Stress seems to be ubiquitous. Many people feel a lot of stress and are caught in the rat race. They have to do countless things at the same time while the clock is ticking. But what is it exactly?
The physiological 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 and death has now become a problem.
The factors have changed: Deadline pressure, air travel, too many tasks at school or university, double burden, sensory overload, and the list goes on.
The physical response, on the other hand, has remained the same. As always, the dose decides: if the pressure becomes too much and there is no vent, it becomes a problem.
Although we are no longer fighting or fleeing, our body treats stress in the same way it used to treat threats. If constantly triggered, our fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. This has negative consequences for the body and soul.
Also, while mild to moderate stress stimulates the immune system, chronic stress will weaken it. In short, stress can make you sick in the long run.
Too much strain can also show itself in the form of physical symptoms and health problems. Very high-stress levels can lead to high blood pressure, constantly racing heart, and muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.
Muscle tightness in the head and neck is one of the common headache triggers and can cause stress headaches. Other stress symptoms are itching, toothache, and a wide range of gastrointestinal symptoms. These include nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain through to gastritis, irritable stomach or bowel, and even stomach ulcers.
You may have often heard this saying, but is it really true?
Yes! Psychological stress can be felt in the hair follicle at the end of the hair strand. There, it affects the stem cells that are responsible for regenerating hair pigment.
Stress can, thus, change the colour of the hair. It can even trigger acute hair loss, in which no new hair is produced by the hair roots.
Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. However, in more severe cases it can develop into anxiety disorders and attacks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety disorders are the most common of all mental health problems in the United States. The same is true for Canada according to the Public Health Agency.
If we are constantly concerned and worried, this can also lead to sleep disturbances and nervousness, which can end in burnout. Depression can be another long-term consequence if we don’t cut in early enough.
Many people ask themselves how to manage stress and stressful situations. They are looking for ways that help to reduce stress and bring stress relief.
Three pillars have proven themselves successful for stress reduction: Relaxation, behaviour change and, if necessary, support with drug treatment.
Strain and worry require restful moments as compensation. Be good to yourself and plan such moments in your daily routine. Take time to prioritize your tasks according to importance. Different techniques can be helpful to find some time to relax:
- Autogenic training
In autogenic training, you concentrate on various body parts and practice relaxing the muscles completely. In this technique, verbal commands are used that tell the body to relax. Feelings of calm are promoted to reach the goal of deep relaxation.
- Jacobsen progressive muscle relaxation
Strain 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 goal of this technique is to relieve tension and to become more aware of the body.
In this form of focused relaxation, all senses are used. Guided imagery involves creating calm and peaceful images in your mind along with imagining positive sensations. The goal is harmony between the body and mind.
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. Stop dwelling on negative thoughts and try to reduce your daily workload.
In addition, you can replace old habits with newly learned behaviours. This could include replacing poor eating habits with a healthy diet. Or going on a walk for 30 minutes instead of reaching for a cigarette if you need to steam off.
By repeating those new habits, again and again, they will be gradually internalized. This process usually takes several weeks. If you feel like you cannot manage this by yourself, it can be useful to have professional help to regain control of coping with tension and worry.
Sometimes it takes a little push to take the initial steps to get away from the strain.
Herbal medications can help you to replenish your mental strength and find some peace. Passionflower can introduce a noticeable easing of tension in demanding periods. As a side benefit, the herb can give the body a chance to reset and heal by getting enough sleep at night.
Another over-the-counter option to try is B vitamins for stress relief. B vitamins are a group of 8 types of vitamins, also known as the vitamin B complex.
You might wonder, what vitamin B is good for stress? Research has shown that taking supplements with the entire vitamin B complex had positive effects on stress and mood. It is also known that B-complex vitamins such as vitamin B12 play an important role in keeping our brain and nervous system healthy.
Vitamin C is another stress buster. It plays an important role in the stress response of our body. People with high levels of vitamin C seem to be less affected by nerve-racking events and able to bounce back faster afterwards.
In addition, vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that also helps with immune function. Some studies have shown that it not only boosts our immune system but also might improve mood.
- 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.
- Use a diary to help you declutter and organize your mind and thoughts. It might also help to clear your surroundings of useless dead weight.
- Introduce more rest into your life and take deliberate breaks.
- Restrict your TV, computer, or social media consumption. Instead spend more time with friends and family.
- Learn and do regular relaxation exercises (yoga, autogenic training, tai chi) that feel appropriate for you. You can also take forest walks or go swimming.
Shop for Pascoe remedies here.
- What is stress?
- What is stress caused by?
- Can stress make you sick?
- What are the physical signs of stress?
- Can stress give you grey hairs?
- Does persistent stress have psychological consequences?
- Stress management strategies: How to deal with stress?
- Relaxation – help to help yourself
- Support with drug treatment
- Further practical advice and tips
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Reading time: 5 minutes
Reading time: 5 minutes