Stress seems to be ubiquitous, many people feel caught in the rat race, have to do countless things at the same time while the clock is ticking. But what is stress exactly?
The physiological stress response to threatening dangers is, in terms of evolutionary biology, a relic of olden times. Its typical signs such as increased blood pressure, accelerated heartbeat, improved circulation of the muscles and the provision of energy are physical reactions to decision situations: Fight or flight from attackers or wild animals.
These reactions are triggered by the stress hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. They make the body ready to react in critical situations. The so-called eustress is, therefore, a completely natural physical reaction to a challenge.
What once made the difference between life or death has now become a problem. The stress factors, also known as stressors, have changed: Deadline pressure, air travel, too much stress at school, university stress, double burden or sensory overload. The physical response, on the other hand, has remained the same. As always, the dose decides: if the stress becomes too much and there is no vent, it becomes a problem.
As we are usually no longer fighting or fleeing, stress hormones such as adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol, which trigger the body's stress response, are only broken down very slowly. This has negative consequences for body and soul: Stress can make you sick in the long run.
Excessive stress can also manifest itself in physical symptoms: Blood pressure problems, constantly racing heart, muscle tension, itching, headache, toothache, but also gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain through to gastritis, irritable stomach, irritable bowel or stomach ulcers can result from stress.
You often hear that stress can give you grey hairs. But is it really true? Yes! Psychological stress can be felt in the hair roots, pigment cells of the hair and hair-producing cells. Hair roots are surrounded by a nerve net. They react to stress messengers. Stress can, thus, change the colour of the hair or even trigger acute hair loss, in which no new hair is produced by the hair roots.
If we are constantly stressed, this can lead to sleep disturbances and nervousness, which can also end in burnout. Depression can also be a long-term consequence if stress reduction is not initiated early enough or strategies for coping with stress are not learned.
Many people ask themselves what they can do about stress, how best to reduce it, and whether in light of this relaxing exercises such as yoga can help to reduce stress. Three pillars for a stress-free life have proven themselves successful: Relaxation, behaviour change and, if necessary, support with drug treatment.
Relaxation – help to help yourself
Stress requires stress-free moments as compensation. Be good to yourself and plan such moments in your daily routine. Take time to prioritize your tasks according to importance. For example, autogenic training and Jacobsen progressive muscle relaxation can be helpful in initiating time to relax and relieve stress:
- Autogenic training
In autogenic training, the sufferer places themselves into a hypnotic state of consciousness through autosuggestion. You concentrate on various body parts in the exercises and practice relaxing the muscles completely. If all of the muscles of the body are relaxed this leads to rejuvenation and regeneration of the brain. The mindfulness training hones and trains the five senses because when we feel good and feel enjoyment, the body releases more stress-reducing hormones.
- Jacobsen progressive muscle relaxation
Stress can lead to increased muscle tension and consequently to pain. In progressive muscle relaxation, the aim is to loosen all of the muscles using targeted tension and relaxation. The objective is an improvement in the perception of the body for reduced muscle tension.
Demanding too much from yourself plus an insurmountable mountain of tasks easily leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Always bear in mind: No-one is perfect! Therefore, you should not judge yourself too harshly and you should reduce your daily workload. In addition, you can replace old habits with newly learned behaviours that you repeat again and again, and which are gradually internalized. This process takes several weeks. Most of the time you do not manage it by yourself and it is useful to have professional help to regain control of coping with stress.
Sometimes it takes a little push to take the initial steps to get away from the stress. Herbal medications can help to replenish your mental strength and help you to find some peace. Passionflower can introduce a noticeable easing of tension in stressful periods.
- Listen to signals from your body: Find out what really does you good and look after yourself!
- Do not judge yourself too harshly, nobody is perfect
- Make space in your diary, perhaps also clear your whole surroundings of unnecessary dead weight
- Introduce more rest into your life, take deliberate breaks
- Restrict your television and computer consumption, instead spend more active-relaxed time with friends and family
- Learn and do regular relaxation exercises (yoga, autogenic training, tai chi) which are appropriate for you or also take forest walks and go swimming.
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- What is stress and what are the symptoms of stress?
- What are the causes of stress and where does harmful distress come from?
- Can stress make you sick?
- What are the physical symptoms of too much stress?
- Can stress give you grey hairs?
- Does persistent stress have psychological consequences?
- Stress management: What helps counter stress?
- Relaxation – help to help yourself
- Support with drug treatment
- Further advice for countering stress and nervous anxiety