Recognizing mental, emotional, or physical stress isn’t always straightforward. Here’s how to spot it early so you can treat it and avoid burnout. Stress is our body's natural physical and mental response to challenges or changes. It may help you overcome obstacles and push yourself to new levels of personal growth.When your body’s stress response system starts dysfunctioning, though, the
Stress is our body's natural physical and mental response to challenges or changes. It may help you overcome obstacles and push yourself to new levels of personal growth.
When your body’s stress response system starts dysfunctioning, though, the same feelings can become barriers and limit your ability to perform at your best. Research has even shown that stress can trigger or aggravate several conditions and impair the functioning of different body systems.
The body’s autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate, breathing, and other body processes that take place without conscious effort. It triggers the fight-or-flight response during stressful situations, causing an increased heart rate, dilated pupils, and more. Continued activation of this response can cause wear and tear on the body and result in physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms of stress include:
Emotional and mental symptoms of stress can include:
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2019 Stress in America survey, more than three-quarters of adults report physical or emotional symptoms of stress, such as headache, feeling tired, or changes in sleeping habits.
Ways to recognize stress include:
There will be times when you experience heightened levels of stress and where it seems like everything that can go wrong, does. At such moments, it can be more useful to consider not if you’re stressed, but how stressed you actually are.
Some online screening tools can help you check in with yourself are:
There are so many things that can trigger the fight-or-flight response, which is your body's natural reaction to stress. When something or someone triggers the stress response, your body goes into immediate action to either confront the threat or flee.
Physically, when you feel stressed, what you’re actually feeling is your nervous system signaling a flood of hormones to be released from your adrenal glands, such as cortisol (the stress hormone) and epinephrine (adrenaline). Adrenaline is responsible for the physical symptoms you experience, such as a rapid heartbeat.
We are all wired to feel stress, but some people have a greater risk of experiencing unhealthy levels of stress than others, including:
Other risk factors include life stressors like:
Acute stress, or sudden stress, is stress that comes on quickly and resolves when the perceived or actual threat is removed. People often experience this type of stress after an unexpected life crisis like an accident, a loss, or other types of trauma.
Chronic stress is long-term stress. With this type of stress, the body never receives a clear signal to return to normal functioning. Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems. Chronic stress is associated with immune system dysfunction and diseases, especially those related to your heart.
Eustress means beneficial stress. It is associated with excitement or motivation, such as riding a roller coaster or going to your first day at a new job.
Episodic acute stress is when someone experiences intense stress on a regular basis. It can happen in professionals who face a great deal of high-stress situations, such as law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency responders.
Side effects of stress may include:
Physical and mental health conditions that can be triggered by stress or worsened by stress include:
Before you can address any long-term stress issues, you need to get a handle on your current levels of stress. Talk to your healthcare team about ways you can integrate some or all of the following treatment options into your everyday routine.
A therapist can help you see any patterns or connections between your current issues and stress. Therapists can also help you address underlying beliefs contributing to your stress and conflicts. When you gain better clarity of what’s causing your reactions, you are better equipped to change your stress response in the future.
Sometimes medications may be necessary to help you through a particularly stressful time. Your doctor may prescribe the following medications:
You can try the following alternative treatments for relieving stress:
You can’t avoid stress, but you can stop it from becoming overwhelming by practicing some daily strategies, including:
Stress can trigger a variety of skin flare-ups in susceptible individuals. Stress rashes vary in appearance, but most resemble hives, which are red, raised areas of skin that may be bumpy. The rash can also itch, tingle, or burn.
You can stop stress eating by becoming more mindful of your eating behavior and triggers and by developing other techniques to deal with stress. You can get help from a dietitian, a doctor, or a mental health professional.
You can make stress your friend by recognizing its importance and keeping it within healthy levels with daily stress-relieving activities and a healthy lifestyle. This should include a balanced diet, proper sleep, and regular exercise.
Men and women are said to handle stress differently to some degree because they generally have different levels and fluctuations of key hormones, including oxytocin.
Stress can motivate us, but it can also stop us from doing our best, especially when it becomes a chronic health issue. When you are stressed, you experience symptoms that are a result of your body's fight-or-flight response.
Prolonged activation of this response can potentially lead to serious health problems like heart disease. The best way to manage stress is to develop healthy coping mechanisms, such as practicing deep breathing exercises, and a healthy lifestyle.
We all experience some level of stress at times. However, if it’s becoming a persistent problem or you’re not sure how to cope in healthy ways, it’s time to talk to a professional.
There are many external factors in our world that can contribute to stress. Although we can't control many of these, we can more readily deal with the stress we have in our homes and workplaces if we learn healthy ways of coping with it and minimizing its impact on our daily lives.