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Psychological Stress

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Psychological Stress

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Some amount of stress indeed fires up to achieve goals, but a lot of it can have a ruinous effect on health and well-being. Read to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abhijeet Soni

Published At November 12, 2021
Reviewed AtSeptember 26, 2023

Introduction

Lately, everyone has been talking about stress. This shows how prevalent stress is among people worldwide. A multitude of situations can cause stress. It can be something as simple as being stuck on a jam-packed road while heading to the office due to a serious relationship or workplace problem. Whether the situation is intense or not, the kind of stress that develops in individuals under pressure does become detrimental over time. This article aims to make a person clear of stressors, their adverse effects, and how one can overcome them to prevent harmful levels of stress.

What Is Psychological Stress?

Firstly, stress is a normal or physiological response to stressors that all living beings exhibit and undergo. Stressors are any situation, incident, place, or people surrounding a person or happening to them to which they get stressed as a response. It is put in the genes to get stressed in conditions and situations that cause stress to escape danger. People may consider it as one of their survival instincts. Though this is a protective mechanism, the amount and frequency of stress and how the individual perceives and reacts to it determine whether stress is protective or destructive. Excessive stress causes strain on one’s body and emotions. Humans exhibit feelings of frustration, anger, sadness, and nervousness while under stress.

What Is Eustress?

Eustress is positive stress that brings motivation, excitement, thrill, and positive feelings that drive a person crazy to achieve their goals. It is indeed beneficial, but a person experiencing it does not feel as good as eustress means. Even while under eustress, the person feels nervous and under pressure but with confidence and hope to overcome or face the situation. It is a type of good stress. The type of pressure it gives to an individual and the individual’s capacity and capability to overcome the hurdles and reach the targets make them succeed, satisfy, and fulfill their goals, wishes, and interests. Following are some situations in which a person experiences eustress or positive stress that builds them into a happy, better, productive, or successful person.

  • Doing adventurous activities like trekking, bungee jumping, roller coaster rides, surfing, or paragliding.

  • Voluntarily watching a scary movie.

  • New job.

  • Shifting to a new place or change of environment.

  • Meeting new people.

  • Going on a first date.

  • Setting targets and working out to achieve the expected physique.

  • Right before an examination or sporting event.

  • Realistic and challenging deadlines at work or school.

  • Traveling and exploring new places.

What Is Distress?

Distress is the straight opposite of eustress. It is negative or bad stress that produces nothing more than undesirable results and a disturbed state of mind. The stressors that cause distress are categorized as negative stressors as most of the human population apprehend them to be demotivating, discouraging, and depleting their minds and energy levels. Above all, the distress affects both physical and mental well-being. Some of the situations that cause distress in people include,

  • Debt.

  • Financial loss.

  • Overburdening responsibilities beyond capability.

  • Separation of loved ones, or death of near and dear (psychosocial stress).

  • Divorce.

  • Unemployment.

  • A chronically diseased state of oneself or a family member.

  • Bullying.

  • Cheating loved ones and breaking promises.

What Are Other Types of Stress?

Apart from eustress and distress, there are three more types of stress.

  • Acute Stress - This may also be regarded as short-term stress that most people encounter in their daily life. This can either be eustress or distress.

  • Episodic Stress - It is a type of acute stress that runs hand-in-hand with everyday lives and activities, chores, and work. These are small distress that one faces every day but are of a brief period. These are not big enough to disturb one’s life or emotions.

  • Chronic Stress - Chronic stress is the worst type of stress that a person can experience. In this type of stress, a person facing it is unable to overcome or find a solution to the situation causing stress. Hence, the person continues to lead a life with stress. This can be mentally and physically deteriorating.

How to Identify Stress?

Identifying stress is not so easy until it begins to affect one’s physical health. Some of the signs of stress include:

Physical Signs:

  • Weight changes (weight gain or loss).

  • High blood pressure.

  • Headache.

  • Hair loss.

  • Muscle tension.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Rapid heart rate.

  • Bloating.

  • Nausea.

  • Mouth ulcers.

  • Feeling drained.

  • Diarrhea or constipation.

