What causes stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction when a person feels anxious in response to demands or threats. Although it can cause you to feel pressured and/or fearful, stress can also be positive in situations where it helps you to get things accomplished due to a fear of failure. It affects everyone on many different levels depending on the individual and the situation. Stress releases a “fight or flight” response to protect yourself when you are faced with a possibly dangerous or threatening situation.
Long-term effects of stress
When we find ourselves in stressful situations on a regular basis and avoid handling it in healthy ways, it can be detrimental for our mental and physical health. The most common long-term effects stress can cause on the body are:
- Tension headaches
- Weakened immune system
- High blood pressure, pounding heart (increased risk of heart attack)
- High blood sugar
- Muscle tension
- Low libido
- Fertility problems
Coping with stress
Stress is a process often caused when we are faced with too many demands than what we are able to cope with. We feel more stressed about some situations over others as a result of how we measure their importance. The type of stress that does not motivate or benefit us if not dealt with, can lead to many other mental health problems such as depression and severe anxiety. Whatever the situation, there are ways of dealing with stress in order to reduce it, some basic techniques include:
- Talking about your problems with people that you trust such as close friends, family members, co-workers, etc., can provide comfort and support. Verbally expressing your thoughts and worries can assist in finding a resolution which in turn will reduce the amount of stress.
- Seek professional help when you recognise that you are struggling beyond your control or where you may start to experience self-harm or suicidal ideation. Speaking with a professional counsellor, psychologist or social worker will be able to provide you with more assistance and will help you to gain important skills for handling stress.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet with regular meals should be followed in order to maintain proper brain function. When we are depriving our bodies of essential nutrients and regular meals, our body and brain becomes tired, making it harder to think clearly, affecting our decision-making skills and emotions. Consuming drugs and/or alcohol will increase additional health problems and the after-effects will also cause more stress.
- Getting enough sleep each night is also crucial in order for your brain to be able to perform at its highest function throughout the day. Generally, adults require 7-9 hours of sleep whilst growing children and teenagers may need more. The exact number of hours will differ slightly with each individual depending on their mental and physical activity.
- Taking regular time-out to relax by doing activities such as yoga or meditation will give your mind and body a break from your thoughts and will help you to decrease the stress significantly.
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