Find relief from stress (part one) Are you stressed?
“Everyone has stress to some degree, yet I am overwhelmed with stress. It is not from just one big problem but from many situations, from struggles, and from seemingly unending years of caring for my physically and mentally ill husband.” Jill.
“My wife left me, and I had to raise two children on my own. It was hard being a single parent. On top of that, I lost my job and I couldn’t afford to get my vehicle inspected for registration. I had no idea how to handle things. The stress was overwhelming. I knew deep down that it was wrong to kill myself, so I begged God to end my misery.” – Barry.
Like Jill and Barry, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed with stress? If so, may the following articles comfort and help you. They examine common causes of stress, how stress can affect us, and how we can get at least a measure of stress relief.
What causes stress?
“Most adults report being under increasing levels of stress,” says the well-known Mayo Clinic. “Modern life is filled with change and uncertainty.” Consider just some of the changes and uncertainties that contribute to stress:
- The death of a loved one
- Severe illness
- Serious accidents
- A hectic pace of life
- Disasters – natural or man-made
- Pressures at school or work
- Worries about employment and financial security
Stress in early childhood
It is not uncommon for children to suffer from stress. Some are bullied at school or neglected at home. Others are abused physically, emotionally, or sexually. Many are anxious about exams and school grades. Still, others see their family torn apart by divorce. Stressed children may have nightmares, learning difficulties, depression, or a tendency to be withdrawn. Some seem unable to control their emotions. A child suffering from stress needs urgent help.
What is stress?
Stress is your body’s response to a demanding situation. Your brain causes hormones to flood your system. These increase your heart rate, regulate your blood pressure, expand or constrict the capacity of your lungs, and tense your muscles. Before you are fully aware of what is happening, your body is primed for action. When a stressful episode is over, your body come off “high alert” and returns to normal.
Good and bad stress
Stress is a natural response that enables you to deal with challenging or dangerous situations. The stress response begins in your brain. Beneficial stress enables you to act or react quickly. A certain amount of stress can also help you to reach your goals or to perform better, perhaps during an exam, a job interview, or a sporting event.
However, prolonged, extreme, or chronic stress can harm you. When your body is repeatedly or constantly, on “high alert”, you may begin to suffer physically, emotionally, and mentally. Your behaviour, including the way you treat others, may change. Chronic stress can also lead to substance abuse and other unhealthy means of coping. It may even spiral into depression, burnout, or thoughts of suicide.
While stress may not affect everyone in the same way, it can contribute to a wide range of diseases. And it can affect nearly every part of the body.
How stress can affect your body
Your muscles tense up to protect you from injury. Too much stress can lead to
- Body aches and pains, tension headaches, and muscle spasms.
You breathe faster to take in more oxygen. Too much stress can lead to
- Hyperventilation and shortness of breaths, as well as panic attacks in those who are prone to them.
Your nervous system causes hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to be released. These increase your heart rate, your blood pressure, and the glucose levels in your blood—all of which enable you to respond quickly to danger. Too much stress can lead to
- Irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, and insomnia.
Your heart beats faster and its harder to distribute blood throughout your body. Blood vessels dilate or constrict to direct blood where your body needs it the most, such as in your muscles. Too much stress can lead to
- High blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Your glands produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help the body react to stress. Your liver increases your blood-level to give you more energy. Too much stress can lead to
- Diabetes, lower immunity and increased illness, mood swings, and weight gain.
Stress can affect sexual desire and function. Too much stress can lead to
- Impotence, disrupted menstrual cycle.
The way your body processes food is disrupted. Too much stress can lead to
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and constipation.
…to be continued