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Stress refers to any type of change that causes physical or psychological strain.
It usually occurs when you’re outside of your comfort zone and experiencing new or challenging situations. You may feel stress signs rising if you’re:
These stressful situations stimulate your nervous system. This activates your fight or flight response and triggers the release of hormones, e.g. adrenaline. It’s normal to experience these physiological changes, provided they resolve in the short term.
Being stressed is very subjective though.
What’s stressful to you, could be perceived as inspiring or motivational to someone else. Positive stress, called eustress, is a REAL science-based phenomenon. It refers to stressors that have a beneficial impact on health, emotions, motivation or performance. Most people deal with this kind of stress fairly well, knowing good things can come from it.
In contrast, health problems arise when stress symptoms become overwhelming, all-consuming or constant. The cause may be physical, psychological, psychosocial or psycho-spiritual stressors. In these situations, there are 2 types of stress that cause people to reach out for help:
When feeling stressed lasts for a short space of time.
If acute stress is mild, the body and mind usually recovers quickly after the stress is over. This may be the case when you’re starting a new job or preparing for an exam. During these situations, you can optimise recovery by sleeping well, eating healthy foods and exercising to release stress-reducing hormones.
However, if acute stress is life-threatening, a person may constantly live with stress symptoms. This could happen to someone who’s the victim of assault. It contributes to complicated health conditions, like post-traumatic stress disorder.
When feeling stressed continues over a long space of time and doesn’t resolve.
It can result from one long-term stressful situation, such as living with a chronic illness, caring for others, working long hours, constant financial problems, or being in an abusive relationship.
However, chronic stress also develops when lots of smaller stresses appear at the same time. In both instances, living with chronic stress means the body has little time to fully recover. It’s perpetually interpreting stress signs from an overactive nervous system and mind.
Both of these types of stress can stop you from living your best life. If unchecked, they also make you susceptible to:
In Australia, April is National Stress Awareness Month. Its purpose is to raise awareness of the causes and potential cures for stress. It also reminds us that stressing about things you can’t control is unhelpful. You can only ever do the best you can – and that is enough.
If you’re feeling stressed right now, know that you’re not alone.
Oprah Winfrey, who had a traumatic childhood, said that unchecked stress signs almost caused her to have a nervous breakdown. She lived with anxiety for years, but eventually sought help and learned how to move forward with peace and joy.
Orlando Bloom experienced physical stress when he broke his back during a near-death experience. The stress led him to a dark place that required him to step back from life almost completely. For Orlando, stress treatment involved reassessing his life priorities. He also committed to doing more of the things he loves.
Stress signs and symptoms include:
Physical: Fatigue, sleep problems, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, panic attacks, headaches, muscle soreness, blurry vision, digestive upsets, restlessness.
Psychological: Frustration, anger, irritability, moodiness, nervousness, overwhelm, obsessive thoughts, low motivation, anxiety, depression.
The world is currently experiencing a modern stress epidemic. This has increased the demand for specialised stress treatments, such as:
Causes can be divided into 4 main categories.
Physical stress, including injury, illness, infection, surgery, heavy metal exposure, fatigue, hypoglycemia, hormone imbalances, poor diet, food allergies, dehydration, substance abuse, musculoskeletal misalignment.
Psychological stress, including grief, fears, jealousy, anxiety, depression, addictions, low self-esteem, perfectionism, dislike of self, feeling out of control.
Psychosocial stress, including relationship difficulties, job loss, bankruptcy, loss of investments/savings, lack of social support, lack of resources for adequate survival.
Psycho-spiritual stress, including questioning personal values or the meaning of life, living without joy, incongruence between core beliefs and life choices.
Here are some natural, drug-free ways to minimise stress signs and symptoms.
Exercise is one of the best therapies for all types of stress. It triggers the release of feel-good chemicals that help you feel more relaxed and at ease. All varieties of exercise are beneficial. Yet yoga can be particularly useful because it emphasises body, mind and meditation techniques.
Massage Therapy is a proven way to help reduce stress levels. It does this by triggering a relaxation response, releasing muscle tension, soothing the nervous system and promoting deeper sleep.
A Healthy Diet that includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and pure water will fuel the body during stressful periods. It’s essential to choose nutrient-rich foods when you’re stressed, as the body can slip into a further state of distress if deficiencies occur.
Counselling (or Psychology) can be a valuable way to deal with acute and chronic stress. It provides a safe space where you can talk about your stress without judgement, and build a toolbox of strategies to help you cope.
Herbs, Vitamins and Minerals can support the body while it’s processing stressful experiences. B-Vitamins and Magnesium are used very quickly when the body is stressed, and may need to be replaced in supplement form. Adaptogen herbs, such as Withania, can play an important role in restoring the nervous system to its natural, healthful state.
Acupuncture helps to reduce the level of stress hormones, and increase the amount of feel-good hormones, in the bloodstream. It’s often used to bring more calm into the body and mind.
The following health experts can help treat stress:
Here are 3 things you can do to support someone who’s stressed out:
What are the common symptoms of stress?
Stress signs and symptoms include:
What causes stress?
There are many causes of stress, including:
How do you handle stress?