Understanding Stress: A Beginner’s Guide
Are you feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or irritable lately? Do you constantly worry about mundane things or struggle to focus on your daily tasks? If so, chances are you're experiencing stress. Stress is a normal and natural response to life's challenges. It is an inescapable part of life, but that doesn't mean we have to let it control us. Whether you're a busy professional navigating the demands of work and family or a student facing academic pressures, understanding stress is the key to managing it effectively.
Stress is a natural response to challenges in our lives, but if left unchecked, it can take a serious toll on our mental and physical health. Moreover, understanding stress can help you better manage its effects on your mind and body. In this post, we'll explore everything you need to know about stress - from its causes and symptoms to proven strategies for managing it effectively. Let’s start unraveling the mysteries of stress together!
What is stress?
Stress is the body's response to any demand. It can come from any situation or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress can be physical, mental, and emotional. It is how the body reacts to a challenge. The body's reaction is designed to help us confront or avoid the threat.
Stress can be of the following types:
Episodic acute stress
Signs & Symptoms of Stress
Everyone experiences stress differently. Some may feel uneasy and restless, while others may feel overwhelmed or hopeless. However, there are some common symptoms and signs that can help you pinpoint when you're feeling stressed. We can categorize the symptoms of stress into three types - physical, emotional, and behavioral.
Physical symptoms of stress may include experiencing recurring headaches, chest pain, fatigue, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping. You may also notice changes in your eating habits and an increase in alcohol or drug use.
Emotional symptoms of stress include a range of emotions from feeling irritable, angry, or moody to feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed. You might also need help with concentrating or making decisions about trivial things.
Behavioral symptoms of stress might represent withdrawing from friends and activities; procrastinating or avoiding responsibilities; increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or drugs; and acting out in aggression or violence.
If you're experiencing any of these signs and symptoms, it's important to take steps to manage your stress.
Causes of Stress
Many things in life can cause stress. Although some causes of stress are small and controllable, others can be much greater and tough to cope with. Let us try to understand these causes with the help of some examples:
Working for long hours because you have to meet deadlines and meet the needs of your demanding bosses or clients is causing you to feel burnt out, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
Being a responsible individual, you are supposed to take care of the family members in your house. Managing relationships in a family can also cause an individual a tremendous amount of stress.
Financial stress such as keeping a check of money, and facing a lack of money due to the loss of a job, debt, and sociopolitical reasons are a few of the deep-rooted causes of stress and even anxiety.
You feel sick right before your final exams. The pending classwork and syllabus due to the illness are worrying you too much. Physical illnesses can also cause individual stress.
Big life changes such as starting a new job, moving into a new home, and getting married or divorced can affect a person’s mental health. Adjusting to these changes can be stressful for a lot of us.
The Fight or Flight Response to Stress
When we feel threatened, our bodies go into "fight-or-flight" mode. This releases hormones that increase our heart rate and blood pressure, and give us extra energy and strength. This response is meant to protect us from danger, but it can also be triggered by less life-threatening situations, such as an upcoming presentation at work or meeting a deadline.
Long-lasting stress occurs when the body's fight-or-flight response is continually activated. This can happen if someone sees almost everything as a threat. Chronic stress can lead to serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety disorders, and addiction.
Each person experiences stress from time to time, but if you're frequently feeling overwhelmed by stressful situations, and struggling to deal with stress, it's vital to seek treatment from a doctor or mental health professional.
So now you know the causes of stress and the ways to identify it, in the second part, we'll be sharing some really helpful ways to manage stress and cope with it healthily. We know life can be tough sometimes, but we're here to help you out. Till then take care and we'll catch you in the next part!
Written by: Navya Singh (BA Psychology, FY, The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda)
Proofread & edited by: Rubal Prajapati (Counseling Psychologist and Ph.D. Scholar at Bharathiar University)