Stress can be a normal response to life’s pressures, especially if they are threatening or dangerous. However, even though some stress is a normal part of living, when it becomes overwhelming and chronic, it can lead to adverse health consequences.
This article will explore the concept of stress, what signs to look out for, and what you can do to manage it.
What is Stress?
Stress is when brain chemicals (hormones) flow through the body. These hormones will create symptoms like making sweating, breathing quicker, tensing muscles, and preparing for action. As a result, a person’s built-in alarm system, aka their “fight-or-flight” response, will become more activated.
How Does Stress Impact Mental Health?
Stress can create adverse mental health outcomes like irritability or aggression, not feeling in control, poor sleep habits, fatigue, sadness, concentration or memory issues, and more. In addition, chronic stress can lead to depression, anxiety, or burnout.
How Does Stress Impact Physical Health?
Stress can also affect your physical health. For example, increased blood pressure is a physical health symptom that can occur from stress. Other physical stress indicators include gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and back or neck pain. In addition, stress can also lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms and addictions.
What are some Signs and Symptoms?
Long-term stress can feature many symptoms. Some common ones include:
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Anxiety and feeling restless
- Hopelessness and depression
- Panic attacks
- Low self-esteem and low confidence
- Inability to make decisions
- Laissez-faire attitude towards loved ones and responsibilities
- Mood changes
- Loss of appetite
- Sleep issues
- Changes in sexual drive and desire
- Feeling unmotivated and unfocused
- Withdrawing socially
- Drinking excessively
- Less performance and productivity
You can also experience stress when the following occurs:
- There’s pressure or a threat to your well-being with no solutions to resolve the issue
- You have no support network
- You have gone through significant life changes like losing a job or a change in your environment
- Difficulties with sleeping at night
- You have poor physical health
- You have trouble controlling your emotions
What are some Other Causes?
Stress can manifest differently depending on the individual. However, some common causes of stress include:
- relationships with loved ones
- health issues
- family responsibilities
- significant life changes
- a history of trauma
How Can You Manage Stress?
There are several management techniques you can use to help with stress. We outline some of the most commonly used ones.
Keep Active with an Exercise Routine
Exercising for 20 minutes outdoors daily can lead to lower stress hormone levels, according to this study. Walking in nature can provide even more benefits, but getting exercise, in general, can be extremely helpful in reducing stress.
Try some Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing techniques, like the 4-7-8 breathing technique, can make your body feel more relaxed. This method works by sitting comfortably and breathing in through your nose for 4 seconds, holding your breath for 7 seconds, then breathing out through your mouth for 8 seconds.
Another technique called Progressive muscle relaxation can also be beneficial for stress. This method involves tensing and relaxing the muscle groups in your body as tension releases.
However, mindfulness and deep breathing techniques aren’t for everyone. For example, some neurodivergent folks can find that these techniques can create more stress. Try our other suggested techniques or resources if mindfulness doesn’t work for you.
Take a Break and Slow Things Down
We all know that life can be hectic, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed and over-commit to things. It’s important to remember to slow down and prioritize.
You can also manage your stress by taking larger tasks and breaking them into smaller, more manageable ones. This technique can especially be effective if you have ADHD and have trouble prioritizing tasks.
In addition, setting healthy boundaries with people about your time can help.
Taking Time to Connect with Others
Building a solid network of people you can count on and trust can make you feel more supported during stressful times. A community can enhance your mental health and prevent the previously mentioned side effects that occur from stress.
In addition, venting and sharing your feelings can minimize feelings of isolation and be a cathartic way to cope with stress. Plus, other people may have opinions you’ve never thought of and can help manage a stressful situation.
Meditation can lower your blood pressure and reduce anxiety and body tension. If you feel stress starting to come on, you can try meditation techniques or even a meditation app to help minimize your stress symptoms. However, as previously mentioned, meditation may not be ideal for everyone and is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Many neurodivergent people or those who experience intrusive thoughts may find meditation more stressful and can instead find other stress reduction techniques that work better for them.
Try to Find a Fun Activity
Engaging in a new hobby or volunteer opportunity can be an ideal distraction from your stress. In other words, being involved in an enjoyable activity can shift your focus away from whatever is causing you anxiety or stress.
Speak with a Therapist
If you feel stressed regularly and it negatively impacts your life, it may be time to speak to a mental health professional. An excellent therapist, like our verified ones on LGBTQ and ALL, can devise a treatment plan for you to help you cope with stress.
Many mental health providers use techniques for stress from modules of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). These methods have been proven to improve anxiety, trauma, and depression.
If you are curious about starting therapy and want to learn more, be sure to navigate our database at LGBTQ and ALL and stay up-to-date with mental health news via our blog.
The impacts of stress can cause physical and emotional health issues. If you find yourself struggling with it often and have many of the symptoms listed in this article, you can manage it in many ways. Be sure to speak to your doctor or a mental health professional about stress and your health.
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