As the festive season comes to an end, many of us will be back to our busy schedules and lifestyle. And when things get too fast-paced, we tend to neglect our well-being. While stress may not necessarily be bad, we need to ensure that it falls within an acceptable range for our body and mind.
In this article, we’ll be covering the following:
- What is Stress?
- Symptoms of Being Stressed
- Ways to relieve stress
- Effects of Long-Term/Excessive Stress
What is Stress?
Stress is inevitable in today’s society. We can experience it from school, work or even our thoughts. Moderate stress helps us to stay alert, motivated, and even increase our efficiency. This includes marriage, receiving a promotion at work, or giving birth to a child. However, excessive or constant stress without any relievers could result in health concerns in a long run.
Stress is a body reaction triggered by tension physically, mentally, or emotionally. When our body perceives a threat, it would try to defend against it. This triggers the “fight-or-flight” response to fight the tension away. After the response occurs, our body would then relax.
Every individual is different and special in our own way. Similarly, each of us has a different capacity in terms of how much stress we are able to handle. There is no correct amount of stress each person should be able to handle.
Symptoms of Being Stressed
It is important to know when we are stressed so that we can relax or take a break whenever necessary. While we might not think we are stressed, our body might say otherwise by showing various symptoms. Stress symptoms comes in many different forms and it’s good that we take note of the changes we go through on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s a list of commonly experienced emotional, physical, cognitive, and behavioural symptoms.
- Difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
- Easily agitated, irritable, and moody
- Feeling depressed, lonely, worthless
- Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
- Frequent colds and infections
- Headaches and dizziness
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty what and feet
- Upset stomach – diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
- Constant worrying
- Forgetfulness and disorganised
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor judgement
- Racing thoughts
- Avoiding responsibilities and procrastination
- Exhibiting more nervous behaviors – nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
- Extreme eating habits – overeating or not eating enough
- Extreme sleeping habits – oversleeping or sleep deprivation
- Increased use of alcohol or cigarettes
- Isolating oneself from others
Ways to relieve stress
If you have identified that you are experiencing stress, there’s a need to relieve it correctly. Below are some ways to relieve stress which you can try at home:
Yoga is known for being able to reduce stress and anxiety. Through the stationary and moving poses, it offers mental focus that helps to distract one from their racing thoughts. Apart from that, Yoga also helps to improve flexibility, strength, balance, and stamina of an individual.
#2: Deep Breathing
Take long, slow, and deep breaths while clearing your mind from distracting thoughts and sensations. This exercise also helps to activate your body relaxation response, reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Aromatherapy and soothing music can further enhance the relaxation process.
#3: Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation requires you to tense and relax a particular body part or group of muscles each time. This simulates how your body function when feeling stressed. By familiarising your body with this process, it makes it easier for your body to take on stress.
Visualisation is a traditional type of meditation that requires you to imagine a soothing scene, place or experience in your mind. Otherwise, use guided imagery where you use an app or audio to guide you through this process. It should help you feel at peace and free to release any tension or anxiety.
Massages help to relieve stiff body parts, relieve pain and reduces stress. Massage your neck and shoulders time to time during the day to ease muscle tension. In addition, you can use aromatic oil or scented lotion to enhance the whole experience.
However, these exercises don’t work wonders just by doing it once. Consistency is the key! Try any of these exercises for just 15 minutes daily to get a healthier mind and body!
Effects of Long-Term/Excessive Stress
Serious health issues will surface if the initial stress is not properly dealt with. Compounding stress over time leads to serious health issues. Some health problems that might surface due to chronic stress includes:
- Cardiovascular disease – high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
- Gastrointestinal problems – GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon
- Mental health problems – depression and anxiety
- Missed or irregular period
- Obesity and other eating disorders
- Personality disorders
- Sexual dysfunction – impotence and premature ejaculation in men, and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
- Skin and hair problems – acne, psoriasis, eczema, and permanent hair loss
- Sleep disorders
- Thinking and memory problems
Stress is a part of life and everyone goes through it. What matters most is how we handle it and not compound the stress. Always keep in mind the different types of stress symptoms and exercise some of the stress relief methods. It is important to constantly reflect upon your own stress level (and your loved ones if possible!) and to not exceed that threshold.