Stress is an entirely normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life. In simple terms, your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This has been labeled the “fight-or-flight” response. Other times, you may just freeze, which can be equally as damaging.
Fight – Aggression
When your body goes into a state of stress, you may feel agitated and aggressive towards others. This is because your body naturally goes into a state of “fight”, which can be a helpful reaction in certain circumstances. However, in many modern-day life situations, this can negatively affect relationships and even ruin reputations.
Flight – Run Away Fast
Another natural reaction is to go into a state of “Flight”, which can be a useful mode of survival, for example, when we find ourselves in dangerous surroundings. In everyday life, however, we are often unable to run away and, when we do, we realise that the stressor is quick to catch up with us.
Freeze – Deer in the Headlights
For some people, energy is created by a perceived threat and gets “locked” into the nervous system causing them to ‘freeze’. This response sometimes reveals itself when we breathe. Holding our breath and shallow breathing in stressful situations are both examples of this freeze scenario. The occasional deep sigh is the nervous system catching up on its oxygen intake.
Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. Unfortunately, the nonstop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely shuts off. That’s why stress management is so important.
Without stress management, all too often your body is always on high alert. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems.
- Mental and Emotional Breakdown
- Taking one’s own life
- Serious health issues including:
- Cardiovascular disease: The heart is the first organ in the body to experience stress.
- Stress has a profound impact on how your body’s systems function. In particular, stress makes your body more hospitable to cancer.
- Stroke: Stress can cause a rise in blood pressure. The main cause of hemorrhagic stroke is high blood pressure, which can weaken the arteries in the brain and make them prone to split or rupture.
The first step in effective stress management is recognising stress. Things to look out for might include:
- Mood fluctuations
- Deliberately avoiding situations / becoming withdrawn
- Using negative / cynical language
- Increasingly irritated / annoyed / frustrated
- Indecision / exercising poor judgment
- Reliance on alcohol / substances
- More accident prone
How does stress affect us?
Individuals experience stress in different ways which means that stress can manifest itself in different ways also. A common feature of stress is the negative effects that invariably follow. Prevention of stress is difficult. Therefore, the focus should be on seeking to minimise the risk of stress by identifying stress-related problems as early as possible, so that action can be taken before serious stress-related illness occurs.
There will be changes in a person who becomes stressed. These changes may be emotional, physical or behavioural, or a combination of all three. These changes will be negative in nature and should be observed over a period of time (e.g. 5 days) since everyone is liable to having a bad day every so often. It is well accepted that prolonged stress makes people ill.
- Memory Problems
- Poor Judgment
- Inability to Concentrate / Indecisiveness
- Loss of sense of humour
- Loss of pride in appearance
- Increase consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and/or caffeine to relax
- Isolating behaviour
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Mood swings
- Frequent colds / flu
- Teeth grinding
- Headaches & migraines
- Chest Pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Aches and pains
Tips to help with stress management
- Get enough sleep
- Listen to music
- Take breaks
- Rest if you are tired or ill
- Learn to say ‘No’
- Regular exercise
- Organise yourself and your time better
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and refined sugar products
If you would like to discuss any issues that may cause you stress or discuss stress management generally then please make an appointment to see one of our Doctors at www.cssdoctor.ie. We are here to help you!
Extracts from http://www.stress.org.uk/