Stress can affect our health in many ways. It has an impact on our brain function and on our immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems. It is safe to say that stress affects every part of our body. Why should you know these stress symptoms? The answer is easy - being aware of stress symptoms may save your work, your family and your life. Yes, even your life, as stress is known to contribute to cancers and sudden causes of death.
What is Stress?
Wikipedia has defined stress as follows:
"Physiological or biological stress is an organism's response to a stressor such as an environmental condition. Stress is the body's method of reacting to a condition such as a threat, challenge or physical and psychological barrier. Stimuli that alter an organism's environment are responded to by multiple systems in the body."
MedicineNet has defined stress as follows:
"In a medical or biological context stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the "fight or flight" response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems."
In a United Nations report from 1992, stress was called a 20th-century disease, and a few years later the World Health Organization (WHO) said it had become a global epidemic. The situation has only become worse since that time.
Effects of Stress
Stress affects our lives in a variety of different ways. Often, we may not even understand, that some of our feelings and behavior are caused by stress. Would you have believed that anger, irritability, frustration and feelings of guilt are common symptoms of stress? How about reduced productivity at work, distraction, decision-making difficulties and communication problems? Although it may be hard to believe, it’s true!
As the stress increases and becomes chronic, the small physical symptoms like a headache and chest pain become relatively insignificant compared to other stress-compounded illnesses such as depression, rheumatoid arthritis, strokes and cancer.
I am not trying to turn you into a hypochondriac. I promise! Nevertheless, it might be wise to check the list of these physical and psychological stress symptoms. The earlier you are able to deal with your stress, the less effect it will have on your health and the rest of your life. Your well-being should be your highest priority, shouldn’t it?
"Based on the type, timing and severity of the applied stimulus, stress can exert various actions on the body ranging from alterations in homeostasis to life-threatening effects and death." has written Habib Yaribeygi et al in its "The impact of stress on body function: A review" (2017).
Physical Stress Symptoms
- Various aches and pains
- Frequent colds or infections
- Chest pain, increase in heart rate or blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Upset stomach
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Muscle tension and spasms
- Change in appetite
- Teeth grinding
- Diminished sex drive
- Feeling dizzy
Psychological Stress Symptoms
- Irritability or anger
- Depression or mood swings
- Feeling nervous or guilty
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lack of energy
- Insomnia or nightmares
- Feeling as though you could cry at any time
- Lack of interest or motivation
- Memory problems and learning difficulties
- Difficulty in decision making
- Attention deficiency
- Communication problems
- Reduced productivity
- Nervous habits
- Social withdrawal
- Increased smoking, alcohol, or drug use
If you noticed that you have several of the stress symptoms listed above, please contact your doctor to discuss them.
The following stress management tips can help you to lower your stress level immediately.
1. Breathe deeply
Deep breathing helps your body to relax and lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
How to: Put your hand on your abdomen and then inhale slowly through your nose. If your belly expands you are doing it correctly. Hold the breath for a few seconds, then exhale slowly. You can count to four while breathing in, hold your breath counting to two and then breathe out counting to four and again hold your breath counting to twp. Repeat this several times.
Laughter reduces stress significantly as it reduces the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.
How to: Write a list of at least 5 things that make you laugh. For example, stand up comedy routines you enjoy, or YouTube videos featuring kids or animals (or even better both). To reduce the stress you just have to get yourself to start laughing. You could add your laughing session to your daily plan as laughing helps to also raise your stress resilience.
Moving increases endorphins, those mood-boosting hormones, which helps you feel less stressed.
How to: The best results can be achieved when you combine moving (e.g. walking or running) with being outside as it helps you to get more oxygen to your brain which also aids in soothing stress. You could also choose to dance, jump, or participate in your favorite sport. Even walking to the coffee machine is moving. Maybe not quite as effective as walking or running, but still better than sitting the whole day.
4. Take a nap
Napping lowers the levels of the stress-related cortisol hormone in your body.
How to: Find a peaceful place where you could nap. The less you have noise and light in your napping environment, the better. If possible, you should consider changing into comfortable clothes for napping. The best nap duration is 20-40 minutes.
5. Listen to uplifting music
Listening to music will lower your blood pressure and increase the happiness hormones known as endorphins.
How to: Write a list of at least 10 songs, which raise your mood or help you to relax. When you have curated this list (don’t worry, you can add to your list whenever you find a new uplifting song) you can listen to these songs every time you need to relax.
It is so important to know what your own stress symptoms are so that you can recognize them and use the tips I have given you to reduce the impact that you allow stress to have on your body and inevitably your life. By following these practices, you can keep yourself healthier and happier and ultimately life a longer and happier life.