Stress is a common occurrence and most people experience stress in their lives at one time or another. However, when stress is an everyday occurrence and becomes chronic stress, it can be dangerous to your physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, some people live with chronic stress for so long they don’t always realize how bad it is until they become sick. Being able to pinpoint the symptoms of stress may be able to help you determine how stressful your life is so you can begin learning how to manage the stress in your life.
Symptoms of Stress
Stress attacks the body in four different ways: emotionally, physically, mentally and behaviorally. Stress causes the heart to pump faster, blood pressure to raise, blood sugar to surge and hormones to become imbalanced. Chronic stress can also deplete the body of essential nutrients. Below are the symptoms caused by chronic stress.
Emotional Symptoms – Stress can cause a surge of hormones to release, which in turn can cause havoc on your emotional well-being. Symptoms include depression, crying, mood swings, nervousness, anxiety, anger, irritability and negative thoughts.
Physical Symptoms – Because stress causes the heart to pump faster, blood pressure to rise and blood sugar to surge, this can cause the release of other physical symptoms. These symptoms include headaches, dizziness, racing heart, trembling, muscle tension and sweaty palms. Over time, chronic stress can cause you to have sleeping problems, grind teeth at night, indigestion, tiredness, weight loss or gain, and body aches and pains.
Mental Symptoms – Chronic stress can cause the body to lose essential nutrients, like the B vitamins that are essential to the nervous system. If these nutrients aren’t replaced through diet or supplements, the body will wear down and experience the following symptoms: forgetfulness, memory loss, lack of creativity, trouble making decisions, continuous worrying and concentration problems.
Behavioral Symptoms – When the body experiences stress, it feels it is being attacked and goes into a “fight or flight” mode. Chronic stress causes the body to stay in this anxious mode for long periods of time and can begin to break down the way a person behaves. Behavioral symptoms include compulsive eating, alcohol or drug abuse, explosive behavior, continuous anger, bossiness, impulsive behavior and withdrawal from social situations or relationships.
Ways to Relieve Chronic Stress
While you may not be able to change the situation that is causing chronic stress, such as your job or a family relationship, you can take steps to help relieve the stress or control how it affects you. When left untreated, chronic stress can lead to many dangerous health conditions including heart disease, depression, obesity, weakened immune system, ulcers and sleep disorders. Here are a few ways to help control the stress in your life.
Avoid Stimulants – When under constant stress people tend to turn to bad habits that can actually make the body feel more stressed. Try to avoid caffeinated coffee and tea, high sugar foods, foods high in empty carbohydrates like white bread and donuts and high fat foods. When stressed, many people reach for a cigarette to calm their nerves but in truth smoking only causes you to become more stressed. Cigarettes contain nicotine which is a strong stimulant. Try to quit smoking to reduce stress.
Exercise – Exercising regularly in a non-competitive style exercise raises endorphins in the body that helps a person feel positive and less stressed. Running, swimming, aerobics, bicycling and walking are all good ways to exercise to reduce stress.
Eat Healthy – Eating a balanced, healthy diet can help make a person feel better even when stressed. Eat a diet containing, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Set Realistic Goals – Pushing yourself to do more in one day than is humanly possible only leads to feelings of anxiety and stress. Instead, set realistic goals each day and think in terms of what you have accomplished instead of what you weren’t able to complete.
Sleep on a Regular Schedule – Sleep is necessary for healing both the body and mind after a stressful day. Set up a regular sleep schedule and stick to it. You will be better equipped to deal with stress each day if you’ve had a restorative night’s sleep.
Chronic stress can wear down the body and eventually make the person sick if it is not being managed properly. By pinpointing the symptoms of chronic stress and finding ways to relieve it, you will be able to live a happier, healthier life.
Mayo Clinic: “Stress management: Identify Your Sources of Stress”