The Causes Of Stress, Its Effect On Your Health, And Five Tips To Help You Reduce Stress
“I’m so stressed,” is a common expression, usually heard when someone is at their wit’s end. Pegasus caregivers in Santa Clarita and elsewhere understand stress and what it does to health. This article includes tips we’ve collected on how to reduce that harmful reaction.
Stress is your mental and physical reaction to the demands of your life. It can be positive or negative. At its most basic, stress is a mechanism for survival that can save your life.
Stressors Are Unique
Stress is a response caused by an event outside your body. Those events are known as stressors, and common ones include:
- An argument or disagreement with someone
- Visiting a doctor
- A vehicle suddenly stopping in front of you
- Being late for an appointment
- Buying new clothes
- The evening news
- A promotion at work
There’s no end to stressors. All are your body’s way of coping with something different than usual. Stressors and how you manage them are unique to you.
Any change, even a positive one, creates a stress response in many individuals. In most cases, the response recedes as soon as they adjust to the new situation.
Whether harmless or signaling danger, stressors can cause physical changes such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Tense muscles
- Heightened alertness
- Increased blood pressure
- Slowed digestive process
- Decreased immune protection
The kind and severity of the reactions vary from person-to-person and type of situation faced.
Stress becomes harmful when it’s chronic. The stressor might be unending. Sometimes your body is unable to turn off the reaction although the stressor has ended.
It’s chronic stress that creates health problems. It’s doubly harmful because eventually your body becomes used to it. Feeling stressed becomes part of your normal daily life.
Symptoms that over time you may not recognize as the result of chronic stress include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Becoming angry easily
- Substance abuse
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling “burned out”
- Lack of energy
- Compulsive behaviors such as gambling
- Sleep disorders
These can start a vicious cycle because you are more susceptible to additional stressors when you’re not feeling your best.
Stress Is Serious
Chronic stress also leads to serious health problems. Some of the symptoms listed above, such as substance abuse, impair your health. Whether it’s your chronic stress itself or your reactions to it, your body suffers.
Physical ailments from long-term stress can include:
- Digestive issues
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
- Eating disorders
- Decreased sexual activity
The immune system is weakened and loses its ability to fight off even minor attacks on your health. You catch colds easily, for example, and just never feel well.
Chronic stress can eventually become a factor in life-threatening conditions that include:
- Cardiovascular problems
- Respiratory distress
- Liver disease
This is what makes learning how to manage and reduce your stress so important.
Find A Destressor
Everyone has a different way of relaxing and caring for themselves. Just as stressors are individual, destressors are individual. The following tips are meant to give you some ideas on how to find the destressor that works for you.
- Attitude Adjustment – keep in mind that stress is a natural feeling and everyone experiences it. Accept that there are always going to be situations in your life that are out of your control. What you can control is your reaction. Some people find journaling helpful in expressing feelings and clearing their mind. Assert yourself when appropriate, but strive to avoid aggression and anger.
- Lifestyle Changes – understand that alcohol or substance abuse will only increase the harmful effects of stress even if either seems to provide quick relief. Find something that relaxes you, such as listening to music. Set priorities on your time and reasonable goals for what you can accomplish. Learn to say no to the demands of others. One of your priorities should be keeping yourself healthy with good nutrition.
- Find Support – remember that you are not alone. Connect with others. Talk to friends and neighbors, join a support group, or pet your dog or cat. Spend time with people who can make you laugh. Hug those you care about.
- Know Yourself – investigate the source of your stressor. Maybe it isn’t something that just happened. Perhaps when you look a little deeper, you’ll learn the real stressor is something you say, do, or think. There may be something you have to take responsibility for before you can effectively reduce your stress.
- Seek Treatment – know that help is available. Mental health professionals can teach you stress management techniques. If a medical condition is worrying you, consult your physician. Don’t forget to talk to a spiritual counselor. One of the many services that Pegasus caregivers provide is respite care for family caregivers. We can give you as many breaks as you need for as long as you need them.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Since 1994, we’ve helped individuals remain safe and independent in their home. Pegasus caregivers in Santa Clarita and our other locations provide the level of home health services your loved one needs.