We often hear people talk about how stressed out they are and we feel it ourselves as well. Still, despite the fact that so many people are talking about it, a small number of people really knows what stress is and what kind of an effect it can have on us.
Most people know that stress can affect them mentally in many different ways, but did you know that stress can affect your physical well-being? What’s even worse is that stress often affects our physical health with most of us not even being aware of it.
For example, your constant irritating headaches or insomnia might be a direct side-effect to stress, greatly affecting your life and causing additional physical issues.
What is Stress?
Stress is a natural response of our body and mind to experiences we go through in life. Everybody experiences stress periodically and it can be triggered by numerous things such as work, family issues, school, and so on. However, a more serious event can cause higher levels of stress such as the death of someone close, getting diagnosed with a serious illness, or heartbreak.
Its short-term, initial effects can help people deal with difficult situations, motivate people to go through difficult periods in their lives. Additionally, stress can be triggered in situations when we need to react fast and the hormones that get released due to stress allow our muscles to respond more effectively.
However, if a person’s stress response is constantly working and their stress levels are constantly elevated over a long period of time, then it can be harmful to their health. Dealing with chronic stress is a must, as it can lead to various physical and mental symptoms.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress can manifest itself in many different ways and it can sometimes be difficult to recognize that your symptoms are actually caused by stress and not something else. However, stress usually causes several symptoms and by looking at them as a part of the same issue, you might find it easier to recognize stress-related issues.
In most cases, physical symptoms come after cognitive symptoms, so you need to look for a correlation between the two. Let’s start first with the most common cognitive stress symptoms.
Cognitive stress symptoms
- Being worried all the time.
- Being forgetful and disorganized.
- Having no focus.
- Making poor decisions.
- Being constantly negative and pessimistic.
- Having racing thoughts.
Physical stress symptoms
- Constant headaches.
- Stomach issues including no appetite, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Feeling tired all the time and no energy.
- Feeling tense, tight muscles, pain and aches.
- Increases heartbeat and chest pain.
- Having insomnia.
- Frequent infections and colds.
- No sexual drive or low sexual desire.
- Shivering, cold sweat, and nervousness.
- Having difficulty swallowing and constant dry mouth.
- Grinding teeth and jaw clenching.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
Being stressed from time to time is completely normal and it happens to everyone. We all have things going on in our lives and sometimes they don’t go the way we hoped, which results in stress, but this is nothing to worry about.
However, being exposed to long-term chronic stress can lead to many serious physical and mental issues. This is why it needs to be prevented as soon as possible to avoid these issues. Here are some of the consequences of chronic stress:
- Various mental problems including personality disorders, anxiety, and depression.
- Cardiovascular issues such as elevated blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, irregular heart rhythm, heart disease, and so on.
- Various stress eating disorders and obesity.
- Problems with the menstrual cycle.
- Different sexual issues like premature ejaculation and impotence with men, partial or total loss of sexual desire with both genders.
- Hair and skin issues like psoriasis eczema, acne, and hair loss.
- Gastrointestinal issues including gastritis, irritable colon, and ulcerative colitis.
How to Manage Stress
If you recognize some of the stress symptoms mentioned above, the good news is that you can work on dealing with stress on your own. You don’t necessarily need professional help, as there are many ways to alleviate stress on your own. What’s even better is the fact that everyone can do these things with a bit of effort.
You need to:
- Introduce regular physical activity into your lifestyle.
- Adopt one or more relaxation techniques including yoga, meditation, tai chi, getting regular massages, or learning some deep breathing techniques.
- Taking time to relax from work or school and doing things that you enjoy such as watching movies, reading books, listening to music, and so on.
- Socializing with other people on a regular basis.
The key is to look for active ways that will help you reduce stress. Most inactive methods such as surfing on the web, or watching TV might feel good short-term, but they will actually make your stress problem even deeper over time. At the same time, it’s important to eat healthy food, sleep regularly, and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol.
In the end, if none of the steps you’ve taken to reduce stress are working and all the symptoms continue, make sure to pay your doctor a visit. You might have some other underlying causes for your symptoms that you haven’t noticed. Additionally, it’s a good idea to talk to a therapist or a professional counselor to learn more about the causes of your stress, as well as about new techniques to cope with stress.