Stress can take a toll on your health – emotional, mental, and physical. Read below if you’re feeling stressed and what to do about it.
Stress is a common reaction to not being able to cope with the various demands in your life. While it can help you in certain cases like survival scenarios, it can also undermine your physical and mental wellbeing.
There are various causes of stress (known as stressors) which can include anything from watching scary movies to overworking yourself. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), employment and money are amongst the most common stressors.
Being under constant stress can temporarily affect your body by increasing blood pressure, decreasing immune activity, stiffening muscles, and more. However, it may also affect your long-term health, as researchers find links between work stress and coronary heart disease.
Types of Stress
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are two types of stress: acute and chronic. Furthermore, they identify three types of stressors: routine (e.g.: childcare), sudden (e.g.: job loss), and traumatic (e.g.: war).
Acute stress is the most common form and is generally a result of either recent pressures or near-future challenges. It can cause tension headaches, an upset stomach, moderate amounts of distress, and chronic stress if the stressors remain.
Chronic stress develops over a long period of time and can contribute to cardiovascular, respiratory, and immune issues among others. Moreover, it can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, heart attack, and stroke.
Causes and Symptoms
Different people experience stress from different experiences and events, which means there is no one identifiable reason for everyone. However, some common stressors include job issues, family problems, illness, lack of time, loss, bereavement, unsafe neighborhoods, and others.
Stress can lead to various physical and emotional symptoms that can affect your behavior and health. These include sweating, headache, irritability, concentration issues, eating too much (or too little), crying, depression, high blood pressure, and more.
Since stress can depend on multiple factors, doctors use questionnaires, physiological techniques, and biochemical measures to identify stress. To get the best diagnosis and how stress is affecting you, a comprehensive, face-to-face interview is the most effective.
Treatment options will depend on the cause of your stress but will generally include self-help techniques and medications when necessary. Insurance covers some treatments but not all, so know the details before starting a program.
Usually, doctors don’t prescribe medications when it comes to stress unless they are treating depression or an anxiety disorder. While these may help, they can also mask the stress instead of dealing with it, which is why learning coping strategies is important.
Some people find that exercising, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, eating nutritiously, deep breathing, managing priorities, and talking can help. In addition, you can remove or change the source of stress and reframe a stressful event as a way to cope.
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