Stress is your body’s natural response to challenging situations in your life. So, feeling stressed once in a while is completely normal. It is your stress that makes you finish ‘that’ important project faster and within the deadline, than you would have in the absence of stress. However, stress that is persistent (chronic) and negatively impacting your health, relationships, or professional life is a serious issue.
Here are some common signs and symptoms that can let you know if you are suffering from chronic stress.
- Headaches (that get aggravated when you are stressed)
- General aches or pains in any part of the body (without any disease condition)
- Muscle tension in neck, face, or shoulders
- Gritting or grinding teeth
- Clenched jaw
- Increase or decrease in appetite (undereating or overeating)
- Trouble sleeping
- Palpitations (racing heart)
- Cold or sweaty palms, feet
- Constant tiredness, fatigue
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Stomach upset, diarrhea
- Sexual problems (such as difficulty getting an erection, decreased sexual drive)
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Less interest in meeting people and participating in social gatherings
What can cause stress?
The things that can give rise to stress differ amongst individuals. However, some events, such as the death of a very close family member, are common stress triggers for most persons.
According to the widely used Holmes and Rahe Stress scale, these are the top 15 stressful life events for adults that can have detrimental effects on their health:
- Death of a spouse
- Marriage separation
- Death of a close family member
- Injury or illness
- Job loss
- Marriage reconciliation
- Change in health of family members
- Sexual difficulties
- Gain a new family member
- Business readjustment
How to manage your stress?
Almost everyone goes through some kind of stress in their lifetime. However, your outlook towards life and how you deal with the stressful events in the first place and over time make the difference.
Here are a few things that you can do to manage your stress:
- Relaxation techniques: These include body massages, deep breathing, meditation, tai chi, or yoga.
- Long walks and long baths: Long walks in nature and warm baths can help refresh your mind and make you feel better.
- Eat healthily: Stay away from packaged foods, processed food. Consume nutritious foods, such as whole cereals and grains, and a variety of vegetables and fruits.
- Regular exercise or being physically active: Your body can fight stress effectively when you are fit.
- Get adequate sleep: Sleep deprivation can worsen your stress. Try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
- Spend time with family and friends: Staying connected and sharing your life experiences with family and friends is a wonderful way to vent out your feelings and relieve your stress.
- Keep a sense of humor: Watching comedy movies or TV series, reading comic books, etc. are entertaining stressbusters that make you laugh and keep your sense of humor alive.
- Reserve some of your time for hobbies: Regularly follow any of your hobbies, such as reading a book, painting, gardening, listening to music, singing, dancing, etc. This can elevate your mood instantly and help you relax.
- Organize your time and tasks: Stay organized. You can reduce your stress by time-management techniques and proper planning for the day.
- Try psychotherapy: You can visit a therapist to learn and try techniques including biofeedback training, psychotherapy, and hypnosis. These are therapies that may help to release your stress and teach you how to deal with stress.
- Get professional help: If the other simple techniques do not help you deal with your stress, it is advisable to seek professional help from a mental health professional or psychiatrist.
You can certainly watch TV, surf the internet, or chat with your friends on social networking platforms to de-stress. Make sure you do not overdo any of these activities as their excessive use can lead to stress in the long term.
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Holmes TH, Rahe RH. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. J Psychosom Res. 1967;11(2):213-218.
Maris, Ronald W. (2019). Suicidology: A Comprehensive Biopsychosocial Perspective. New York: Guilford.
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