There are people with a fast-paced lifestyle, but capable of handling daily stresses adequately. However, others suffer more from the changes and are overwhelmed by the complicated scenarios that arise on a daily basis. Ultimately, they have a harder time fighting stress .
Who else who less, we have all lived periods in which the levels of demand increase in our employment, with family or friends. The workload, financial or emotional needs, unexpected events or health are aspects capable of worrying and absorbing us in such a way that they prevent us from enjoying everything good around us.
At those times, recommendations are necessary to manage stress .
Mood as a changing reality
Although Western culture mythologizes happiness and praises it as one of the highest goals to achieve, the truth is that no one lives with constant euphoria. Throughout the day, we go through very different states of mind , conditioned by multiple factors, both internal and external, that affect the way we analyze and make sense of the reality that surrounds us.
The states of tranquility, calm, happiness, placidity and satisfaction or, on the contrary, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, restlessness and frustration, can be conditioned by our type of diet, the hours we sleep, the people we surround ourselves with, the economic situation we have or the misfortunes that befall us (accidents, illnesses, emotional breakdowns, sexual, school or work harassment), among many other factors. We can control and neutralize the effect of some of them, but others are totally out of our hands.
This is where that state of physical, mental or emotional tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances can arrive. We call it stress and, although in small doses it can be beneficial, we must try to get rid of it as soon as possible.
As varied as the causes that cause it, their types can be. That is to say, the tension caused by a traffic jam is not the same as by a complicated assignment in the office, a divorce, the closure of a company of which we are directors, a traffic accident with tragic results, the organization of a Christmas dinner with a crowd of guests or the need to speak in front of 300 people.
The intervention formulas in each of these examples are very different and some of them may require the help of medical specialists , while others are easily crossed by anyone in a healthy and balanced mental state.
Another important factor to take into account is the state of health, both physical and mental, from which the person who suffers stress starts . For example, if we suffer from heart disease, suddenly being subjected to a high level of nervousness could even lead to heart failure. In this type of case, it is recommended to lead a quiet life, with healthy lifestyle and eating habits and away from unforeseen events or high levels of activity.
Phases of stress
This phenomenon is actually a way for the body to adapt to situations and stimuli that pose some kind of challenge. The way the body responds to the alarm is divided into 3 phases, also known as general adaptation syndrome . These are:
Alarm : we perceive a situation that alerts us and our body reacts. The brain prepares a strategy to escape or fight. Our head thinks faster thanks to the extra energy that adrenaline gives it , a substance that begins to be generated in greater quantity when our levels of nervousness jump.
Resistance or adaptation : once the first initial reaction phase has passed, the body activates its resistance mechanisms, both physical and mental. It is in this phase when the hormone called cortisol is released , to speed up the body’s reactions to the situation that generates stress.
Cortisol has a positive effect when exposure to stressful events is relatively brief. However, if these periods are prolonged, it can cause lightheadedness, blockage or poor reasoning ability, memory loss, excessive fatigue or pain, which also occurs in very pronounced states of stress.
Exhaustion : this phase comes when alert states last too long. The secretion of hormones exceeds our body’s ability to support or compensate for it. This can have consequences in multiple areas, from alterations in the menstrual cycle for women, irritability, decreased sexual desire, fatigue, depression or apathy.
Symptoms of stress or anxiety
Telltale signs of stress build-up include:
- Poor quality of sleep or insomnia .
- Irritability or excessive impatience with minor problems.
- Lack of concentration capacity caused by the inability to stop thinking about many other things.
- Lack of ability to make decisions.
- Accentuated consumption of alcoholic beverages or tobacco.
- Lack of enjoyment with food and other recreational or entertainment activities.
- Inability to relax
- Constant feeling that you always have things to do.
- Psychological, muscular and emotional tension.
On the other hand, other physical symptoms are:
- Knot in the stomach.
- Excessive sweating and dry mouth.
- Palpitations .
- Headaches and muscle tension in the neck and shoulders.
Solutions and recommendations to combat stress
The following is a list of suggestions that may be helpful in trying to combat this phenomenon.
To begin with, it is good to know where the origin of our discomfort is. We can keep a journal for a few weeks and list the times, places, and people that aggravate our levels of nervousness.
So a pattern can emerge. Is it always the traffic on the way to work that gets your day off to a bad start? Perhaps it is the attitude of a colleague or boss, the little rest at mealtime or something similar that can happen regularly.
Once we have identified any causes, the following solutions can help:
Talking about it with a close friend or family member helps. Simply verbalizing our concerns can be very beneficial.
This does not mean that we should continually express our fears and insecurities, but rather analyze them and share them with people we trust.
