Health and the Effects of Stress
Our health is impacted by stress. Man’s history required he be prepared to fight or flee. This original stress response to our survival no longer serves us, however, the instinct remains and the impact of unmanaged stress on our health can be devastating.
What is Stress?
In today’s fast-paced world, stress seems to have become a way of life. If you find that your shoulders are tense or you feel irritable, angry, or unable to concentrate, then you may be overly stressed.
A certain amount of daily stress is normal and necessary. Positive stress adds anticipation and excitement to life. Stress can help move you to action. You may even thrive under a certain amount of stress. Deadlines, competitions, and challenges add a level of stress that keeps us active. However, according to the American Institute of Stress, stress causes adverse health effects in 43 percent of adults, and 75-80 percent of visits to the doctor are related to stress.
When left unchecked, stress can lead to serious health problems.
How Do You Handle Stress?
Everyone handles stress differently. Some people seek out situations that may seem stressful to others. A major life decision, such as changing careers or buying a house, might be overwhelming for some, while others may welcome the change. The key to achieving balance is to determine your tolerance level for stressful situations and learn how to effectively manage the stress in your life.
In an article in American Psychology, the author recommends learning a few coping skills that will make the demands of stress more manageable.
- Decide whether the stress is of concern.
- Appraise how much control you have of the situation.
- Take actions that are deemed appropriate for the situation.
You could determine ahead of time your daily stressors and what type of situations cause you the most stress. Remember, it is your perception of the stressor that makes it stressful for you. If you are able to take a thoughtful approach to evaluating your stressors, then you have a chance of managing your reactions to them.
Symptoms of Stress
The effects of stress can be both physical and emotional. Below are signs to look for, if experiencing undue stress:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Digestive problems
- Constant feeling of urgency
- Tension, headaches, backaches
- Low energy
- Rise in or lowering of blood pressure
- Addictions and sugar cravings
- Under or overeating
When does stress become a problem?
Here are some guidelines to help you identify a potential problem:
- When stress becomes a way of life.
- When stress or its effects interfere with work or relationships.
- When stress causes you to lose self-confidence or self-esteem.
- When you constantly feel tired or overwhelmed.
- When you develop chronic insomnia.
- Weight gain, weight loss resistance, and blood sugar issues.
Solutions to stress could be as simple as getting a good nights sleep, breathing, or may require more effort. Exercise, particularly consistent exercise, and meditation are two solutions that have been shown to help reduce stress. Ultimately, however, pinpointing the causes of stress in your life and learning to manage or eliminate them is necessary for truly long-term health.