Stress, the word evokes images of employees sitting in front of piles of work, the black sheep at a family dinner or even frustrated road ragers in packed traffic. But when you take away the connotations or even examples away from the concept, what is it exactly?
Medically speaking, stress is a response to external stimuli that triggers a fight or flight response in a person. When a person perceives a stress event like an impending deadline or public speaking, the hypothalamus in the brain sets off alarm signals that prompt the adrenal glands to secrete hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones create a number of bodily changes including increasing blood glucose and fatty acids in the body and more energy production within the body’s cells so that the body can fight or flee. This also leads to higher heart rate, rapid breathing and even tensing of muscles.
Most often, the stress should leave the body once the situation is resolved. But constant stress situations as is prevalent at these times, causes a lot of harm to the body. While constant high workload is not a very big stressor, constant small stressful situations also bring in the same bodily reactions. That is when stress is highly disadvantageous, it impacts emotions, cognition, and physical health in a negative way. This leads to critical illnesses like heart disease, compromised immunity and even changes to the brain. It has also been seen that extreme stress situations also lead to high blood pressure, even gastrointestinal problems like inflammatory bowel disease.
Stress can also lead to –
- weight gain
- sleep problems
- lack of energy
- type 2 diabetes
- mental cloudiness (brain fog) and memory problems
How to manage stress?
While it is impossible to reduce stress situations, it is always under our control on how we face stress situations. Here is how you can manage it-
- Understand when you are getting stressed
Recognize when you are under stress and that you are experiencing bodily changes due to the same. This can include feelings of sleeplessness, anger issues that erupt easily and suddenly, feelings of depression and reduced energy in doing day to day activities
- Talk to a specialist
Getting counselling for stress might seem overkill for some, but it is better to nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of hand and leads to new health problems.
- Exercise regularly
Getting enough exercise everyday will put your body at a better position to counter stress situations and it will also provide the body with good hormones. It also helps better your mood.
- Have relaxing hobbies
There are many stress reducing programs that one can look into, which helps you get into a better headspace and reduce the harm caused by stressors. Laughter therapy, yoga, tai-chi and other activities including breath control can help relieve symptoms of stress and relax your body.
- Set Goals and Priorities
Learn to manage tasks and figure out what is priority and what tasks can be set aside for later. Always understand that no work is more important than your own health.
- Stay Connected
Having a social life and being around friends has shown to reduce stress considerably and help people cope with difficult situations. Have a strong circle of friends and family who you can rely on and vent to.