Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Management & Prevention.

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Stress response is one way of the body's protection against stress or something overwhelming by assisting an individual stay focused, energetic and alert. Stress many times is a life-saving condition because it provides extra strength to protect oneself for example, wearing floaters while boarding a boat to avoid drowning.

Stress can keep you alert when dealing with challenges like preparing for an exam rather than watching movies or playing games. Unfortunately, above a certain limit, stress stops being helpful and starts causing damages to an individual’s health, mood, productivity, love life and the quality of life.

Always take a step when feeling loaded or overwhelmed and frazzled to bring the central nervous system (CNS) into normalcy. You can always improve the way you think and feel by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and taking precautions to reduce its harmful effects.

The Body’s Stress Response Mechanism

When feeing a threat, the central nervous system (CNS) responds by releasing stress hormones, “adrenaline and cortisol” which accelerates the body’s emergency action. The heart rate increases, muscles become tight, breath quickens, blood pressure rises and the sensory system become sharper. These changes increase your stamina, speed up reaction time and enhance focus triggering a fight-or-flight reaction.

Types Of Stress

There are two known types of stress, that is; acute and severe/chronic stress

  • Acute stress

Is the most common type of stress lasting for a shorter duration and usually occur when one considers a stressor/ event that have occurred recently or when one expects a challenge in the future. Acute stressors are often new and usually have a clear and immediate solution to it.

Short-term effects of acute stress include; distress, headache and tension. Repeated instances of this type of stress over a long duration can lead to chronic stress.

  • Severe/Chronic stress

Chronic stress develops over a long period and has harmful effects. Severe stress makes the nervous system struggle to bring the body's stress to normal levels, in return the body become at risk of developing other medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, obesity other conditions.

Effects of Chronic Stress

  • Sleep disorders
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Reproductive issues
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Weight problem
  • Memory problems
  • Skin conditions like eczema
  • Episodic stress

Is a severe form of stress that may occur for a long period causing a feel of distress in one’s life?

Causes of Stress

Situations and pressures (stressors) that are both negative i.e., relationship complications, financial constraints and positive i.e., building a house, preparing for a marriage/ wedding. However, not all stress is caused by external factors but also internal factors or can be self-generated. For example, excessive worrying about something that may or may not happen, or having irrational or pessimistic thoughts about life.

External Causes of Stress

  • Work or school
  • Relationship complications
  • Financial constraints
  • Major life changes
  • Having a busy schedule
  • Family issues

Internal Causes of Stress

  • Unrealistic expectations
  •  Negative self-talk
  • Pessimism
  • Rigid thinking
  • All or nothing attitude

Example of stressful life events

  • Injury or illness
  • Marriage separation
  • Marriage reconciliation
  • Job loss
  • Retirement
  • Death of a close family member
  • Imprisonment
  • Divorce
  • Death of a loved one

Signs and Symptoms of Stress

Emotional symptoms: this includes, anxiety and agitation, loneliness and isolation, irritability, moodiness or anger, depression or general unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed and other mental problems

Cognitive symptoms: Include poor judgment, anxious or racing thoughts, constant worrying, inability to concentrate, memory problems and seeing only the negative.

Behavioral symptoms: nervous habits, use of alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax, procrastination or neglecting responsibilities, withdrawal from others, sleeping too much or little and eating more or less

Physical symptoms: include, nausea, dizziness, constipation, diarrhea, loss of sex drive, frequent colds or flu, aches and pains and chest pain, rapid heart rate.

How Can One Manage Stress?

Support network: having a stronger support chain from close family members and loved ones has a greater influence against stress because the lonelier and more isolated you become the higher the risk of developing chronic stress.

Ability to deal with emotions: having the ability to recognize and dealing with emotions appropriately increases once tolerance to stress and helps one flee from adversity.

Being mindful and prepared: being knowledgeable about stressful events including their duration and knowing what to expect ease the coping mechanism.

Sense of control: believing in oneself and having the ability to persevere when dealing with and having a positive belief in oneself make it easier to deal with any form of stress

Attitude and outlook: staying positive and hopeful hardens an individual when dealing with stressful events.

Other management techniques include

  • Exercise regularly
  • Professional counseling
  • Learning how to relax and getting enough sleep
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Get enough rest
  • Talking
  • Focus on a healthy relationship

Often people engage in unhealthy behaviors to manage stress and this include:

  • Smoking
  • Substance abuse
  • Gambling
  •  Overeating
  • Drinking too much
  • Participating in sex, internet addiction and shopping frequently

Diagnosis

Diagnosing stress is one of the most challenging problem and healthcare practitioners tend to adopt the use of questionnaires, biochemical measures and physiological techniques to identify stress. However, the common form of diagnosing stress is through a comprehensive, stress-oriented, face-to-face interview with a person having stress.

Treatment

Includes:

  1. Self-help
  2. Therapies like psychotherapy, aromatherapy and reflexology that help in relaxation
  3. Insurance providers: some insurance companies offer

Medication

In most cases, physicians do not prescribe medication for stress unless there is an underlying condition like depression or anxiety. However, sometimes they may prescribe antidepressants for depression, anti-anxiety and sleeping aids.

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