Stress – a dreaded word and very often called the ‘silent killer’ as it does just that if left unmanaged. It is the body’s reaction to any change that requires a response or an adjustment, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional, and the body reacts to these changes or adjustments in certain ways.
Stress is a normal part of life and affects us every day. No matter where you are or what you are doing, there are many factors in the environment that can cause stress, whether slight or intense and particularly in today’s society, where we feel bombarded by fast-developing technology from every angle and the desire for ‘bigger, better, faster, higher’.
Types of Stress and the Effect on Health
There are two types of stress – positive stress and negative stress – both of which the body will experience and react to in order to help you cope with tough situations. Triggered by everyday situations, stress causes the body to react by releasing hormones and increasing the heart rate, which in turn supplies more oxygen to the brain, giving you that ‘sharper edge’.
Positive stress is also known as ‘eustress’ and has a number of beneficial effects. Eustress is the body’s way of keeping us alert in order to avoid danger, such as giving an extra burst of adrenalin to accomplish a certain goal or reach a target. This can cause heightened awareness and mental alertness, motivation, and determination to succeed and maximum efficiency. The effects of an adrenalin rush do not last long, however, have a powerful long-lasting impact, such as a boost in self-esteem.
Negative stress, however, is the killer, particularly if left unchecked and unmanaged. Also known as ‘distress’, stress becomes negative when difficult situations or challenges are constant and ongoing, without relief, such as events like death, divorce, disaster, or physical illness. This in turn causes your body to change into ‘survival’ mode, which can have prolonged effects on your health if stress-levels elevate for longer than necessary.
Symptoms and Signs of Stress
- Sleep disturbance (insomnia, sleeping fitfully)
- Grinding teeth
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty swallowing
- Agitated behavior, like twiddling your fingers
- Increased heart rate
- General restlessness
- Non-cardiac chest pains
- Sweaty palms
- High blood pressure
- Lack of energy
Studies show that stress has an adverse effect on other health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, insomnia, extreme fatigue, and depression, as well as suppressing the immune system and increasing the chance of illness. It has also been suggested that stress plays a vital role in the development of cancer, gastrointestinal, skin, neurologic, and emotional disorders.
If stress is not managed and kept under control, it can lead to serious health implications and depression. Therefore, it is vital to ensure your stress levels are kept to a minimum. In case your lifestyle is the cause of your stress i.e. work, home life, try to make a positive change that will decrease your stress levels. If this is not possible, some great ways of handling and managing stress include:
At least 30 minutes every day releases endorphins into your bloodstream and immediately makes you feel better. Yoga is a fantastic way to relieve stress.
Follow a healthy, balanced diet to ensure you are getting all the vitamins, minerals you need to function at capacity. Avoid stimulants like coffee and sugary foods and drinks.
Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, your body heals while it sleeps and this will work wonders for getting rid of some of that stress.
Simplify and prioritize
Cut out what isn’t important and focus on just a few things at a time.