  • Decreased sex drive.

  • Frequent infections.

  • Menstrual cycle disorders.

  • Fatigue.

Mental Signs:

  • Anger.

  • Irritation.

  • Frustration.

  • Concentration difficulties.

  • Anxiety.

  • Poor memory.

  • Feeling vexed.

Behavioral Signs:

  • Alcoholism.

  • Drug use.

  • Self-neglect.

  • Not making time for things they enjoy.

  • Social withdrawal.

What Causes Stress?

  • As said earlier, stress is a response to stressors. The stressors can be anything; they can be related to work, finance, relationships, parenting, communication, and more. Whenever life puts a threat or challenge in front of a person, their body reacts to it through the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis).

  • Initially, when in a stressful situation, the sympathetic nervous system mediates the secretion of epinephrine and norepinephrine, the fight and flight hormone. Initial bodily changes like rapid heart rate, or sweating occur. Ten seconds after this, the HPA axis gets stimulated, and the hypothalamus secretes corticotropin-releasing hormones (CRH). This CRH causes elevated heart rate and also signals the pituitary to secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which travels through the bloodstream to reach the adrenal gland. Finally, the adrenal glands start secreting cortisol, the stress hormone.

  • This cortisol helps in dealing with fight, flight, and fright situations. It provides the body with the energy required to face the challenge. It also causes increased blood pressure, sweating, reduced pain sensation, increased muscle tension, and slowed digestion.

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What Adverse Effects Does Stress Cause On the Health?

Every person on the planet deals with some amount of stress at some point in their life. And for some, stress is an integral part of life. However, dealing with constant stress without bouts of mental relaxation often puts the person in turmoil. It actually is detrimental to one’s health. Following are some of the serious adverse health effects that psychological stress could cause or worsen in people with preexisting diseases.

  • Heart attack.

  • Heart diseases, such as tachycardia, weakening of heart muscles, and heart failure.

  • Atherosclerosis (fat or cholesterol build-up in artery walls).

  • Obesity.

  • Depression.

  • Endocrine disorders like thyroid disorders.

  • Diabetes.

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).

  • Insomnia (lack of sleep).

  • Sexual dysfunction.

  • Frequent infections.

  • Asthmatic attacks.

  • Stroke.

  • Ulcers.

How To Manage Psychological Stress?

Stress is not a disease to be treated; it is just a body’s response or reaction to an action. Stress needs to be managed rather than treated because illnesses can be prevented, but stress can neither be prevented nor controlled. But whenever a person passes through a stressful phase, the following management methods can help them deal with stress like a lobster.

1. Learn To Cope With Stress: Never neglect self-care in this phase of stress. Often people fail to take care of themselves when under a stressful phase. This can affect the quality of life, burdening the stress more. Regularly continue practicing self-care activities such as

  • Hitting the gym or exercising.

  • Sticking to a healthy diet.

  • Getting adequate hours of sound sleep.

  • Spending time with their family and friends.

  • Doing their favorite leisure activities.

2. Practice Mindfulness: Relaxation techniques amidst pressurized life conditions bring a marked change in the way a person faces stress. It helps develop a positive outlook on life and makes a person sportive in dealing with a stressor. Mindfulness techniques such as meditation, Tai chi, focused breathing, yoga, or guided imagery are overlooked and underestimated as it is not so easy to develop such habits and practice consistently. But once a person puts their mind and body consistently with a belief in these relaxation techniques and with proper guidance, they will be surprised with the results.

3. Things To Do and Not To Do While Under Stress:

  • Cut out on things that add fuel to the stress like facts or posts on social media, some television shows, and exaggerated news channels.

  • Limit caffeine and alcohol. They worsen the mental state.

  • Stop binging on junk foods. They may please a person but only temporarily.

  • Do not self-medicate with sleeping pills or other drugs to escape reality.

  • Make a to-do list and prioritize the work. This can motivate a person to finish their tasks with precise planning.

  • Learn to say no whenever and wherever the situation demands. Blindly accepting to finish tasks or work with limited capability adds more stress.

