Stress can be broadly defined as an automatic physical response to events that make you feel threatened or that upset your balance in some way. While it helps you rise to meet challenges and allows you to stay energetic and alert, to continually be in this state means that the body’s chemicals are constantly being stimulated. At this point, stress stops being helpful and leads to imbalance, causing damage to your physical health, as well as your mood, relationships and productivity.
This section helps you better understand how the stress response works, as well as the different types of stress that exist. By finding healthy ways to manage and cope with stress as it occurs, it is possible to reduce many of its negative health consequences. The page Stress Management provides you with some healthy tips to help you relieve stress and stay in control of your life.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. At times of danger, the body's innate intelligence automatically takes charge by triggering a set of changes that bypass our rational thoughts. When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones awaken the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath accelerates, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
When working properly, stress helps you rise to meet challenges and allows you to stay focused, energetic, and alert. However, to continually be in this state means that the body chemicals associated with fight and flight are constantly being stimulated. At this point, stress stops being helpful and leads to imbalance, causing damage to your physical health, as well as your mood, relationships and productivity.
According to the American Psychological Association , there are three types of stress – acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress. A description of each is provided below:
Below are some of the most common psychological, emotional, physical and behavioural symptoms of stress:
It is important to recognise the warning signs of stress early to prevent your stress from worsening and potentially causing other health problems. If you are experiencing some of the above symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.
If your doctor suspects that stress is the cause of psychological or physical symptoms and illness, he or she will ask you questions about your history and circumstances. This includes the identification of any stressors in your life, such as relationship or work problems. There are no specific medical tests for stress but your doctor can usually make the diagnosis from your symptoms, and using the information gained from your personal history.
While everyone experiences stress at times, a prolonged bout of it can affect your health and ability to cope with life. Untreated chronic stress can lead to serious health complications including hypertension, insomnia, anxiety and a weakened immune system. However, by finding healthy ways to manage and cope with stress as it occurs, it is possible to reduce many of these negative health consequences.
Helpguide describes that the foundation of stress management is simply realising that you’re in control of your life. When faced with stressful events, they offer the four As: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept stressors – meaning, you can either change the situation or change your reaction to it.
Additionally, here are some health tips to help you relieve and manage stress: