Stress may impact your Physical and Mental Health
Stress can arise in response to pressures from a situation or life events such as academic, family, or work demands, a traumatic event, a threat to one’s feeling of self, a feeling that one has no control over a situation, or a significant life changing event.
Stress may be better defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
- It is important to remember that contributory factors to stress can vary widely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, our living environment and genetic makeup.
- Stress can have a significant impact on your mental and physical health, therefore knowing how to deal with major and minor stressors is very important to keep you from feeling overwhelmed and to seek help in a timely manner.
- Some people experience a onetime stressor or a short-term occurrence and can cope with the stress more effectively and bounce back to normalcy again, however, other people may experience repeated or chronic stressors and have difficulty coping, it is important to know how your body reacts to stressors and know when to get immediate help.
Your body may be responding to Stress in these ways
- Trouble sleeping
- Jaw clenching or jaw pain
- Changes in appetite
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Sadness, anger, or irritability.
In terms of Chronic or prolonged stress, your brain is exposed to increased levels of a hormone called cortisol. This exposure weakens your immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems making it easier for you to get sick. Stress can impact and or worsen your symptoms of mental illness. For instances stress can provoke hallucinations and delusions with patients who have schizophrenia and may trigger episodes of mania and depression in patients with bipolar disorder. Identifying your cause of stress and taking measures to prevent it is helpful to minimize its impact on your mental and physical health.
Factors that make you most Vulnerable to Stress
- Not getting enough sleep
- Not having a network of support
- Experiencing a major life change such as moving, the death of a loved one, starting a new job, having a child, or getting married
- Experiencing poor physical health
- Not eating well
You can Reduce or Minimize Your Stress levels in the following ways
- Recognize: how your body responds to stress such as headaches, poor sleep, poor concentrations, anger, or irritability.
- Exercise: maintain a regular exercise pattern at least 30-45 minutes daily. You can join a dance class, take regular walk outside. Scientists have found that daily exercise naturally produces stress-relieving hormones in your body and improves your overall physical health.
- Relaxation Activities: Such as deep breathing, meditation, muscle relaxation exercises when done on scheduled regular bases can improve overall calmness.
- Eat a well-balanced diet: Incorporate whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and avoidance of unprocessed foods. These will improve overall health and stabilize mood.
- Maintain a good sleep hygiene: Go to bed at the same time. Wake up at the same time. Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, and certain over-the-counter medications as these may cause fragmented sleep. Avoid Daytime naps. When we take naps, it decreases the amount of sleep that we need the next night – which may cause sleep fragmentation and insomnia. When you watch TV or read in bed, you associate the bed with wakefulness, and these may cause difficulty sleeping at night, additionally, the blue light from the screen can adversely affect your circadian rhythm. Avoid rigorous exercise before bedtime. Rigorous exercise circulates endorphins into the body which may cause difficulty initiating sleep.
- Join a Support Group or Network: Knowing that you are not alone helps. Keep in touch with people who can provide emotional support and practical help. To reduce stress, seek help from clinicians, friends, family, and community or religious organizations.
- Take Time Out for Yourself: Do what you enjoy to best that rejuvenates you, it might be such things as relaxation, reading, going to the beach or the movies, get a massage, etc.
Remember: You can seek a professional help if you have suicidal thoughts, are overwhelmed, feel you cannot cope, or are using drugs or alcohol more frequently because of stress.
Anyone can become overwhelmed. If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, call the confidential toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Lifeline chat is a service available to everyone.