Easy Ways To Cope With Stress
Stress has become one of the most disturbing problems of humankind and perhaps a very potent trigger for some of the multiple long-term disease conditions that abound today.
In recent times, stress has become one of the most disturbing problems of humankind and perhaps a very potent trigger for some of the multiple long-term disease conditions that abound today.
This, in part, is due to the hectic nature of prevailing lifestyle and the need to often go out of one’s way to catch up.
In this article, we explore the various forms of stress, causes of stress (stressors), and of course, the remedies, including certain things one can do to avoid the debilitating effects of stress.
Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.
Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure) and can initiate the “fight or flight” response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems.
Stress is largely thought of by most people as anxiety or worry and the resultant pressure these notorious two could cause in people’s lives.
Though this isn’t far from the truth, anxiety and worry are just one of the multiple stressors (stress causing factors) available, and I’ll introduce you to a host of others shortly.
STRESSORS COME IN VARIOUS FORMS
Stressors can be either physical or mental and the physical stressors include: trauma of almost any type, infection, intense heat or cold, fever, surgery & anesthesia, physical isolation and restraint, witnessing a murder, intense exertion, involvement in a fight, etc.
Emotional/mental stressors include: losing one’s job, losing a loved one or object, performing a difficult task, heartbreak.
All of these stressful situations put the body on alert and facilitates immediate physical reactions associated with a preparation for violent muscular action.
CHRONIC STRESS HAS ITS SIGNS
Everyone experiences stress. However, when it is affecting your life, health and wellbeing, it is important to tackle it as soon as possible, and while stress affects everyone differently, there are common signs and symptoms you can look out for:
•feelings of constant worry or anxiety
•feelings of being overwhelmed
•mood swings or changes in your mood
irritability or having a short temper
•changes in your sleeping habits
•using alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs to relax aches and pains, particularly muscle tension
•diarrhoea and constipation
•feelings of nausea or dizziness
•loss of sex drive.
PROLONGED STRESS IS DAMAGING
Stress is a natural reaction to many situations in life, such as a difficult job/interview/exams, family/relationships crisis and money problems but has only been found to be beneficial if it is short-lived.
Excessive or prolonged stress can contribute to illness such as heart disease, lower immunity levels and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Multiple studies link chronic stress to a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, weight gain, memory loss and even premature death, so it’s important to recognize the warning signals early enough.
Sudden or ongoing stress activates your nervous system and floods your bloodstream with adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, alertness and spike blood sugar. These changes pitch your body into a fight or flight response and it’s helpful today for situations like dodging a car accident or defending oneself in combat. But most modern chronic stressors, such as finances or a challenging relationship, keep your body perpetually in that heightened state and this is what hurts your health.
THE BODY HAS STRESS COPING MECHANISMS
We face stressful situations every single day of our lives and we would be long dead if our bodies didn’t have a way of handling them.
The body handles stress primarily by hormonal response and by this, we mean release of hormones by certain organs into the blood to cause changes that assuage the effects of stress.
Almost any type of stress, whether physical or mental, causes an immediate and marked increase in cortisol which is important in resisting stress.
Cortisol is the primary stress hormone released by the adrenal glands and important in resisting stress without which a minor illness as the common cold or a respiratory tract infection would lead to death.
It performs its action by making glucose, fatty acids and amino acids available in the blood to provide the needed extra energy during stressful situations and for synthesis of other compounds.
YOU CAN MANAGE YOUR STRESS
In addition to our inbuilt stress handling mechanisms, we can take concerted actions to altogether put away stress causing factors or mitigate their long-term impact on our health.
- Engage in regular exercise
Moving your body on a regular basis is known to release “feel good hormones” like dopamine and endorphins.
It also increases blood circulation, helping to flush out stress hormones. Even a daily 20-minute walk makes a difference.
- Limit alcohol and stimulants intake
Alcohol, nicotine and caffeine may temporarily relieve stress but have negative health impacts and can make stress worse in the long run.
Well-nourished bodies cope better, so start with a good breakfast, add more organic fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods and sugar, and drink more water. Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants which will only worsen things.
- Connect with supportive people
Talking face to face with another person releases hormones that reduce stress.
Lean on those good listeners in your life.
- Carve out hobby time
Engage in activities that bring you pleasure and joy; could be gardening, reading, listening to music and so on.
Research shows that such reduces stress by almost half and lowers your heart rate too.
- Practice meditation, Stress reduction or Yoga
Relaxation techniques activate a state of restfulness that counterbalances your body’s fight-or-flight hormones.
Consider taking a mindfulness-based stress reduction course to learn effective, lasting tools.
- Get adequate sleep
If you get less than seven to eight hours of sleep, your body won’t tolerate stress as well as it could.
If stress keeps you up at night, address the cause and add extra meditation into your day to make up for the lost hours of restful sleep.
- Bond with a loved one
Clinical studies show that spending even a short time with a loved one can be beneficial in dealing with stress.
Bonding and cuddling and the likes stimulates the release of oxytocin and dopamine (feel good hormones) both of which can cut anxiety levels in half.
- Take a timeout and relax
Getting away from it all can reset your stress tolerance by increasing your mental and emotional outlook, which makes you a happier, more productive person upon return.
Practice deep breathing exercises
Breathing in for five seconds, holding your breath for another five seconds and then releasing it in another five seconds and doing it all over again, can help calm one down in situations of acute mental tension.
Can stress cause sleeping paralysis?
Utibe Umoh is a Public health enthusiast, poet and author with a great deal of interest in romance-fiction stories and short essays. His first e-Book, Tales of bliss, was out in 2020 and is currently available on the Amazon Kindle bookstore and free on okadabooks.com bookstore.
He currently pursues a degree in Medicine and Surgery at the College of Health Sciences, University of Uyo and is editor-in-chief for his Medical student association. He is content creator for Ray of thought - an assembly of young thinkers who are out to impact the world positively - and enjoys listening to classical music at his leisure hours.