What Is Stress and Stress Symptoms? How to Relieve and Reduce Stress?

Stress has become the new buzzword in town. It is something we go through almost every day of our life. In small doses, stress is a good thing as it keeps us on our toes. However, the current lifestyle demands a lot from an individual, which has rendered us continually stressed. It has blurred the line between the amount that is needed for us to survive and the amount of stress which will have both physical and psychological implications due to prolonged exposure.

WHAT IS STRESS?

Stress is the response of our body to a particularly challenging situation which arises suddenly. The brain sets off a chain reaction of changes and diffuses a cocktail of chemicals (hormones) which prepare us either for a “fight- or -flight” response to any situation we face. The changes which stress brings about is a precariously balanced between both physical and psychological.
Though stress is something that cannot be avoided entirely, its presence makes us wary of our surroundings. It also influences us to make a decision which will be the most appropriate for the situation we face. However constant exposure to stress can lead to the normal functioning of our body to go haywire. Stress is now gaining popularity for all wrong reasons. It is becoming one of the fast growing cause which is solely responsible for a variety of diseases again, both of which have mental and
physical manifestation.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE BODY IS STRESSED?

Stress is not something that discriminates; it is something we all face. Age, gender, profession no bar, it is what we all go through. A fast-approaching deadline for a project, low test scores, pending unfinished tasks are some of the situations enough to cause stress in all of us. But what happens to us when our brain gets stressed?

  • Hormones like cortisol, adrenaline, and non-adrenaline are released into the bloodstream
  • These hormones will increase our pulse rate and blood pressure.
  • Stress alters primary bodily systems, like the digestive system, for example, slows down.
  • The immune system stops functioning at full capacity.
  • Muscles become tense, and the body becomes alert.
  • This alertness drives away any feeling of tiredness, also in some cases might cause sweating.

Keeping in mind all this, subjecting our bodies to a significant amount of stress all the time might cause changes which cannot be altered. In other words, by being in highly stressful situations can cause long-term, irreparable damage to our bodies.

WHAT CAUSES STRESS?

With a host of situations we face or sometimes create for ourselves, we are bound to meet stress almost always. Given our hectic lifestyles, the competitions we face in every aspect, and in certain circumstances, our mere complacency has made us accustomed to stress in our everyday life. It is a sorry state of living. The above cases are more like causes of stress in a much broader sense.
Certain other reasons are:

  1. Considerable milestones in life, like marriage, family, promotions.
  2. Cash crunch or lack of time.
  3. Divorces, illnesses, family problems.
  4. Old age, retirement, imprisonment.
  5. Peer pressure, among teens, is leading cause of stress.
  6. Also some environmental triggers like noise, aggressive behavior, pollution, etc.
  7. Mental disorders like social anxiety also cause stress.
  8. Negative outlook and overall pessimistic approach to life
  9. Unrealistic expectations and finding faults everywhere.
  10. Fear of change and uncertainty.
  11. Post-traumatic stress disorder caused due to undergoing traumatic experiences in the past.

All the factors which cause stress are called ‘stressors.’ Prolonged exposure to stressors will impair the prime functioning of the body.

SYMPTOMS OF STRESS:

Stress is almost a disease in itself. This is the reason why we describe its symptoms. First of all the implication is both on our body and our psyche. So we broadly classify the signs based on physical complications and psychological manifestation.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Hypertension
  • High blood pressure
  • Acidity
  • Cramps
  • Heart diseases
  • A headache
  • Lower libido
  • Lower immunity against diseases
  • Excessive sweating and nervous twitches
  • It was proven in some studies that stress also caused obesity in children.

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Excessive anger
  • Sadness
  • Metal breakdown
  • Frequent crying
  • Fatigue
  • Insecurity
  • Stress in expectant mothers can lead to many dire complications to the unborn fetus.
  • Insomnia
  • Forgetfulness
  • Irritability

All these can also lead to the development of various behavioral changes like developing cravings, stress eating, finding solace in drugs and alcohol, sudden emotional outbursts. Curing stress or stress management is very important because if left unchecked, stress can even lead to untimely death of an individual.

HOW DO WE MANAGE STRESS?

Stress management is of prime importance in this age and time where the sedentary lifestyle is prevalent. Although stress is not something that can entirely be avoided, some measures can be adopted to at least keep it in check before it can move to a more damaging stage.
There are three types of stress. First is Acute stress which is short lived and is relatively simple to manage. Arguments, fights with people, fast approaching deadlines are known to cause acute stress. Episodic acute stress is the second type. It is, as the name suggests, is the acute stress experienced by a person frequently. This is one of the most easily avoidable stresses there is. All the person has to do is be at the top of their game and avoid complacency and procrastination. This, however, is something most of us fail to do and end up with complications like high blood pressure and heart diseases.
The last type is the chronic stress. It is something that wreaks havoc in our lives and can even go up to claim lives. Unfortunately, the boundary between acute and chronic stress is becoming thinner. This has led to a lot of ugly consequences including loss of human life.
Some simple but effective ways of stress management are:

  • Exercise: It has proven to be useful because it not only keeps us physically fit but also releases “feel good” hormones which are a necessity in the combat against stress.
  • Healthy diet: This supplies the body with enough nutrients to build up an excellent defensive immune system which had been rendered less effective because of stress. A balanced diet also provides the digestive system with enough fuel because the digestive system also happens to be collateral damage caused by stress.
  • Prioritizing and following a rigorous schedule: Getting things done on time is a huge stress reliever according to my personal experiences. By prioritizing we can eliminate essential tasks when we are mentally competent rather than pushing it to a time where we are flustered already because of the fast-approaching deadline. Also, time management leaves us with plenty of time to decompress naturally.
  • Pursuing hobbies: Hobbies are things that hold our interest, something that we enjoy doing. When we enjoy doing something we feel good about it. This happens to be the greatest enemy of stress.
  • Surrounding ourselves with positive people and energy that help us to gain perspective and be happy. We should also lower our expectations and try to find happiness in small things rather than
    waiting for the next big thing.
  • Acknowledging the reason behind the stress and seeing people who have experienced similar incidents will affect the mind in a right way. Building a network that will get us through our high tension situation is nothing short of a miracle. Just knowing that there is someone out there works wonders while distressing.
  • Also, seeking medical help by certified physicians for causes which are beyond our control can also help.
  • Yoga and meditation: Famous for calming our raging minds this is one of the holistic approaches used for stress management.

We must all remember that at the end of the day, all of us strive to be happy. We can be satisfied only when we cut down on stress. What more! A life without a significant amount of stress does wonders for
our health too, just as they say health is wealth.