Each of us has been affected by stress. With the environment and the stressors all around us – exercise, work, school, and life changes – stress is inevitable. It is the way our body naturally reacts to change. But the way we handle that stress directly influences its impact on us, which is why you need to know how to handle small or large stress events to be able to ask for help.
According to Joseph Rock, PsyD, “When stress starts to grow beyond work – it begins to affect our overall health, both mentally and physically.”
The ability to handle stress will spell the difference between overcoming it successfully or caving in to negative diversions like binge-eating turning into food addiction, alcoholism, or substance abuse. This will make it worse because you now have to deal with stress and at the same time, seek help for addiction.
Here are five facts about stress:
- Stress Affects us All
Everyone is affected by stress. Some people respond to it more effectively or recover from it more quickly than others. Stressors around us may be a short term matter but it can also occur for long periods of time which can affect our physical and mental health. Studies have shown that 44% of Americans feel more stressed than they were five years ago, 1 in 5 Americans experience extreme stress and 3 out of 4 doctor visits are for stress-related problems.
According to Examined Existence, there are certain persons who are at most risk of extreme stress:
- Urban Dwellers
- Working Mothers
- Divorced or Widowed
- Financially-strained Individuals
- Lonely and Isolated people
- Victims of Abuse, Accidents, and Crimes
- Victims of Bullying or Sexual/Racial Prejudice
2. Good Stress & Bad Stress
Not all stress types are bad. Some types of stress such as acute stress can actually be exciting in small amounts. It can get your heart and blood pumping, and push you to perform better. For example, taking a test or carrying out a show. It can also help you sense danger and prepare your body in surviving against it. Stress becomes bad when you experience it for long periods of time, like for months or years, especially when it interferes with your ability to complete activities and function in your life.
The Three Types of Stress are:
- Acute Stress – This is the most common kind of stress. It is short term and what most people consider as a “normal part” of their lives. For example, taking a test, a deadline that is coming up, or your child’s issues in school. This form of stress is the most treatable and easily manageable.
- Episodic Acute Stress – This stress affects people who suffer from frequent acute stress. They see nothing wrong with how they live with all the stress in their minds and think of it as who and what they are. Treating EAS may generally need professional help.
- Chronic Stress – This is the form of stress that can actually kill. Individuals who suffer from chronic stress cannot function properly due to the stress that is taking a huge toll on their overall health. They see no hope in negative situations and give up on solutions. Chronic stress may require extended medical treatment.
3. Some Causes of Stress
Stressors are anything that can cause stress on someone. Be it a person, activity, event, or any other stimulus. Everyone perceives stress differently. For example, a morning drive to school/work may be stressful for some because of a chance of traffic, but others may perceive it as something that can help them relax or think things through.
Stress can be a result of external or internal factors:
- External causes- Factors that are external are the things or events that are happening in your environment. It can also be the people you have with you.
- Life changes
- Relationship problems
- School or work
- Busy schedule
- Financial difficulties
- Major problems like abuse or bullying
- Internal causes- These factors stem from your own thinking and behavior.
- Pessimistic attitude
- Negative thoughts about life
- Lack of belief in oneself
- Unable to adapt to certain situations
- False impression on what others think about you
4. Effects of Stress
When you experience too much stress, it can pose many health problems. Stress doesn’t only take a toll on your body but also on your mental health. You become more vulnerable and helpless in many situations and become unable to respond properly. In fact, 43% percent of adults suffer from stress health effects.
Susan Albers, PsyD said “Some people overeat when they feel stressed and some people lose track of their appetite.”
Some Effects of Stress include:
- Headaches and migraines
- Muscle tension or pain
- Digestive problems
- Depression and anxiety disorders
- Sleep problems
- Weight problems
- Memory problems
- Lack of focus
- Anger or irritability
- Substance abuse
- Social withdrawal
5. Managing Stress
When you are undergoing a type of stress like acute stress, it is easier to manage and cope. Examples are increasing your activity level and going out, connecting with others, learning how to relax or rest, and changing your lifestyle. It can be done by shifting your diet to a new and healthy one and fixing your bad habits or vices (smoking or drinking).
But when you are suffering severe stress like chronic stress or even episodic stress, it is best to treat it by looking for medical and professional help, such as therapy or counseling. If you feel like you are undergoing extreme stress or know someone who is showing signs of stress, do not hesitate to look and reach out to them. Consider asking for help.
According to Celeste Campbell, PsyD, “There are plenty of resources available for stress management, and a lot of information online, but sifting through it and tailoring it for your particular needs may be challenging without some support.”