In these cases, our attitude is decisive. Not getting carried away by negativity and pessimism is key. The help of our closest social and family environment, accompanied by an optimistic approach to problems, can prevent our worries from overtaking us.
We can do neck stretching exercises when, for example, we run into a traffic jam, instead of tense and stress. It is also possible to dedicate time each day to sessions of meditation, qigong, yoga, Pilates or similar practices .
Some people find that moving from chest breathing to abdominal (tummy) breathing can be helpful. This encourages the diaphragm to work efficiently and can help prevent very rapid breathing and slow down the heartbeat and, with it, anxiety levels.
Other ways to relax are to go for a walk, listen to music, or watch a movie. These activities not only help to distract the mind, but also contribute to reflection and to bring a certain perspective back to life.
Rest is necessary and can help us improve our physical and mental health. A good idea is, for example, to get up 15 or 20 minutes earlier than usual and spend that time thinking and planning the day without haste.
It is advisable to have a leisurely lunch, preferably away from work. Another bad habit is working through lunch . If we can’t stop to eat, we should at least take 5-10 minutes every two to three hours to relax. Also, once or twice a week, plan for some time to be alone, even if only for 15 minutes.
Many people feel that regular exercise reduces their stress level. Any physical or sports practice can be good, but we should practice it for at least 30 minutes, five days a week. A brisk walk Monday through Friday is a good start, if we are not used to gym routines. Also, if we have difficulty sleeping, daily exercise can help us a lot.
Smoking and drinking are harmful in any situation. Tobacco or alcohol is not proven to help relax or calm nerves. But it is known that they clearly harm health. Tobacco is the source of many respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
And in the case of drinking, it deteriorates the cognitive and neural system , so that its habitual intake can lead to distractions at work, memory lapses, excessive fatigue or lack of precision with manual tasks, among other consequences.
On the other hand, a healthy diet, with natural ingredients and the absence of industrial products can help us feel better and be the basis for a recovery of a more relaxed and optimistic state of mind.
Many people find that a fulfilling personal life helps lower stress levels. To achieve this, one of the strategies is to acquire a hobby, without deadlines or pressures, with which to relieve the mind of the accumulated tension in other spheres of life.
Such hobbies include, for example: group activities with voluntary associations, adventure sports (hiking or jogging), knitting, listening to music, painting workshops, laughter therapy or crafts, etc.
In some cases, stress or anxiety becomes severe or difficult to cope with. In these cases, the affected people are unable to free themselves from recurring thoughts, negativity, feelings of sadness or anxiety and their family, work and social relationships in general suffer and are clearly conditioned by this state.
If these types of cases occur, it could be beneficial for us to consult a doctor to redirect the situation.
Acute stress reactions
They occur when symptoms develop due to a particularly shocking event . Symptoms come on quickly, but usually do not last long.
The events are usually very serious and an acute reaction usually occurs after an unexpected life crisis. This could be, for example, a serious accident, a sudden bereavement, or other traumatic events.
Traffic accidents cause many victims each year and anyone can be directly or indirectly affected by this type of exceptionally stressful event. Acute reactions can also occur as a result of sexual assault or domestic violence .
These types of phenomena have been observed in people experiencing terrorist incidents or major disasters, such as natural disasters . They can also occur in people who experience war in their countries. Military personnel are at higher risk as a result of extreme experiences during conflicts.
Symptoms of an acute reaction
Symptoms generally develop rapidly within minutes to hours, in reaction to the stressful event. They usually subside fairly quickly, but can sometimes last for several days or weeks. Among the main symptoms are the following:
- Psychological : such as anxiety, bad mood, irritability, emotional ups and downs, lack of sleep, lack of concentration, desire to be alone.
- Recurring nightmares or flashbacks . That is to say, images in our mind that approach us incessantly and without letting us think in a normal way, whether sleeping or awake. Therefore, in these cases we must avoid anything that triggers memories. This may mean avoiding people, conversations, or other situations that cause distress and anxiety.
- Reckless or aggressive behavior that can be self-destructive.
- Feeling emotionally numb and separated from others.
- Physical symptoms such as: palpitations, nausea, chest, headache or abdominal pain or breathing difficulties. Physical symptoms are caused by stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine), which are released into the bloodstream and by overactive nerve impulses in various parts of the body.
Conclusion: mental hygiene
Today’s lifestyle requires a great deal of effort and sacrifice that, in some cases, can destabilize us psychologically and emotionally. Therefore, one of the main recommendations to combat stress is to provide ourselves with a social and family environment that helps us in difficult times and achieve adequate mental hygiene. This means balancing the different parts of our life, to be able to face stressful situations , should they arise, to know how to relativize and see things with the necessary perspective.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.