“If you don’t think your anxiety, depression, sadness and stress impact your physical health, think again. All of these emotions trigger chemical reactions in your body, which can lead to inflammation and a weakened immune system.” – Kris Carr, best-selling author battling cancer for over a decade.
Stress is an inevitable part of life. We could even say that it’s normal, considering that life occasionally throws us lemons when we desperately need a break. It’s precisely these types of situations when it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel that put stress on the body.
So, what is stress exactly? Stress is our body’s response to demanding or unexpected circumstances. It’s a tension we feel or a mental strain under difficult conditions or any changes that require an adjustment.
Consequently, our body reacts with mental, emotional, and physical responses that can lead to anxiety, depression, and other somatic or psychological illnesses.
Physical symptoms include:
- Tense muscles and pains
- Excess sweating
- Cold or sweaty hands
- Chest pain
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Frequent infections and/or colds
- Upset stomach (nausea, diarrhea, etc.)
- Ear ringing
- Lack of breath
- Dry mouth (difficult to swallow)
Emotional symptoms of stress:
- Low self-esteem
- Being unable to relax
- Uncontrolled chain of thoughts
- Frustration and frequent mood swings
- Lack of control
- Isolation and a withdrawal from other people
Stress is manifested in multiple manners, so if you can identify and relate to some of the symptoms of stress, talk with your physician and be prepared to work on lifestyle improvements.
Direct Causes of These Symptoms
What causes stress? According to the American Psychological Association (APA) recent report, the common stress triggers, known as stressors are:
- The future
For that reason, stressors or underlying issues/situations that cause stress and harmful body reactions can be categorized into four main groups:
- Survival stress: A survival stressor represents an immediate physical danger. It can be temporary such as the fear of an aggressive animal or ongoing due to a threat of bully or an abusive partner. Similarly, survival stress can be also caused by the inability to get food or better living conditions.
- Work stress: Dealing with a highly demanding job and exhaustion due to work overload can easily become a daily source of stress. This includes taking care of a sick friend or a family member, as well as frequently working overtime.
- Internal stress: This type of stressor is caused by worrying about things that are out of your hands. For instance, things that are out of our control like stressing about dangerous viruses or increased crime rate, including general things such as getting a promotion and things we can avoid but still cling to, can be dangerous for our health.
- Environmental stress: An environmental stressor is the stress people feel on a daily basis due to a toxic work or home environment. The root of this stress comes from a negative corporate culture or a disrupted lifestyle caused by rude, noisy, or irritating neighbors and family members.
Managing and coping with stress is hard, especially without a healthy relief. In addition, the problem grows if there are several stressors responsible for a cognitive and physical decline.
For example, the survival stress caused by losing a job can lead to you developing internal stress due to worries about finances. From there on, stress continues to increase as you search for a new job and work overtime to make up for the loss. This chain reaction can accumulate negative feelings related to work stress and result in environmental stress when you try to balance work and home relationships.
That being said, finding a balance is crucial. Therefore, if you wish to find the root of your stressors, follow the several steps listed below.
Write Down a List of Symptoms
First of all, write down the symptoms you have experienced or experience on a daily basis. Use the list of symptoms listed above as a reminder and feel free to add your own. Remember, stress is an individual response to unique circumstances, so the symptoms may vary.
Detect what is Causing These Symptoms
Correct stress management begins by identifying the cause of stress in your life. However, though it’s simple to detect obvious changes such as losing your job, moving to a new home, divorce, or going through quarrels with loved ones, locating the root of chronic stress might be tricky.
We often use excuses to justify being on edge and moody. Hence, to pinpoint the true source of stress, take a closer look at your habits, explanations, and attitude. Do you blame others for your stress? Do you perceive it as a normal or integral part of your personality or is the problem in your environment?
Identify Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Multiple Causes
As previously mentioned, losing your job and other changes can contribute to multiple causes of stress. It’s important to identify the lifestyle factors that affect your stress levels. Start by writing your thoughts in a journal. It can help you find out the direct stressors in your life and how to deal with them.
If you keep a regular log, you can notice the patterns and your common stress triggers. Thus, every time you feel anxious or stressed, write it down and keep track in your journal. Be sure to write how you feel, both physically and emotionally, your reactions, and what made you feel better.
Create a Plan to Tackle these Destructive Lifestyle Factors
How are you currently dealing with stress? Is it healthy? Do you drink or smoke? Do you take it out on others? These are unproductive and damaging responses, and it’s time to effectively tackle the stressors with a plan.
The best way to rewire your brain and put a stop to stress is by avoiding, altering, adapting, or accepting the disruptive changes. Experiment with a technique or techniques that work for your situation and focus on what makes you feel calm and in control.
Make Small but Consistent Changes
Instead of bottling up your feelings, be more assertive and communicate. You have to start with small steps until they become a happy routine. Otherwise, building silent resentments will only increase the stress. Also, think about your schedule and how to improve it and accept compromises to find a suitable middle ground.
Small, but valuable changes that can improve your lifestyle include:
- Rearrange your standards
- Reflect on things you appreciate in life
- Learn to prioritize
- Don’t try to control things that are not up to you to control
- Share feelings and thoughts respectively
- Listen to music
- Be more active
- Reach out to friends and family
- Keep on smiling and develop the ability to laugh at yourself
- Consider taking relaxation classes
Take care of your physical and mental state. Nowadays, it’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole due to consistent stress and lose the most important thing you have – your health. Keep in mind that you have control at any moment, even if that means letting go of things you don’t have any influence over. So it’s up to you to remain healthy, but not without the love and support of your family, friends, and even pets.