Stress – Causes, Symptoms and Effects

Are You Experiencing Stress?

Stress is a major cause of poor health in today’s fast moving society. Whilst it is a natural response to events we experience almost every day, too much of it can seriously affect our health.

What is Stress?

Stress happens when we feel unable to cope with a particular situation, or when we feel pressured into either facing up to a problem or getting away from it as fast as possible. This is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response.

stressedPeople react to it in different ways. They might get stuck in and deal with the situation head-on, or become anxious and stressed out, and unable to cope with the matter at all.

Whatever triggers an episode, the body reacts in a similar way. The central nervous system goes into ‘red alert’. Normal body function is overridden to provide more capacity to our physical capabilities, so we can either face up to the perceived threat or run away. These changes cause emotional, mental and physical responses within the body.

The stress factors, or stressors, activate part of the brain called the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA Axis). This produces and releases the steroid hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones immediately increase blood pressure so that blood flow is increased to parts of the body like the muscles, to facilitate a rapid withdrawal if required, the heart beats faster, blood glucose levels are increased and changes are made to the digestive process.

What can cause Stress?

The major causes come from internal as well as external stressors. Internal factors such as pessimism, procrastination or a lack of assertiveness can cause stress and anxiety, as can excessive or unnecessary perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations.

External factors cover a wide range of physical and psychological scenarios both large and small, such as:

  • Big changes in your life – both good and bad, can make you become stressed. Marriage or divorce, a birth or a death, illness or injury, trauma following an accident, the threat of physical violence. These are all major stress factors, as can be moving to a new job, being made redundant or starting at university.
  • Social environment – working or living in close proximity to people who are rude, overly self-centred, abusive, lazy or aggressive can be a source of stress. Also, hyper-active or demanding children can wear you down, as can, inconsiderate neighbors.
  • Physical environment – issues such as excessive noise, large crowds, bright lights, or claustrophobic places.
  • Working environment – many people find their job stressful. Working long or unsociable hours, dealing with office politics, poor communication, meeting business targets and difficult colleagues, can all take their toll.
  • Day-to-day irritants – Little things can often rattle us, probably because we have to deal with them every day and they can’t be avoided. Traffic jams, the daily commute, phone calls, petty arguments at home or work.

In all of these examples, it is not just the individual situations that create stress, it is our own reaction to them that determines our mental state.

The problems of having too much stress

When your body is constantly aroused by stress, serious damage can take place to your body and health. Failure to manage it can lead to all kinds of disorder, and it is not just our mental health that suffers.

The following are some of the most common health issues that can arise from experiencing too much stress overload, and the conditions that can develop during a stress response:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive disorders
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Insomnia
  • Obesity & weight gain
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Tooth and gum disease
  • Ulcers
  • Weakened immune system

So take heed. The effects of stress can kill you. If you experience the symptoms, have depression, an anxiety or panic disorder and have an inability to relax, you may have a higher risk for chronic stress.

You don’t want the symptoms of stress overload to cause the development of a serious medical condition, as the effects of chronic stress can be fatal if not attended to.

Your doctor could prescribe you drugs to relax. However, the use of natural remedies for stress management is far less likely to cause side effects, as well as being a more natural way to heal yourself, and put you back in control.

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