Our lives in the modern world with increased screen time, work deadlines, and maintaining work-life balance have become a hassle, and we experience several stressful situations in day-to-day life. Stress is an inevitable part of one’s life, and we all experience different magnitudes of stress while doing our activities.
You might feel stressed before a public debate while giving a presentation or traveling to a new place. Some people might experience numbness at the thought of such an experience, while others enjoy and consider it a thrilling moment.
What is Stress?
The answer varies from one to another person; what is stressful to you might not be stressful for someone else, or even if it is stressful, the intensity may vary. According to the generally known definition, stress is anything that is the cause of unrest for the individual and dysfunctionality.
Stress is an innate response to danger, resulting in a surge in hormones that might lead to fight or flight response, or being paralyzed in the emergency. People may perceive the threat as immediate or farther away, and it can be real or imagined, but the body can not identify the difference.
Eustress Vs. Distress
Stress can be positive (eustress) and negative or (distress). You might question and ponder how could the stress be positive?
|Eustress (Positive Stress)||Distress (Negative Stress)|
|Short-term||May be short-term or long-term|
|People can face and handle the challenge||Hinders the ability to perform activities, communication, and thinking clearly|
|Motivates people to improve performance||Decreases performance and is perceived as negative|
|Your energy is focused on the activity/ challenge||Difficulty in maintaining focus and lack of energy|
|People perceive the situation within the coping ability||Recognized as outside of coping skills, and can be life-threatening|
|Provides positive experience and feels exciting||Experiencing feelings of anxiety and overwhelming response|
|May lead to personal growth||Might lead to physical and mental problems|
|For instance, birth or child, buying a home or a car, moving to a new place/ college/ university||For example, the diagnosis of life-threatening disease, death of a loved one, loss of a job/ home, divorce/ separation, abuse|
Does Stress Depend on Perspective?
The interpretation of events and situations depend on personal experiences and perceptions that vary from one to another person. People have different perspectives and reactions to conditions around; therefore, we can not categorize eustress or distress as a universal experience.
Types of Stress
Three types of stress are identified by the American Psychological Association; acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. These types of stress can make people experience a lack of energy or feeling irritable, unwell; however, chronic stress is a severe condition that is often ignored.
1. Acute Stress
Acute stress is experienced by everyone, where you might enjoy a new and challenging experience that might be not very comforting to some condition—for instance, skiing down a mountain slope or a thrilling ride on a roller coaster.
Acute stress is usually harmless, and it can be useful as it provides your body and brain with the growth of positive response to stressful situations.
However, severe acute stress is experienced when you face a life-threatening situation that might lead to mental health problems or post-traumatic stress disorder.
For instance, if you miss a car accident, fall behind a deadline at work/ college, or get a call from your child’s school. The symptoms of stress, in this case, usually last for some time and fade away as the emergency passes.
2. Episodic Acute Stress
Frequent episodes of acute stress lead to episodic acute stress, and as a response, you might feel anxious and suspect future events. People might experience a chaotic life, and one may feel going from one crisis to another.
Often some professions like firefighters, crisis management, law enforcement personnel experience stressful situations. Acute episodic stress has an impact on your physical and mental well-being.
Some people may turn to unhealthy strategies to cope with episodic acute stress, such as binge eating, being in a toxic relationship, or excessive drinking. Moreover, there is a chance that you might lose interest in your goals and meaningful activities, with a lack of motivation to pursue in life.
Therefore, it is fundamental to manage these episodes of stress with the help of a therapist, to help you focus and minimize the likelihood of serious illnesses.
3. Chronic Stress
When someone experiences high levels of stress for an extended time, it is known as chronic stress. Long-term stress can harm your health, which might also contribute to anxiety, depression, heart diseases, high blood pressure, headaches, upset stomach, sleep difficulties, and a weak immune system.
For instance, a traumatic childhood or experiencing a traumatic event in life might lead to chronic stress. People often start to blame themselves for the ‘situations’ and ‘issues’ that they face, and this is not healthy behavior.
You should seek help from a psychiatrist to learn protective and healthy coping mechanisms and to get the help that you deserve. It is essential that you do not blame yourself for everything that goes uncertain.
When you face a stressful event, distinguish the type of stress that you feel to help in the development of a clear understanding of the circumstances.
Causes of Stress
The causes of acute or chronic stress may include.
