Why are we concerned about stress management? It is always said that a little bit of stress can be good for memory and motivation. But when you are stuck in traffic and you are getting late for an official meeting, stress can be a negative force. Whether it is a short-term frustration, like traffic jam, or a major life event, like the demise of a love one or a divorce, psychological stress can affect your body, your thoughts, feelings and behavior.
Being able to recognize some of the common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them. Stress experienced over a prolonged period of time can contribute to health problems such as heart diseases, obesity, diabetes and increased blood pressure.
What is stress: it is the body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat.
Effects of stress
1. Unhealthy food cravings
When you are stressed, your body tends to release a certain hormone called cortisol. This hormone is linked to cravings for sugar and fat.
2. Fat Storage
Research shows that stress can actually increase the amount of fat your body stores and enlarges the size of the fat cells. This can lead to weight gain and increase the risk for obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, which are the major causes of cardiovascular diseases.
3. Severe headaches
Stress can be the major cause of your persistent headaches and migraines. This is due to some neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that your body releases. This also includes making your muscle tense.
4. Brain damage
According to research, major stress is likely to reduce the amount of brain tissue in areas that regulate emotions and self-control.
5. Increased blood pressure, heart diseases and stroke
Chronic stress or constant stress experienced over a long term can contribute to problems in the heart and blood vessels. The consistent and ongoing increase in heart rate and the increased level of stress hormones and blood pressure can increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack and stroke. Chronic stress may also contribute to inflammation of the circulatory system, especially the coronary arteries, leading to heart attacks.
6. Increased blood sugar
When epinephrine and cortisol are released, the liver produces more glucose, which is the blood sugar that gives you more energy to fight an emergency. For people who are constantly stressed, this sugar will not be used by the body and will be reabsorbed. This mechanism will increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially if you are obese.
7. Digestion disorders
With stress, your food intake can increase, as well as your consummation of alcohol or tobacco. In this situation, you are likely to experience acid reflux or heartburn. Severe stress may also lead to stomach pain (due to the increased acidity in your stomach) and affect how fast food moves through your body.
Chronic stress shortens telomeres, which are the protective camps at the end of chromosomes, causing your cells to age fast.
9. Respiratory issues
Studies show that acute stress such as the death of a loved one can actually trigger asthma attacks in which the airway between the nose and the lungs become constricted.
What is stress management
If you are having stress symptoms, taking steps to manage it can have a number of health benefits. Most people are often hooked to unhealthy ways of stress management, which includes:
- Drinking too much
- Zoning out for hours in front of TV or computer
- Using pills or drugs
These among many other strategies might temporary reduce your stress, but cause more damage to your body in the long run. However, there are healthier stress management ways as shown below:
1. Get moving
Studies shows that physical activities can help relieve stress and burn away tension and anger. Exercise often releases endorphins, which boost your mood and make you feel good.
2. Engage socially
There is nothing more calming to your nervous system like communicating with another human being, who makes you feel understood and safe. The experience of safety, as perceived by your nervous system, results from the nonverbal cues that you see, feel and hear.
3. Avoid unnecessary stress
Even though stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors can be predicted. A good example is when you have been called for a meeting with your boss. You can change either the situation or reaction.
4. Alter the situation
If you are not capable of avoiding a stressful situation, then you can alter it. This often involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your life. For instance:
- Be able to express your feelings instead of bottling them up
- Be willing to compromise
- Manage your time wisely
5. Adapt the stressor
The way you think has some level of effects on your stress levels. Every time you think negatively about yourself, your body reacts as if it was in a tension like situation. You can regain your sense of control by changing the expectations and attitudes to stressful situations.
6. Accept things you cannot change
Most sources of stress are unavoidable and you cannot prevent or change the stressors. Stressors such as death of a loved one or national recession are beyond your control. The best way to cope with them is to accept and move on. Acceptance may be difficult but in the end, it is the best way out of stress.
7. Adapt a healthy lifestyle
In addition to exercising regularly, there are other healthy lifestyle choices you can make to increase your resistance to stress. Some of these choices include:
- Eat healthy, reduce caffeine and sugar
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Get enough sleep.
The nonstop stress of modern life means that you will never be 100% percent free from stress. This is the reason why it is important you learn stress management techniques. Exploit some of the techniques listed above, but in case the symptoms are getting out of hand, ensure you seek medical consultation.