According to the American Psychological Association, NY, 77% of people in the US claim to suffer physical symptoms caused by stress, with 33% admitting to feeling as though they are living with extreme stress. Stress and anxiety can have debilitating effects on the lives of sufferers, in some cases having a serious effect on both physical and mental health.
Causes of stress
The 6 main causes of stress can be defined as:
- Job pressure: work relationships, redundancy, employer
- Finances: bills, bankruptcy, loans, mortgages
- Health: weight gain, obesity, medical conditions
- Relationships: marriage, children, friendships, bereavement
- Media: television, news
- Sleep deprivation
With such vast differences between the causes of stress, it can be difficult to know how to treat the symptoms. In many cases, sufferers don’t even acknowledge that they suffer from stress so it’s important to understand the recognizable symptoms to seek appropriate help and advice.
Physical symptoms of stress
The symptoms of stress may be easily dismissed as the general aches and pains of daily activities but when they occur regularly or for a prolonged period of time, they may lead to more serious health problems. The most common physical symptoms you may become aware of are increased blood pressure, headaches, nausea, indigestion and perspiration. When stressed, the body goes into emergency mode and releases adrenalin into the body as though in preparation for danger. However, as many stressful situations occur in static environments such as at home or work, these chemicals are not given an opportunity to be used up, causing changes which may affect your health.
Other more subtle physical changes you may notice are dry eyes, muscle tension, constipation, pupil dilation and shallow breathing.
Emotional symptoms of stress
The emotional symptoms may be more difficult to recognize but they commonly occur in the form of moodiness, irritability, agitation, a feeling of being overwhelmed, feelings of loneliness and, in more serious cases, depression.
When it comes to coping with stress, the solutions can be different for every individual depending on personal issues. Nevertheless, there are some useful tips for targeting most forms of stress.
Dealing with stress
Firstly as many stress issues stem from too much pressure, it’s a good idea to work on managing your time. By making a list of the things you need to do, in order of priority, you can then ensure you complete a set of tasks throughout the day which will give you a sense of relief and achievement at the end of the day. You can then tick off each item on the list and set it aside as a completed task. This simple method can be used whether your tasks involve preparing presentations at work, sending emails or even simply emptying the dishwasher.
Secondly, it’s always a good idea to take regular breaks from whatever you are doing. Think back to revision time at school; your teachers would always advise you to take a break or a short walk between revision sessions. The same applies to other stressful tasks because a change of scene can help you to relax and avoid prolonged periods of intense work. You may find that taking a break will help you in other ways. For example, if you work at a computer all day, spending half an hour away from your desk for a short walk will help to ease eye strain which can cause headaches, will stretch your muscles to ease tension and the exercise will boost circulation.
Many people who suffer from stress caused by health problems may be tempted to try to set problems aside or avoid dealing with them. Though it is difficult to face certain problems directly, scheduling appointments with doctors, dentists, opticians will help you to fully understand any problems and work towards solving them. Medical professionals will be able to offer the most suitable, comprehensive and comforting advice.
These methods can be difficult to make time for in a busy day but it’s important to remember the health benefits. In terms of physical activities to ease stress, there are some simple exercises you can do. Similar to meditation, deep breathing techniques can help to ease anxiety and create a feeling of calm. At tense moments, take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders and close your eyes.
Other popular stress-relieving solutions include:
- Diet: Certain foods and drinks are believed to relieve stress such as chamomile tea which is claimed to promote sleep and a sense of calm.
- Exercise: Yoga, Pilates and other gentle exercises rely on breathing techniques and stretches to release tension and ease the mind. Other, more vigorous exercises also release feel-good endorphins in the body.
- Leisure: Activities such as socializing, listening to music and reading can be a welcome distraction from stressful situations.
- Medication: If advised by your doctor, some medications may be suitable to relieve the symptoms of stress.
Are you able to recognize your symptoms of stress? How do you deal with it?