1. Personal Problems
- Health; diagnosis of a life-threatening illness or disease, aging, paralysis (either oneself or a close relation), being homeless
- Relationships; arguments and misunderstandings with the spouse, children, or family member. Familial stressors like living in an abusive relationship, unhappy marriage, separation/ divorce, issues in child custody
- Emotional; difficulty in expressing emotions or inability to relate to someone close
- Life changes; the death of a loved one, loss of home, job, or a child going to another state/ country for study or work. Getting married, having kids, and retirement may also contribute to stress
- Financial problems; inability to provide for the family, or being in debt
2. Social Problems
- Workplace; pressure and challenging deadlines at the workplace may cause stress
- Discrimination; based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation
- Unsafe neighborhood; crime in the town might contribute to chronic stress
3. Experiencing Traumatic Events
- Life-threatening incidents; like rape, abduction, war, or armed robbery, being a victim of a crime
- Experiencing a catastrophic event; a human-made or natural disaster
Signs and Symptoms
Stress is accompanied by a variety of symptoms that could be physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral. The symptoms associated with all these categories are summarized as follows
1. Physical symptoms
The physical symptoms for stress contribute to low energy, chest pain, headache, muscle tension, frequent colds, sweating, increased heart rate, and dryness of the mouth.
2. Emotional symptoms
The emotional symptoms of stress include feeling frustrated, agitated, irritated, overwhelmed, low self-esteem, alone, worthless, depression, losing control, and avoiding others.
3. Cognitive symptoms
The cognitive symptoms of stress comprised racing thoughts, forgetfulness, insufficient attention, disorganization, constant worry, lack of focus, inability to make a judgment, and pessimistic thinking (i.e., seeing the negative side of matters of positive ones).
4. Behavioral symptoms
The behavioral symptoms for stress comprise procrastination (i.e., delaying task completion until the 11th hour), nail-biting, change in sleeping patterns, loss or increase in appetite, and substance use.
Psychological and Physical Problems that Accompany Stress
A study suggests that long-term stress can bring along several psychological and physical problems.
The common psychological problems that might accompany stress are depression, insomnia or lack of sleep, hypersomnia or excess sleep, anxiety, aggressiveness, and personality issues (i.e., abnormal, persistent patterns of traits).
Physical problems like cardiovascular diseases (i.e., abnormal heart rhythm, stroke, heart attack), skin problems, obesity, hair loss, and gastrointestinal issues are also significantly observed along with stress.
To avoid and manage the effects of stress, the management of stress levels is very important. Stress management is essential before stress elevates to the point where it couldn’t remain manageable. Also, it would ensure healthier and happier living for the individual.
According to a study, the following tips might help you manage the level of stress.
1. Surround yourself with Healthy Relationships
Surround yourself with people who have a positive encouraging attitude and make you feel good about yourself and help you maintain a positive outlook towards yourself, others, and the future.
2. Have a Positive Attitude
Maintain a positive attitude towards matters and try to avoid negative thinking or a pessimistic approach.
3. Consume Healthy Diet
Take a healthy balanced diet. It will help our body hormones be in harmony and improve your ability to fight against stressful stimuli.
4. Adopt an Active Lifestyle
Exercise regularly, and it doesn’t necessarily mean a tiring work-out for hours. A mere 15-30 minutes’ walk in a peaceful park or your home’s garden could also help you relax and be less stressed.
5. Learn to Say ‘No’ Politely
Remain assertive instead of being aggressive. It is better to say no for the things which are out of your ability or feasibility in a humble straight manner instead of either being hard on yourself to fulfill the request or to become rude and aggressive.
6. Practice Relaxation Exercises
Learn different relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, and tai-chi. These relaxation techniques help keep the body in equilibrium and relax the tensed muscle, which would result in decreasing the stress level because our physiological or bodily states are directly associated with our psychological state.
7. Practice Time Management
Practice time management as time constraints is also one of the stressors. Thus, the proper management of time would help you finish your tasks way before time and avoid a stressful situation that might be imposed by time constraints.
8. Invest in your Hobbies
Take out time for hobbies in your life’s busy schedule. We all follow a callous agenda with a hundred tasks to accomplish daily. In this busy daily routine, spare some time for your hobbies and entertain yourself with a me-time? It will help avoid feeling over-fatigued and lethargic.
9. Daily Journal
Keep a daily diary to record all-day events or journal and write in it; small affirmations, short quotes (which could certainly be your own!), and happenings of the day. It will help you cherish the little moments of your life.
If you are experiencing a difficult time, do not feel that you are alone, and do not hesitate to help. You might think that it will go on its own, but it might get complicated to handle on your own. Seek medical consultation and visit a psychologist to help you find hope in the stressful events.
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