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Stress is an unavoidable aspect of modern life for most people. In order to get a handle on the stress that you experience, you first need to gain a better understanding of it. Stress refers to any situation which triggers a specific biological response. The resulting response is often referred to as your flight or fight response. Your body prepares itself to either face the trigger or run from it. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Stress Explained.
How Bad is Stress?
The truth of the matter is that not all stress is necessarily bad. It serves a purpose, historically it may have even helped out ancestors to survive. It can be a motivator that helps you to achieve. The truth is that the things that we find stressful vary from person to person. So, while not all stress is bad, it should be temporary. After the initial trigger, your heart rate should return to normal, and your muscles relax. The trouble comes when the body doesn‘t return to normal. Chronic stress doesn‘t allow the body with much reprieve, and this can be damaging to you both mentally and physically.
Stress is a bodily process. When you become aware of a trigger, the hypothalamus is the part of the brain that decides whether to react to it or not. The hypothalamus then sends both a nerve and hormone signals to the adrenal glands within the body. The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting the hormones that then prepare you to face the danger.
The hormones are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your breath and your heart rate. It contracts blood vessels to redirect the blood to the muscles and make it easier for them to produce glucose. While these are all necessary in the moment, too much adrenaline over time can start to break down your blood vessels and lead to high blood pressure. There is also an increased risk of strokes or heart attacks. Weight gain, insomnia and anxiety can also result from an increased and extended exposure to adrenaline.
Cortisol has similar functions. It raises the levels of glucose within the blood as well as encouraging the brain to use the glucose more efficiently. Cortisol also limits non-essential functions both within the body and the brain too. These functions simply serve to make the body better prepared to face the stress and save your energy. However, if the levels of cortisol remain too high in the body for too long, it can be incredibly detrimental. It can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, osteoporosis, memory issues and a significantly dampened immune system.
The Different Types of Stress
There is actually a number of different forms of stress. The most common of which is acute, episodic and chronic. Acute stress affects most people. It is the body‘s innate reaction to a new environment or situation. An example of this could be holiday stress. Getting everything sorted to celebrate a holiday in time can be incredibly stressful. Luckily, healthcare providers like Talkiatry can help you; they have a number of resources on their blog that can help in addition to the services they provide, so check them out. In truth, some people come to enjoy this acute reaction which is why there are people who call themselves ‘thrill seekers‘ and bungee jump or ride rollercoasters. This form of stress causes you little to no harm.
Another type of stress, Episodic stress, is pretty self-explanatory. It is when you frequently experience episodes of stress. This could be as a result of mental illness like OCD, where you consistently find yourself worried about things that may or may not happen. It could be as a reaction to an unpredictable environment or lifestyle. For example, people who work in dangerous or stressful environments like firefighters, doctors or soldiers are also likely to experience episodic stress.
Finally, chronic stress is when you experience high levels of stress over an extended period of time. It is also referred to as long term stress, and it can be extremely harmful to your health. As mentioned above, it can lead to mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, or it can cause things like high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
How Can Stress Be Dealt With?
This question is difficult to answer because stress is not the same for everyone. Some things that will cause stress in some people won’t in others, and the same can be said for stress relievers. One of the best things that you can do is to identify your triggers. Once you have identified the things that cause you to stress, you can start to take steps to lessen the effect that they have on you. Taking up a hobby, incorporating mindfulness, or finding coping strategies or relaxation techniques into your day can also help too.
Feeling stressed from time to time is totally normal; unfortunately, it is part of life. That being said, too much stress can affect you both mentally and physically, so it is important to identify what form of stress you suffer from. If you find that you suffer from chronic stress, then there are steps that you can take to lessen the harm that it can have. If you are concerned, then remember to consult a doctor who could perhaps suggest medication or other lifestyle changes that you could make.
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