Stress is a relatively modern term that is attributed to the cause of a whole host of health problems; however, stress is a serious matter and, left untreated, can have untold consequences on your health. Given the fast pace at which we live our lives today, it is no surprise that the majority of people will suffer some form of stress at some point in their lives; everyone has a breaking point but knowing how to deal with it in a healthy way is the key to a quicker recovery.
Definition of Stress
Stress is a term that can sometimes be over or misused. The British Medical Association defines stress as “ any interference that disturbs a person’s mental and physical well-being” (source: Illustrated Medical Dictionary, British Medical Association). It is also important to remember that it is not necessarily just the source that causes stress but how we react to it; the body can cope with a certain level of stress but at some point this becomes an “overload” and that is when the body begins to break down.
Causes of Stress
Causes of stress can be major life changing events (even happy ones) or a small sequence of events that build up; some of the major causes of stress include:
- moving to a new home
- getting married
- having a baby
- death of a spouse
- major illness
- death of a family member
- losing a job
- money issues
- environmental factors – noise, pollution, air and water quality
- pressure of work.
(source: Stress and Your Health)
Signs of Stress
The effects of stress can manifest in different ways in different people. Signs of stress may build up over time but stress can affect you physically, mentally and emotionally. Although many of the signs of stress can be attributed to other health issues too, these are some of the signs of stress:
- crying for no reason
- aches and pains in all parts of the body
- lack of motivation
- alcohol abuse
- drug abuse
- irritability and unreasonableness
- dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain
- skin problems.
(source: Stress Symptoms)
Effects of Stress on Your Health
The long term effects of stress on your health can cause you a number of problems; these include:
- heart disease
- acne, eczema, dermatitis and other skin disorders
- menstrual difficulties
- depression and anxiety
Coping with Stress
Once you recognize that you are suffering from stress, you can take steps to both control it and get yourself healthy once again. The main piece of advice that I was always given with regard to stress was to remove yourself from the cause of your stress; however, this is not always immediately possible, so learning a few simple techniques and ways to cope with stress can help protect your health. You need to take care of yourself both physically and mentally in order to cope with stress; coping techniques can include:
- yoga – helps both body and mind and is simple to practice at home or away
- aromatherapy – some essential oils may help you to cope with stress more easily
- exercise – exercise several times a week, even just a short walk
- relaxation – make time just “for you” – such as reading a book, taking a bath, watching a movie, etc.
- learn to “breathe” – yoga can help you to breathe more deeply and in turn relaxes the muscles
- maintain a healthy diet – although stress makes us turn to comfort foods that are high in sugar, in reality a balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat etc is more beneficial to helping your body cope with stress
- don’t self-medicate – excessive alcohol intake, drugs, smoking and over-eating creates further health problems
- seek support/help from friends/family/professionals – a strong family/friends network helps you to talk through your difficulties and gain additional help; seek professional help if you feel that your problem has become serious and requires medical intervention.
It might sound simple, but we all forget to practice the simple things in life when we become weighed down with stress! Modern day life is fast paced – but it doesn’t have to be a roller coaster of stressful situations if we can learn how to manage stress more effectively, and in turn become more healthy.
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