While we don’t often diagnose it as such, stress is a mental disorder. It can cause severe damage to our physical and mental wellbeing, and create issues within our personal and working relationships. Unfortunately, stress is something we all suffer with from time to time, but thankfully symptoms usually ease after we’ve passed through the situation that’s causing us stress.
Stress in our lives
Stress can often lead to further mental health issues too. Millions of us will visit a GP every year to discuss headaches, depression, constant nervousness, and more physical symptoms that are all down to stress. With the most common causes of stress being linked to money, work, and our relationships, it’s no wonder why so many of us suffer from the ailment day to day.
The pressures of the modern world are much more intense than those our ancestors were used to. Now with the need to be connected at all times of day, the expectation to be working full time while also being the perfect parent and looking after our health all cause a ton of pressure. It’s a given that stress is just part of everyday life.
That said, a little stress is known to be good for us. Stress is a natural reaction to threatening situations. It also gives us a boost of motivation to get things done and make positive changes. It’s when this stress becomes more consistent and regular that other illnesses and issues can occur.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress is controlled by our body’s central nervous system and instigates a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This reaction leads to increased heart rate and narrowed blood vessels. In the early era of humankind, fight or flight was used when genuine dangers were present – like a predator. Our bodies would help us make the quick decision to fight off the danger or run away. Now, while dangers are much less prominent, our fight or flight reactions still kick in during everyday situations. A heightened level of this reaction can be the cause of several anxiety disorders.
It’s unlikely you’ll notice the narrowing of your blood vessels, but thankfully there are a huge number of symptoms that can be identified as stress. There are two levels of stress, acute or chronic, and both cause several physical symptoms.
Everything from sleeping problems (insomnia) to digestion issues, headaches, and irritability can be a sign you’re overdoing it and need a break. These are typical for acute stress. When the issue is prolonged, acute stress can become chronic and cause muscular aching, depression, and other serious health issues later down the line.
Surprising Causes of Stress
Obviously, work, money, and arguments with your friends or partner can cause stress. But there are actually more reasons we become stressed that we might not have noticed or realized.
We’re told not to ‘sweat the small stuff,’ but unfortunately, it’s easier said than done. Everything from a repetitive phone call with the bank to a rude cashier can continue to cause stress long after the actual event. It’s been found that these tiny events can cause stress as they lead our minds to quickly build up fear: Fear of being embarrassed or bullied, fear of being seen as irresponsible, etc. Although the event was small, it causes much larger scenarios to grow in our minds.
We can suffer from stress when those around us are stressed – even if we’re having the best day ever. According to a German study conducted in 2014, those surrounded by stressed-out colleagues and friends can suffer from empathetic stress. Stress is actually somewhat contagious.
While hobbies are the way we relax during downtime, depending on the activity, you could be causing yourself more stress. There are many studies into stress enduced by video games that tend to show those who enjoy playing violent games, like Call of Duty in their leisure time, may be further contributing to their everyday stresses. Click here to find out more.
Social media can be a huge positive in people’s lives by helping us stay in connection with others. But it can also have a huge, detrimental impact on our mental well-being. Everything from prolonged break-up pain to jealousy and low self-esteem can all be caused by the use of social media and create a lot of additional tension.
We’re all aware coffee can make us jittery; tea is no different. Caffeine can enhance the symptoms of stress, and while tea is seen as a weaker dose, it can still have the same impact. Similarly, a few nibbles of chocolate to treat yourself after a stressful day can also contribute to the issue. Anything with caffeine can cause irritability, sleeping problems, and digestion issues – all of which add more stress to your current situation.
Your reaction to stress
Yes, to make matters worse, your reaction to stress can actually cause more stress. Putting in extra hours at work, giving yourself a break from working out, or treating yourself to junk food to manage a stressful day, might be causing more problems than it’s solving. While it’s very easy to get into this habit, and it may seem like it will solve the problem temporarily, it only enhances a downward spiral.
Treatments for Stress
Thankfully, treatments for stress are incredibly accessible and easy to put in place. Simple ways to reduce stress include getting outside and increasing your intake of vitamin D and exercising more. Exercise is great for helping our bodies release serotonin, reducing anxiety, and preventing mental cloudiness.
Taking time to properly relax – taking a bath, getting some sleep, or even meditating – can all help to ease stress and prevent it from building up, too. Similarly, sticking to a daily routine or writing a gratitude diary has been known to release stress and remind us of the good things in life.
Finding the right treatment is a personal learning curve, and the solution may change throughout your life. But, it’s incredibly important to find something that works for you to avoid long-term stress-related issues.
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