No one can live without stress. This idea is true, especially in this fast-paced world we are in right now. Everything seems fleeting and rushed, people are so afraid of missing out on something that you want to savor anything and everything, all at the same time. This is where stress comes in, when you want to do something so bad, you put pressure on yourself. But how can a simple stressful condition cause chronic stress? What is chronic stress and how can it affect you?
What is stress?
Stress is a bodily response to a demand or threat, real or imagined. Its presence causes the body to have a fight or flight reaction, depending on what action would be best for your situation. To give a clear example, think of the time that you need to submit some reports in the office and you only have a few hours left before the deadline. Your fight or flight reaction is to respond to the demand and help you clear your head so you can finish your tasks on time. Missing your train is really stressful, so your body responds by giving you that extra push so you can run and chase down the railcar. You see, stress is not bad all the time.
However, if stress reaches that point where it is too much for your body to handle, it becomes harmful not only to your health, but your mood, and your interpersonal relationships.
What is chronic stress?
Chronic stress is the feeling of always in a state of intense pressure. Repeated exposure to a stressful situation can cause chronic stress, and this is the kind of stress that your body will not respond to in a healthy way for long. There will come a point where your body will just give up and give in, causing your health, mood, and relationships to suffer.
Signs and symptoms of chronic stress
Do not get us wrong; we know that everyone has their own level of tolerance when it comes to stress. They also have different ways and reactions when coping with it. However, if a person is exposed to chronic stressors, here are some of the possible signs and symptoms that he can manifest to signal that he is not coping well with chronic stress.
- Moderate to severe irritability or bad temper
- Fatigue (muscle and joint pain)
- Having difficulty concentrating
- Rapid, messy train of thoughts
- Problems with digestion
- Poor or insatiable appetite
- A feeling of helplessness and defeat
- Loss of control
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of sexual desire
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Frequent infections or illnesses
Effects of chronic stress in the body
When you visit your doctor with these signs and symptoms of chronic stress, he may find out that these conditions have caused or exacerbated the presence of several medical conditions including:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack/stroke
- Muscle tension
- Chronic back, neck, and shoulder pain
- Chronic pain syndrome
- COPD (asthma, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Metabolic disorders (diabetes)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Changes in appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Stomach ulcers
- Irritable bowel disease
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Personality disorder
- Anxiety and panic disorder
- Amenorrhea (absence of menstruation)
- Lack of libido or sexual appetite
- Pregnancy problems
- Fertility issues
- Exacerbation of herpes or polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS
How can we manage chronic stress?
There are so many motivational and educational research and studies that inform us of different ways we can combat chronic stress. Here are some of the most common methods that they recommend to be useful and effective.
Identify your stressor
It is not possible and easy to avoid triggers of stress. However, taking note of specific triggers and stressors can help a person develop coping and management strategies, which may involve reducing exposure.
Increase relaxation activities
Try pampering yourself! Go to the spa, practise yoga and meditation, and get a massage. These are somehow temporary or superficial ways of managing your chronic stress, but if done on a daily basis, it lessens the negative effects of stress on the body.
Understand the signs and symptoms of chronic stress
These indications can vary depending on the threshold of a person. However, if he is able to recognize their own signals of stress or how the stressors affect their body and way of thinking, they will be more capable of managing them.
Consult your doctor
Having the advice and guidance of a medical professional is truly a huge help in managing chronic stress. Your doctor may even refer you to different medical specialists to help you deal with the effects of stress, as well as conquer the cause of these problems.