Do you suffer from stress?
If so, you aren’t alone.
Stress is a natural feeling of feeling not able to cope with specific demands and situations. But, if it’s not handled correctly, it can become a chronic condition.
Stress is the first stage of the flight or fight reaction our brains face when faced with something unpleasant. It is the typical response to danger – an ingrained reflex that incites you to tackle the danger head-on or run away, screaming madly from it. Or, perhaps you freeze – you are frozen to the spot with an inability to move if you are terrified.
This response to fear isn’t a simple thing – it’s connected to the way our brains are wired with the neurological and biochemical systems that prepare our brains and bodies, for having to deal with a threat.
It’s regulated by a mega complicated suite of brain networks and hormonal reactions.
When we are under emotional attack, scientists believe our two amygdalae, one on each side of the brain, behind the eyes and the optical nerves, detect any possible conflict and prepare us for emergency response.
So, when we perceive a threat, our internal alarms, the amygdala, release a cascade of chemicals in our bodies. This is what gives makes our stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to flood our system and preparing us for ‘fight or flight.’ These are a set of prehistoric physiological responses that are designed to move us into action.
We notice a physical change when we’re under stress, such as heat flushes in our face, sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat, perhaps even a quiver in our limbs.
This stress response has a number of potent effects on us – it increases our focus on negative things, such as whatever it is that’s causing us the stress, and it puts the brain into a more alert state, so you become more sensitive to risks and hazards.
Stress can also be a motivator, and it can even be essential to survival. Your body’s fight-or-flight ability tells you when and how to respond to danger. However, when you become triggered too easily, or there are too many stressors, it can undermine your mental and physical health and become harmful.
What causes us stress?
There are a number of things that can cause us stress – it is mainly subjective, and it often comes from negative changes or influences in our lives, when they occur with too much intensity. Because of the way our brains are wired, if you don’t like something or don’t want it to happen, it can and probably will stress you out.
Demands from work, relationships, financial pressures, and any other situation that can be viewed as posing a real or perceived challenge to your well-being, is seen as stress.
There are generally thought to be two types of stress: chronic stress which develops over a long period of time and is harmful and; acute stress which is short-term and usually the most common form of stress.
Acute stress can be caused by a recent argument or an upcoming deadline. However, the stress can be reduced or disappear once you’ve resolved the argument or met the deadline.
With acute stressors there are often new situations and tend to have a clear and immediate solution. Even with difficult challenges that you may face, there are possible ways to get out of the situation.
Whereas with chronic stress the reasons such as an unhappy marriage, poverty, a dysfunctional family can make it difficult for the body to return to a normal level of stress hormone activity, which can lead to serious health issues such as sleep or heart issues.
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your own life.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds because the real sources of your stress aren’t always distinct, and it’s all too easy to overlook your stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Of course, you may know that you’re always worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than your actual job demands, that leads to that deadline stress.
So, if you do feel unnaturally wound-up and stressed, you should start by consulting a doctor.
Typically, your doctor will diagnose stress by asking you about your life and symptoms.
You don’t usually get prescribed medication for stress unless you are also being treated for an underlying illness such as depression or anxiety disorder.
There are no straightforward fixes to ‘fixing’ stress, but there are ways in which it is thought that most of us can reduce stress.
They may sound straight-forward and perhaps simple, but following these simple steps can help you manage your stress and to help you get your life back into a stress-free zone.
Management can include exercise, reduction of alcohol, drugs, and caffeine; nutrition; time-management; breathing and relaxation; talking to others; acknowledging the signs.
You are noticing signs and symptoms. You may have stressed it is the first step to taking action.
Perhaps you are one of the many people who experience work stress due to long working hours, and you may need to ‘take a step back.’ It may be time for you to look at your working practices or talk to someone about finding ways to reduce your workload.
Being part of a group of people who also share stress issues can help reduce the risk of stress developing or continuing as well as providing you with support and practical advice when challenging situations occur.
If you are finding stress is affecting your everyday life, you must talk to a medical professional who will be able to point you in the right direction for help.
Because managing stress is all about taking charge of your own life again: taking control of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule, your environment, and the way you deal with problems instead of letting your stress control you.
The ultimate goal is to get a balanced life, with time for your work, relationships, relaxation, as well as fun, and learn how to acquire the resilience to hold yourself up under pressure and meet stressful challenges head-on.
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