People experience stress at some point in time. Others recover from it, some don’t. Since people have different coping mechanism and capability, the level or degree of stress that they can tolerate vary as well.
Everyone’s life is faced with problems, challenges, hassles and pressures. No one is exempted from that. For some, these experiences help them respond well to stressful situations. Unfortunately, there are those who couldn’t respond well to problems or situations that warrant stress, fear or anxiety.
Stress, like fear is a normal human response when faced with events or situations that make you upset or threatened. Technically, it is defined as the way the brain responds to any stimulation. If the situation presents some kind of danger or uncertainty, the stress caused by such will let the body and mind respond in a protective way. One becomes alert and focused, ready for any eventuality. In some cases and situations, the stress response could even be life-saving.
Types of Stress
Stress is generally categorized in three groups :
- Good stress or Routine Stress – this is when stress is used to rise to the challenges. This kind of stress usually have good outcome and can be helpful in one’s learning and growth. This usually stems from pressures derived from work, family and other daily responsibilities.
- Tolerable stress – this is the person’s response to some bad events like losing a job, but one has the inner strength to hold up and contain the emotion. A support network can also help in one’s coping with the bad situation.
- Toxic stress – this stress is elicited when something bad happens and one does not have the strength and inner resources to deal with the situation. This may cause major emotional and physical crisis.
People respond to stress in different ways. It is important that a person understands the level of stress he can tolerate and respond to well, and what level of stress can cause uncontrollable situations. Generally, people respond to stress in three ways:
- Angry or agitated response. Your emotions are high, restless, disconcerted, tense and jumpy.
- Withdrawn or depressed response. Low energy and no significant reaction or emotion. You shun people and isolate yourself.
- A tense and frozen response. It’s a concealed agitated response, showing no violent reaction. You may look paralyzed but underneath is extreme distress.
Symptoms of Stress Overload
There are signs and symptoms which indicate if your stress level is overboard.
- Cognitive Signs – The warning signs include failing memory, lack of focus or concentration, poor judgement, racing thoughts and endless worrying.
- Emotional Signs – The warning signs may range from frequent mood swings, irritability, extreme nervousness, overpowering feeling, severe loneliness, feeling of isolation and depressed mood.
- Physical Signs – The warning signs evident are constant bodily pains and aches, bowel movement problems, nausea, vomiting, palpitation or hyperventilation, tightness of chest, loss of sexual desire and frequent bouts of cold.
- Behavioral Signs – Stress is manifested by poor eating habits, bad sleeping habits, isolation from other people, forgetting about responsibilities, alcohol and drug consumption to relieve stress, constant jittery gestures like nail-biting, cracking of knuckles, etc.
Factors that contribute to the onset of stress symptoms are called stressors or triggers. These factors may be external or self-generated, such as:
- Big life changes
- Work, business or profession
- Difficulties in relationships (family members, wife, children, friends, associates, etc.)
- Financial crisis
- Hectic schedule
- Pessimistic attitude
- Unrealistic projections and expectations
- Negative value on self
Managing and Coping with Stress
If stress is not addressed and resolve, the effects it may have on a person might lead to an uncontrollable emotional outburst. One needs to undertake practical measures to maintain one’s physical and mental health . and help cope with stress. Learn how to:
- Maintain a good support group or network of people who can help you talk through the situations.
- Recognize signals sent out by your body about overwhelming feeling of stress like sleeping problems, increase in alcohol or drug consumption, etc.
- Focus on positive thoughts like accomplishments for the day and not dwelling on failures or disappointments
- Set priorities according to urgency. Don’t get yourself overwhelmed with numerous tasks
- Keep a regular 30-minute exercise regimen to help improve mood and get rid of stress.
- Explore and engage in relaxation activities
- Consult with a professional mental health specialist when feeling overpowered by stress, rendering you unable to function well and resorting to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanism. If you are entertaining suicidal thoughts, it’s time to seek professional help.
One’s ability to cope with stress is largely dependent on one’s lifestyle choices. Keeping it to the basics : healthy and balanced diet, good sleeping habit, regular physical and mental exercise and strong social networking, will help you get the inner strength and cope with stress.