website www.setyourmindfree.co.uk for more information. If you would like to pop to my practice in Great Holm, Milton Keynes then I would be more than happy to have a free half an hour chat with you to see if we can resolve your issue. Just phone Leigh on 01908 265410 to book.