Understanding Stress

What is stress?

Stress is a condition where the body reacts to particular events. It is caused when a body perceives an event where the body is challenged to react between the demands of the situation and the resources of the body’s biological, social and psychological systems. Stress is the pressure that the body undergoes from which in can react in two ways- positively or negatively.

Stress can show in a person in a number of ways. This will depend on the type of stress or pressure that the person undergoes. Stress can be caused in a number of ways through different events. Different people also react differently to stressful situations which can either affect them in a positive or a negative way.

Symptoms of stress

  • Memory problems
  • Indecisiveness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Trouble thinking clearly
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying
  • Loss of objectivity
  • Fearful anticipation
  • Moodiness
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Short temper
  • Irritability, impatience
  • Inability to relax
  • Feeling tense and "on edge"
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Headaches or backaches
  • Muscle tension and stiffness
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Skin breakouts (hives, eczema)
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds
  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastination, neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
  • Teeth grinding or jaw clenching
  • Overdoing activities (e.g. exercising, shopping)
  • Overreacting to unexpected problems
  • Picking fights with others

Causes of stress

One of the primary causes of stress is a major life event. Certain changes in life can bring about stress to a person. Couples going through a divorce, a career change, suffering from a life threatening disease, such major event in life can cause stress. It is also said that the more immediate and dramatic the change that one undergoes, the greater the stress. This also is true when one experiences more than one major event in life at any one time.

The daily demands of living may also be a cause of stress. Major life events may happen or may not happen at any time while daily hassles will always be present. These day to day occurrences have a cumulative effect that can cause stress over time. Worrying over expenses, beating deadlines at work, and battling daily traffic may just be a few of the daily occurrences that can cause stress.

Risk factors for stress

Stress for the short term may do some good to people. The pressure can help boost one’s motivation and focus. Short term stress may even help prepare the immune system from a possible infection as it responds to a certain event, helping it adapt. It is the chronic and long term stress that may have a negative and damaging effect to the body. Too much stress may be perceived by the body as something that it cannot do something and ceases to adapt to the stressful event.

For one, long term stress can affect one’s health. Research have shown that 60 to 90 percent of illnesses can be related to stress. Long term stress can do damage to the cardiovascular system as well as to the immune functions of the body. This can compromise the ability of the body to fight off diseases and infection.

Long term stress can also affect one’s emotional well-being. Chronic stress can do a lot of damage to one’s mental health which can lead to lifelong emotional scars aside from the physical ailments. How serious stress can affect one’s mental health can impair one’s ability to cope up with the pressures. This can lead to other problems such as depression, substance abuse as well as eating disorders.