What is Stress?

By | December 22, 2020 | |

Oftentimes, we come across an overload of demands from every single direction and dimension of our lives. Work, relationships, finances, family, etc., everything seems to take up more energy than ever before. When this happens, we feel a lot of pressure and tension as to what to do and how to cope as we feel unable to do so. This feeling of not being able to cope with the challenges of life is called stress.

Stress is a normal reaction to any changes that may occur internally (physical, or mental changes) or externally (environmental or social changes). This reaction is felt as a feeling of emotional, mental, or physiological strain. 

Stress is, most certainly, a regular component of our lives, and is also considered necessary for our survival. When you work overtime at work to secure a promotion or when you run an extra kilometer everyday to burn off those harmful kilograms, stress is the main motivator behind it all. At the same time, stress can be cripplingly harmful if you don’t know how to properly manage it. 

The level of stress that is good and healthy for us is called eustress. It helps us perform our tasks efficiently and manage minor crises. 

However, eustress can turn into distress if not managed the right way. This level of stress exceeds our ability to cope and has many severe physiological manifestations, too. 

Signs and Symptoms of Too Much Stress

When we feel overwhelmed by stress, we tend to experience both emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioural symptoms. These symptoms negatively harm our body, our mind and our immunity to deal with any further physical or mental problems and stressors. 

Cognitive Symptoms: 

  • Inability to concentrate on the simplest tasks
  • Problem remembering things
  • Anxious, racing thoughts
  • Poor judgement, inability to make decisions
  • Thinking negatively about most situations
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms: 

  • Depressive mood or unhappiness
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • A feeling of being overwhelmed
  • Unable to manage or regulate emotions, moodiness
  • Feeling lonely and isolated

Behavioural Symptoms: 

  • Not eating a well-balanced diet
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Reckless behaviour
  • Social withdrawal
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Procrastination
  • Nail biting, pacing, etc.
  • Smoking

Physical Symptoms: 

  • Aches and pains
  • Constipation, or diarrhea
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of libido or sex drive
  • Chest pain and rapid heart rate
  • Palpitations
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Low immunity level
  • Nausea, dizziness

Effect of stress on mind and body

Stress is a powerful feeling that can drive you to be successful in life, but at the same time, it can also be debilitatingly harmful. It can, if not handled properly, completely shake the foundations of your career and relationships. 

If you’re living with an uncontrollably high amount of stress, you’re not just putting your mental health at risk, you’re also very likely to have poor physical health. It is a proven fact that stressed individuals are likelier to expose themselves to pathogens of illnesses. Around 60-80% doctor visits are stress-related. This is because distress impacts our immunity levels drastically. 

Moreover, stressed people are also much more susceptible to taking part in health impairing activities such as:

  • Consuming high amounts of alcohol
  • Smoking
  • High dietary fat consumption
  • Substance abuse
  • Unsafe sexual practices
  • Risky driving
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Violent or suicidal behaviour

 Physical health problems and chronic illnesses like ulcers, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer have strong links with stress.

Causes of Stress

The pressures and/or situations that cause stress (or, more specifically, distress) are called stressors. Anything that exceeds our ability to cope, or puts a high demand on us can be stressful and called a stressor. This can include events that make you excited or are good in general, as in, positive events like going to college, getting married, buying a new car, etc. 

Stressors can be internal or external. Internal stressors are generated by ourselves. When we overthink and worry about things, or have a negative and irrational perception about our lives and the world, we get stressed out. 

Our ability to cope and the kind of stressors that trigger a stress response in us are subjective. What may stress someone out may be a cakewalk for someone else. Some people might even enjoy a situation that may appear stressful to us.

Examples of causes of stress are as follows:

External causes of stress:

  • College, school, or work
  • Family, children, spouse
  • Finances 
  • Life changes
  • Difficulty in a relationship
  • Having no time for oneself

Internal causes of stress:

  • Pessimistic outlook 
  • Perfectionism
  • Rigid thinking
  • Negative self talk
  • Inability to deal with uncertainty
  • Black and white thinking
  • Catastrophic thinking

Tips for stress management

There are some life skills and habits that help us prevent getting too stressed and lead a good life in general. They enable individuals to deal with the challenges of everyday life with utmost efficiency. They are as follows:

  • Learn how to manage time properly. Spend your time doing things that you value or finishing tasks that bring you closer to achieving your goals. 
  • Set realistic, attainable, and sustainable goals. 
  • Eat a well-balanced diet, get at least 8 hours of sleep, and exercise regularly. 
  • Adopt a positive attitude. Living with an optimistic outlook towards life is going to guarantee that you choose problem-coping strategies over avoidance behaviour. 
  • Build good relationships and meaningful connections as well as improve upon your current relationships. This can be achieved with learning good communication skills. 
  • Spend some time on leisure activities that help you unwind regularly. 
  • Practice assertiveness and learn when to say “no”. 

Importance of Coming To Therapy 

If you are having trouble managing your stress, and it’s severely impacting multiple areas of your life, it’s time to consider therapy. Therapy helps you understand the cause and underlying meaning of your stress and it helps you learn how to manage it much more efficiently. The outcome is that of fruitful, if not life-changing insights, deeper understanding of the self and lifestyle changes that help you reach your fullest potential. At Incontact, we believe that every individual and his or her experiences are unique. Therefore, every individual requires a unique treatment plan. Our team of extensively experienced professionals adapt and evolve the treatment plan according to the client’s distinctive needs. We strive to create an eclectic mix of different concepts and therapeutic approaches to resolve the specific issues that you may be experiencing. For more information on our services offered for stress management, visit our service page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Is stress an unnatural, abnormal reaction?

No. Stress is a normal response to something that exceeds our limit to cope and deal with efficiently. At the same time it drives us to do better. Stress is not only

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