Stress: The ins and outs, with tips to help deal with Chronic Stress

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Everyone experiences stress at some point in their life. It is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Stress isn’t always a bad thing, and in small doses it can help you perform under pressure and give motivation for you to do your best.

Stress is the body’s way of protecting you. It is the body’s response to any kind of demand or “threat”. Such as when you’re running late for an important meeting, watching the minutes tick by: your heart starts to race, you start breathing quicker and your muscles are preparing for action. This is the stress response and is designed to help you react quickly, therefore protect the body. It is the same response we feel when our bodies go into “fight or flight” mode when facing danger.

Stress is basically the body running in emergency mode: great for a short span of time, but when you are constantly in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. If your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and the stress levels stay elevated for longer than required, it can take a toll on both your physical and mental health. This is called Chronic Stress.

Your nervous system isn’t all that good at distinguishing between physical and emotional threats. Meaning, if you are super stressed about an argument you’ve had with a friend, partner, sibling or parent, a deadline at work, or money, your body can react just as strongly as if you were facing a life or death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it is to trigger, and the harder it is to stop.

If you tend to get stressed out frequently, as most of us do in the demanding world of today, your body may be in a heightened state of stress most of the time. This can lead to some serious health problems. There are many health problems that are caused or exacerbated by stress. These include:

  1. Depression and Anxiety
  2. Pain of any kind
  3. Sleep problems
  4. Autoimmune diseases
  5. Digestive problems
  6. Skin conditions
  7. Heart disease
  8. Weight problems
  9. Reproductive issues
  10. Thinking and memory problems

The most dangerous thing about stress is you get used to it. It becomes a normal feeling and starts to be familiar. It can creep up on you and you don’t notice how much it is affecting you, even as it starts to cause a variety of problems. Therefore, it’s advisable to be aware of the common signs and symptoms of stress overload.

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms

  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Moodiness, irritability, or anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical Symptoms

  •  Aches and pains
  •  Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heart rate
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds or flu
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  •  Using alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits

What is Stressful for you?

Everyone finds different things stressful. We usually think of stressors as being a negative thing, but anything that puts a high demand on you can be classed as stressful. Stress is not always caused by external factors; internal factors can also have an effect. What causes stress depends largely on what you perceive stress to be. Something that is stressful to you may not be stressful to someone else, they may even enjoy that experience. Some of life’s most common sources if stress include:

  • Stress at work
  • Job loss or unemployment stress
  • Caregiver stress
  • Grief and loss
  • Financial stress

Because stress can cause widespread damages, it is important to know just what your limit is. But the question is: how much stress is “too much” stress? This differs from person to person. Factors that can influence your tolerance level when it comes to stress include:

  • Your support network
  • Your sense of control
  • Your attitude and outlook
  • Your ability to deal with your emotions

If you have any symptoms relating to stress, taking steps to manage your stress levels can have numerous health benefits. There are many strategies that can help you manage your stress levels. These include:

  • Regular physical exercise
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Keeping a sense of humour
  • Socialising with family and friends
  • Setting aside times for hobbies
  • Maintaining a heathy diet
  • Sleeping for 7-8 hours a night
  • Minimising caffeine and alcohol
  • Engaging your senses

When it comes to naturopathy, treatment for helping cope with stress includes diet changes, herbal medicine and lifestyle changes. A diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, high-quality protein, wholegrains and omega-3 fatty acids can help you deal with the ups and downs of life. There are a variety of herbs that are ideal for treating chronic stress. They non-specifically increase the bodies resistance to a range of stressors by normalising body functions and strengthening systems that have being compromised by stress. Herbs that can help include:

  • Californian Poppy
  • Corydalis
  • Kava
  • Valerian
  • Skullcap
  • St. John’s Wort
  • Rhodiola
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Korean Ginseng
  • Withania
  • Licorice

Please contact your naturopath for more information regarding the correct herbs for you. If you are experiencing chronic stress and would like some help: feel free to book an appointment today.