Stress is seen as a negative thing that we need to avoid at all costs. This is not true. A healthy amount of stress is what wakes us up in the morning, keeps us adhering to our daily schedules, encourages us to meet deadlines and other important professional obligations. It is the excess of stress that causes a great deal of physiological problems. Let’s talk about how being too stressed and strung out can affect your body.
SIGNS THAT YOU ARE STRESSED:
Remember your parents and pre-school teachers telling you that you’re unique when you were little? Consider that when confronting the amount of stress you can handle. Just because someone two cubicles down from you can thrive under pressure, doesn’t mean you have to throw out your meticulous time management routine to match her work style. While it excites her, it certainly might tap into your anxiety because people handle different amounts of stress in different ways.
Having said that, there are physical, mental, and behavioural symptoms of stress that you should look out for:
Physically, if you are experiencing headaches, muscle tension, altered sleeping patterns or fatigue, you might be experiencing increased levels of stress. People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) might also notice their symptoms flaring. These include painful bloating, increased flatulence, and constipation or diarrhoea.
Be sensitive to anxiety, restlessness or irritability, feelings of being overwhelmed, or lack of motivation as these are mental symptoms of heightened stress.
Particularly social individuals who become more reclusive are already being affected. Other behavioural symptoms include undereating or overeating, and substance abuse.
It is imperative we be able to identify our stressors. Once you have an idea of the things that trigger a great deal of stress, you can either avoid them altogether or tread with caution. I, myself, am a control freak. My life runs better on a strict schedule so environments with a laissez-faire atmosphere are incredibly stressful for me. While I understand that life tends to have wonderful moments of unpredictability, they are rare. When said moments do occur, I can appreciate them for their infrequency because I enjoy order in all aspects of my life generally.
WHAT WILL EVENTUALLY HAPPEN:
Aside from burnouts or mental breakdowns – which are common amongst people who experience high levels of stress on a regular basis – when we are stressed, our adrenal glands release cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) as well as norepinephrine. An excess of these hormones in our blood has been known to cause hypotension, or high blood pressure (HBP). Scientists have also discovered that norepinephrine can line your blood vessels that build up cholesterol plaque in your arteries. HBP and clogged arteries both increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Have you noticed that you get sick easier when you’re extremely stressed and that it takes longer to heal? Well, the stress hormones I’ve just mentioned tend to inhibit or damage immune cells too.
HOW TO MANAGE STRESS:
Accumulated stress is dangerous. This is why it is important to schedule time for activities which you enjoy. ‘Self-care’ is a term buzzing around a lot of holistic circles because more people are beginning to see the value in ensuring rest and relaxation. Full cups overflow. It is important to actively prioritise your physical and mental health to best perform in all the different areas of your life. This, like stress levels, differs from one individual to the next. When I’m incredibly stressed, I like to disappear. Not only will I turn off my phone for a few days, but I tend to book a trip out of town so I can physically remove myself from the site of stress. The unplugging gives me a chance to reconnect with myself, and I return feeling rejuvenated.
Staying positive is easier said than done right? But if the body really is mind over matter, you need to make sure you have complete control over the battlefield that is your consciousness. We tend to be our own worst critics, beating ourselves up when we make the slightest mistake. That pressure to perform can create a great deal of unhealthy stress too. This is why it is important to change the way we speak to ourselves. Replace, “that was pathetic, you can do better than that,” with “do your best; you got this.”
A decent Netflix binge never hurt nobody! Treat yourself to a movie marathon every once in a while. If you begin to notice that binges are happening on a daily basis, it might be time to find another form of inactive stress release. As I’ve asserted before, too much of anything – even downtime – is unhealthy. Harmony exists in balance, yin and yang, so your like must be equal parts productivity and relaxation.
It’s important to note: we are all guilty of indulging in unhealthy coping mechanisms, which include denial and procrastination. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Instead, it will compound our feelings of stress because we know that we have to eventually face the beast. By the time we return to whatever is stressing us, chances are it’s grown in our minds making it an even more Herculean task to tackle.
Consult a psychologist or psychiatrist if you’ve tried to self soothe and things still feel overwhelming. There is no shame in asking for help; if anything it displays an incredible amount of self-love and self-awareness.
Contact a medical professional immediately is you experience chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness during moments of immense stress as it might be symptomatic of a cardiac episode.