What is stress?
Stress is defined as a response mechanism of our body to certain situations that make us feel overwhelmed and pressured. Stress is therefore not an emotion, but it can trigger different emotions and body reactions. Usually people feel anxious because our Fight or flight response gets activated. When we feel stressed our body produces more cortisol (the stress hormone) than usual, which has physical, emotional and mental consequences. This is because the brain (our automatic nervous system) and body (enteric nervous system) are interconnected.
There can be infinite causes of stress, because it depends on subjective factors. Nevertheless, empirical researches have found three main major sources of feeling stressed:
Catastrophes can easily produce very high levels of stress. These can develop into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), heart attacks, chronic stress and other mental problems.
- Changing in lifestyle and habits
It can be pretty common to feel stress when starting new jobs or study degrees, moving out, readjusting routines and diets, and also during seasonal changes.
- Inconveniences, unexpected problems and situations in which we feel threatened, as well as loss of power and control.
How many people suffer from stress and why?
Stress is a universal and natural human and animal reaction.
Actually, a bit of stress is even considered healthy, because it makes you more active, focused, motivated, productive due to the increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels.
But high levels of stress, which are pretty common in our globalized and urban society, are usually produced by long and intensive working hours, social pressures, living and working uncertainties, transportation, overpopulation and pollution. Because human expressions and feelings are contagious, a stressed social environment can also cause you to feel stressed. This can end in a vicious cycle in which everyone feels stressed out, and it is the case of many overpopulated and crowded urban areas around the world. Did you know that urban areas are responsible for 80% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions? Climate change and environmental pollution plays a key role in stress levels among people.
High levels of stress can have many effects. In the long run you could develop anxiety disorders, insomnia, and even heart attacks. Heart attacks are produced due to stress accumulation in your liver, which doesn’t bump as much blood as it needs to into your heart.
We all suffer stress, some people more and some people less. But stress levels are more common amongst minorities and people who suffer discrimination, people with financial difficulties that lack or struggle having a safe environment, people with disabilities, as well as people with long working hours and students.
How do I know If I suffer from stress?
Because stress varies from one person to another and has emotional, physical and mental effects, diagnosing stress can be a bit tricky sometimes. But there are some common and very usual symptoms:
- Mental and emotional symptoms: Feeling anxiety, fear, anger, irritability, depression and/or frustration, Finding it difficult to focus and concentrate, etc.
- Physical symptoms: Headaches, nausea, indigestion and other digestive problems, difficulties breathing, hyperventilating, changing heart rates, etc. Some symptoms such as chest pains, heavy sweating, and digestive problems amongst others can very probably be linked by anxiety.
If you are feeling stressed you might have some sleeping problems and maybe you are more prone to consume alcohol and cigarettes.
Stress management and useful stress management techniques
High levels of stress can make us unable to think about effective solutions to our problems. This is why if you reduce your stress levels you’ll not only live a healthier and happier life, but you’ll also be more likely to think better about how to solve some of your problems. Stress management is not a one day activity; it requires perseverance and routine, but we assure you that it is completely worth it. Learning how to cope with stress is a lifelong skill that will help you in many situations.
Some basic stress management techniques are:
- Keep a healthy and nutritious diet
- Do sports and keep yourself physically and mentally active
- Know your limits and put them into practice
- Don’t forget to get in contact with nature
- Take some time off for yourself and do what you enjoy the most
- Go out and socialize with friends and family
- Try some relaxation techniques out such as yoga or meditation
- Analyze your emotions, thoughts and feelings, keep track of them and take care of your mental health in order to understand yourself and what you may need to work on.
We hope that this article gave you a bit more information about why we feel stress and how we can work on our stress levels. If you suffer from high stress levels we encourage you to take action and try out some of our stress management recommendations.