Modern life is full of frustrations and demands. For many people, stress is a commonplace such that it has become a way of life. Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which arouses the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increases your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus. This is known as the “fight or flight” stress response and is your body’s way of protecting you.
The body’s autonomic nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing between daily stressors and life-threatening events. If you’re stressed over an argument with a friend, a traffic jam on your commute to work, or a mountain of bills, for example, your body can still react as if you’re facing a life-or-death situation. When you repeatedly experience the fight or flight stress response in your daily life, it can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and leave you vulnerable to a host of mental and emotional problems.
Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work and sharpens your concentration. latest research into the brain shows that we, as mammals, have three ways of regulating our nervous systems and responding to stress:
Social engagement is our most evolved strategy for keeping ourselves feeling calm and safe. Since the vagus nerve connects the brain to sensory receptors in the ear, eye, face and heart, socially interacting with another person—making eye contact, listening in an attentive way, feeling understood—can calm you down and put the brakes on defensive responses like “fight-or-flight.” When using social engagement, you can think and feel clearly, and body functions such as blood pressure, heartbeat, digestion, and the immune system continue to work uninterrupted.
Mobilization, otherwise known as the fight-or-flight response. When social engagement isn’t an appropriate response and we need (or think we need) to either defend ourselves or run away from danger, the body prepares for mobilization. It releases chemicals to provide the energy you need to protect yourself. At the same time, body functions not needed for fight or flight—such as the digestive and immune systems—stop working. Once the danger has passed, your nervous system calms the body, slowing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and winding back down to its normal balance.
Immobilization. This is the least evolved response to stress and used by the body only when social engagement and mobilization have failed. You may find yourself traumatized or “stuck” in an angry, panic-stricken or otherwise dysfunctional state, unable to move on. In extreme, life-threatening situations, you may even lose consciousness, enabling you to survive high levels of physical pain. However, until you’re able to arouse your body to a mobilization response, your nervous system may be unable to return to its pre-stress state of balance.
Common external causes of stress
• Major life changes
• Work or school
• Relationship difficulties
• Financial problems
• Being too busy
• Children and family
Common internal causes of stress
• Chronic worry
• Negative self-talk
• Unrealistic expectations/Perfectionism
• Rigid thinking, lack of flexibility
• All-or-nothing attitude
Factors that influence your stress tolerance
•Your exercise levels- Your physical and mental health are intrinsically linked, so the better you take care of your body, the greater resilience you’ll have against the symptoms of stress. Exercising regularly (for 30 minutes or more on most days) can lift your mood and help relieve stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration. It can also serve as a distraction to your worries, allowing you to find some quiet time and break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed stress and anxiety.
•Your diet- The food you eat can also have a profound effect on your mood and how well you cope with life’s stressors. Eating a diet full of processed and convenience food, refined carbohydrates, and sugary snacks can worsen symptoms of stress while eating a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
•Your sense of control – It may be easier to take stress in your stride if you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges. If you feel like things are out of your control, you’re likely to have less tolerance for stress.
•Your attitude and outlook – Optimistic people are often more stress-hardy. They tend to embrace challenges, have a strong sense of humor, and accept that change is a part of life.
•Your ability to deal with your emotions – You’re extremely vulnerable to stress if you don’t know how to calm and soothe yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed by a situation. The ability to bring your emotions into balance helps you bounce back from adversity and is a skill that can be learned at any age.
•Your knowledge and preparation – The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to cope. For example, if you go into surgery with a realistic picture of what to expect post-op, a painful recovery will be less traumatic than if you were expecting to bounce back immediately.
Indeed, stress symptoms can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
COMMON EFFECT OF STRESS ON YOUR BODY
-Headache, Muscle tension or pain,
Chest pain, Fatigue, Change in sex drive.
COMMON EFFECT OF STRESS ON YOUR MOOD
-Anxiety, Restlessness, Lack of motivation or focus, Feeling overwhelmed, Irritability or anger
COMMON EFFECT OF STRESS ON YOUR BEHAVIOUR
-Overeating or undereating, Angry outbursts, Drug or alcohol abuse, Tobacco use, Social withdrawal, jaw clenching or pain, Gritting, grinding teeth, Tremors, trembling of lips, hands
Neck ache, back pain, muscle spasms, Light headedness, faintness, dizziness
Ringing, buzzing or “popping sounds, Frequent blushing, sweating, Frequent colds, infections, herpes sores, Rashes, itching, hives, “goose bumps”, Excess belching, flatulence, Constipation, diarrhea, loss of control, Difficulty breathing, frequent sighing, Sudden attacks of life threatening panic, Chest pain, palpitations, rapid pulse, Frequent urination, Diminished sexual desire or performance, Feeling overloaded or overwhelmed, Obsessive or compulsive behavior, Rapid or mumbled speech, Excessive defensiveness or suspiciousness, Problems in communication, sharing, Constant tiredness, weakness, fatigue, Weight gain or loss without diet, Increased smoking, alcohol or drug use