  • Indulge in stress-relieving and adventurous activities like trekking, hiking, or training in groups or outside the house rather than regular physical activities. They bring a change of mind; which makes a person feel refreshed and driven.

  • Stop pondering over the past or the things that have already happened. One should ask oneself, ‘What next?’

  • People should be thankful for what they have, how they are, and for whatever is happening.

  • Stop catastrophizing and be gentle with one’s self. Develop the habit of having little positive self-talk daily.

  • A person should build time for things that they love to do the most, like art, dance, singing, reading books, or listening to music.

  • Adopt pets. Pets are stress-relievers. There are a lot many positive things to learn from them.

4. Psychotherapy: If a person feels the stress is out of hand and cannot find the above methods beneficial, they always have mental health professionals to help them out with their stress. Through cognitive-behavioral techniques, the mental health expert will identify how they think, feel, perceive things, or act under stressful conditions and replace them with more realistic and positive thoughts.

5. Medications: Medications like anti-anxiety drugs, sleeping pills, or antidepressants are commonly prescribed in addition to stress management methods to manage certain stress-induced physical and mental ailments.

Conclusion

A person cannot control what is happening to them, but they can control what they can do or how they respond. Not all stressors or a speculated level of stress affect every person the same way. Different people react to different levels and types of stressors in different ways. Just know that stress is inevitable, and in whatever stressful phase a person is, ‘this too shall pass’. If they need professional stress management support, they can always seek help from the healthcare professionals

Frequently Asked Questions

1.

What Are the Emotional Signs of Stress?

The emotional signs of stress are being worried, having difficulty relaxing and calming your mind, being frustrated, falling into depression, being unmotivated, and irritability. Sometimes, you can lose yourself or take control.

2.

How Can I Reduce Stress Quickly?

Things to follow to reduce stress are,
- Eating dark chocolates when you have a hectic time.
- Meditating 10 minutes daily.
- Practicing breathing exercises lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
- Listening to music help soothe the mind.
- Take a quick walk.
- Look for some stretches and practice them every day.
- Get a head massage.

3.

What Can Stress Do to a Woman’s Body?

Stress can create the following changes in women:
- Headache.
- Tiredness.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Back pain.
- Overeating or under-eating.
- Less interest in sex.
- Neck pain.
- Skin problems.
- Lack of energy.
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- Upset stomach.

4.

Who Is Most Likely to Get Psychological Stress?

Women (28 %) are more likely to get psychological stress than men (20 %). A survey reported that almost half of all women said their stress had increased over the past five years compared to four in ten men.

5.

What Can Chronic Stress Do to the Body?

Chronic stress may stop nearly every system in the human body. It may start to suppress the immune system, increase the risk of stroke and heart attack, reduce interest in sexual life, upsets the reproductive and digestive systems, and speed up the aging process.

6.

What Is a Positive Psychological Response to Stress?

A positive psychological response to stress is known as eustress or positive stress. A positive emotional response to stress is healthy, giving a feeling of happiness. It provides a sense of joyous and satisfactory life and helps us be motivated to reach the goal.

7.

What Are the Psychological Phases of Disaster Response?

The four psychological phases of disaster response and their respective durations are,
- Heroic phase - 3 to 7 days.
- Honeymoon phase - 1 to 3 weeks.
- Disillusionment phase - 3 to 8 weeks.
- Restoration phase - More than 8 weeks.

8.

Can Your Body Shut Down from Stress?

When we experience too much stress for a long time, it can negatively affect us, and we may begin to notice the physical effects of stress. We may get sick, exhausted, or may develop mental health issues, and as a result, our human body may shut down.

9.

What Causes Psychosocial Stress?

Psychosocial stress is caused by any social threat that makes one think that they need additional resources than the ones we have to cope with the stressor. These stressors include divorce, loss of job, loss of loved one, change in residence, and high competition at work.

10.

What Are Common Psychological Symptoms of Stress?

The common psychological symptoms of stress are,
- Depression.
- Anxiety.
- Panic attacks.
- Irritability.
- Sadness.
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Dr. Abhijeet Soni
Dr. Abhijeet Soni

Psychiatry

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psychological stress
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