What is Stress?
Often both men and women are juggling multiple roles and responsibilities and trying not to drop-the-ball. All of life’s demands – work and deadlines, bills and inflation, kids and marriage - all require constant attention. Usually things stay in balance but sometimes life throws an unexpected curve ball and suddenly the balance is lost.
Stress can affect anyone, and in small doses it is not necessarily a bad thing. Average amounts of stress can keep you alert and ensure that tasks are completed and deadline met. Essentially stress is life’s little push that often helps us to cope.
Alternatively, stress can sometimes become too much. When a person is pushed too far and can no longer keep up with the demands of life, it is clear that stress is a problem. This abundance of stress can affect both our psychological and physical well being.
Stress is a very normal part of life and in most cases it can be dealt with without the assistance of a healthcare practitioner. However, there is a difference between managing your stress and not managing your stress.
When physical symptoms of stress levels rise and become too much to cope with, or it feels like you have reached the point of burnout it may be time to seek professional help. If excessive stress starts to affect your psychological or physically health it is also important to seek help.
Since stress is extremely common, diagnosing the condition centers around whether the amount of stress experienced is affecting your ability to perform daily functions and activities as required.
A psychologist or specialist will ask certain questions about how things are going in different areas of your life, about how you are feeling in different situations, as well as look at your work life and personal life, and determine if excessive stress is hindering the ability to function normally.
What Causes Stress?
Stress is caused by multiple factors that are unique and personal to each individual. Sometimes stress can be caused by external events such as family problems or work pressures.
Other times, stress can be caused by internal factors such as negative thinking, unrealistic goals and personal choices. These life stressors are usually due to pressure and expectations from others and from ourselves, as well as from conflict and frustration.
By pin-pointing the root cause of our stress, it becomes easier to guard against it. While it is impossible to plan for everything and prevent all future stress, it is possible to minimize stress and learn to cope with it in a more productive way.
The ways in which physical symptoms of stress are managed can also make the world of difference on how it impacts on both physical health and functioning.
Help for Stress
There are a number of ways to help cope with physical symptoms of stress in our daily lives.
The first step in eliminating stress is to identify the root causes and determine what changes can be made. This is easier said than done! Sometimes a little bit assistance is needed of help to figure out what those root causes are.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques have all been shown to reduce stress and clear the mind of unwanted thoughts and concerns. Done regularly, these techniques can be very successful in helping with stress management.
Psychotherapy or Counseling
In some more intense cases, an individual may feel totally overcome by stress and is left with a feeling of helplessness and defeat. In instances like this, it is sometimes necessary to seek professional help from a registered psychologist or counselor to help find the root cause of the stress and positive ways of dealing with it.
Natural Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies
There are many natural herbal and homeopathic remedies that may be of assistance in providing all natural stress relief if you feel your stress levels are too high. A holistic approach encourages all natural stress relief by exploring physical and psychological effects of your stress and aims to treat the individual as a whole.
Some herbal remedies recommended for all natural stress relief are Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort), Passiflora incarnata, Scuttelaria laterifolia (Scullcap) and Valerian. Theses herbal remedies all serve to relieve the anxiety and tension related to stress.
More Information on Stress
What Affect does Stress have on my Health?
Too much stress can be harmful to our psychological and physical well being. Not only does it influence our daily experience of life and affect our relationships with others, but stress can have serious physical consequences. Stress takes its toll on our immune system and studies have shown that people under more stress are more likely to get sick.
Think back to the last time you had a cold or the flu. In many cases it would have been during or just after a stressful period or some important life change. The effect of stress on the immune system is rapid (weakening our immune system sometimes within two hours of the stressful event) and leaves us open to greater risk of infection. Prolonged stress is particularly harmful and can often have lasting effects on both physical and emotional health.
Some problems related to high stress are:
- Maladaptive behavioral changes – many people adopt ineffective and harmful coping mechanisms such as drinking more, smoking and eating unhealthily. When stressed, we often feel there is not enough time for exercise, sufficient sleep and relaxation and so our lifestyles become unhealthy and this often creates more stress in the end.
- Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease can be aggravated by stress.
- Stress can cause a number of psychological problems such as depression, eating disorders, insomnia, indecision and apathy.
- Stress can speed up the progress of certain cancers and other illnesses such as AIDS and HIV.
- Other health problems associated with stress include diabetes, ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss, autoimmune diseases, thyroid problems, infertility, skin problems, muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, and decreased libido.
Tips for Coping with Stress
- Get enough sleep and relaxation time. Although you may feel like you don’t have the precious hours to spare, you will be more productive if your mind and body are well rested and you may find that you get through twice as much in half the time. Remember that taking time off to sharpen the axe will help you to cut the tree down faster than if you persevered with a blunt axe!
- Exercise! Keeping physically active is vital for stress relief. Regular exercise helps burn up stress-related hormones such as adrenaline while releasing happiness-inducing endorphins.
- Eat healthily. It seems too simple, but a balanced diet will energize the body and mind and help you to cope better with the demands of life. Important nutrients for stress relief include Vitamin B (take a vitamin B complex including B12), calcium and magnesium. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and foods high in sugar as these all increase anxiety and give the body temporary "highs" only to be followed by periods of fatigue.
- Don’t self-medicate! Using alcohol and other illicit drugs to cope with stress does not solve the problem, but adds new complications. It is a very temporary means of coping that has long lasting and destructive consequences.
- Get support from others. Sometimes talking about your concerns can put them into perspective. Advice from others can also help you see your problems from a different angle and they may be able to offer solutions that you hadn’t considered.
- Manage your time. Much stress can be avoided by planning ahead and not procrastinating. Make schedules so that you know what is important and do those things first. It is also important set aside enough quality time for loved ones.
- Have a positive outlook. Keep a sense of humor and don’t stress yourself out by focusing on worst case scenarios. Create realistic expectations by acknowledging both your limits and your abilities.