You know when you feel stressed, of course. But what exactly is “stress”? Is it physical? Is it emotional? Is it caused by yourself or the environment?
Is it something you can control?
In reality, stress is all these things. Stress is a physical and emotional response to either internal or external factors. Unfortunately, this ubiquity of stress makes it so hard to counter.
Types Of Stress
Are you feeling stressed? There are different types of stress and different methods of dealing with it. A few of the most common types of stress include:
- Emotional stress. Anxiety, anger, and depression; sometimes they’re triggered hormonally or chemically, but sometimes they just happen. You lose your job and that’s emotional stress.
- Physiological stress. This is the direct physical response in your body when you’re stressed, which can also lead to (you guessed it) more stress. You might feel exhausted after a stressful day; that’s physiological.
- Cognitive stress. You’re anxious about the things going on. Your thoughts race. You’re depressed about the state of the world. It’s emotional but also intellectual.
- Chronic stress. You just always feel stressed, even if there’s no reason for it. You have gotten used to being stressed so your body now operates on this baseline.
- Work-related stress. Work-related stress is perhaps one of the most insidious forms of stress today, as it’s entirely triggered by work; something everything has to do.
All types of stress can lead to physiological and emotional duress. But knowing what kind of stress you’re experiencing can help. Work-related stress, for instance, is treated through better productivity management techniques and self-care. Physical stress can sometimes be treated through grounding exercises and distraction.
Causes of Stress
Now, let’s take a look at some of the significant causes of stress. Of course, these aren’t the only causes, but they account for a lot of it:
- Loss of control. One of the most common causes of stress is lack of control. When people feel like they can’t influence the world around them, stress begins to build. The best way to relieve stress is to feel like you’re in control of whatever’s causing it.
- Unpredictability. One way we deal with stress is by finding patterns and sticking to them. When your environment changes, when new things happen, that can trigger a lot of stress as you work through the novelty and establish those patterns again.
- Failure. Perception of failure is a major cause of stress, especially if you internalize it. When people feel like they’re not good enough, when they feel like they’ve failed to meet their own expectations even though those expectations might be unrealistic, that’s the kind of stuff that causes chronic stress down the line.
- Time. Feeling like you don’t have enough time to do the things that you need to do, especially if you’re responsible for a lot of things and people, is a big problem. Time pressure leads to stress and can cause all kinds of problems on its own.
- Relationships. Probably one of the major sources of stress. Marital problems, family problems, even issues with friendship. Since we are social, we fear being in the “outgroup” and we fear rejection.
- Money. Financial security is one of the cornerstones of happiness and mental health. You don’t need a lot of money to be happy but it’s important to have your basic needs met. Not having enough money can cause stress that is linked directly to physiological duress.
- Environment. Noise, air pollution, dark skies, no greenery, these types of environments inherently make people feel more depressed.
- Society. It’s been shown that social media can make people very anxious and depressed. Social media makes people feel like they’re doing things wrong or heightens conflict.
The good thing about stress is you can address it from several angles. Some people might start exercising; others might change their diets or spend less time on social media. You can examine your lifestyle and take steps to eliminate sources of stress.
Physical Stress Effects
What are the physical effects of stress? When you perceive a threat or feel stressed out, your hypothalamus will start pumping out corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). This is what signals your adrenals to produce adrenaline and cortisol.
This process is called the “stress response,” and it’s an evolutionary holdover that forces you to either fight the threat or run away from it. The problem is that we live in a relatively safe world, and not everyone has access to healthy ways of dealing with stress. Long-term cortisol exposure can lead to insulin resistance and directly to type 2 diabetes and other metabolic diseases. It can even damage your telomere strands.
Symptoms of Stress
How do you know that you’re experiencing stress? First, there are a few significant symptoms of anxiety that you might note.
- Negative emotions. A general feeling of anxiety, dread, and unease. Everyone feels this from time to time but if the negative emotions are persistent or interfering with your daily life then that’s a problem.
- Mood swings. It’s important to note that not all mood swings are caused by stress. If you’re stressed out, though, you might notice that your moods are a bit more volatile than they normally would be.
- Exhaustion. If you’re feeling a lack of energy it might be stress-related or it could be something else going on with your body. Sometimes there’s something causing both the stress and exhaustion.
- Memory Problems. Experts don’t know why but it’s been noted that chronic stress can cause memory problems. If you’re unusually forgetful, it could be stress.
- Decreased Creativity. When you’re stressed your brain doesn’t function as well. You might find that your normal creative thought process slows down, or stops altogether.
As you can see, the symptoms of stress are insidious because they make it hard to function. And being unable to perform is stressful!
How to Alleviate the Symptoms and Sources of Stress
So, now that you know you’re stressed, what do you do about it? Here are some methods of alleviating symptoms and sources of stress.
- Reach out to support networks. Your social support system can help you find ways to deal with stress or help you take a load off.
- Take a vacation. Take some time to yourself to rest and reset. It’s possible that you just need a break from the daily grind.
- Examine the reasons behind the stress. Are you working too hard? Are you in a difficult spot? Address these issues directly.
- Get more exercise. Physical exercise is a great way to reduce the amount of stress you experience on a physical level.
As you reduce your stress, you’ll find that you naturally start getting into better habits.
Stress Relief Toys
You might also consider investing in a toy that offers sensory feedback. All kinds of anxiety, stress, and fidget toys help you relax and relieve stress. Some popular choices include:
- Squeeze balls. These are filled with water or gel and squeezed to provide a sense of distraction, grounding, and calming.
- Pop balls. These balls are sort of like persistent bubble wrap, allowing you to “pop” each bubble.
- Sand timers. Sand timers are frequently used to time grounding exercises and meditation.
As with everything, it’s important to remember that everyone is different, and what works for some people might not work for others. So it’s worth experimenting with various tools, techniques, and activities to see what helps you reduce stress.
FAQs – Most Common Questions About Stress
There are many techniques that individuals may use to relax, but it varies for each person. You must explore different activities that will benefit you. Some helpful supplements include fish oil and vitamin B12 shots. Stress can cause serious health complications, so see your doctor immediately if stress does not subside.
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