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Modern lives are stressful and stress is a word we hear used so much these days. It comes at us from all angles work, family, relationships, homework but what exactly is stress? And what is it doing to your health? We’ll cover this and learn about some ways to help reduce stress.

What is Stress?

For those who are academically inclined stress was originally “defined” by Hans Seyle in 1936 as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. In reality of course it’s very difficult to define as everyone perceives stress differently – what is a stressful situation for one person may be another’s idea of fun.

It’s important to remember stress can be both good and bad. The stress you feel just before a big exam or a big sports match can be very positive Too much stress though (and that’s different for everyone and at different times in our lives) can have a negative impact on your health When we talk about being stressed we generally mean it in this negative sense and in situations where you feel a lack of control. Stress can be caused because you feel that you are unprepared or unable to deal with a certain situation. Or just because you start to feel everything gets to be too much and the world is on top of you.

No matter what is causing your stress there is a classic stress response from your body – it will adapt to put you in the best position to protect yourself from a threat whether through fight or flight.  That means it will release adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline which will have the affect of:

  • Increasing your heart rate
  • Heightening your muscle preparedness
  • Start rapid breathing
  • Increase your alertness
  • Make you start sweating
  • It will also slow down other functions such as your digestive system and your immune system to focus on responding to the threat

Actually in many situations these are smart moves and this response is good for short periods of time. However prolonged stress response can cause some health problems

Symptoms of Stress

Prolonged stress can create some common symptoms

  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
    • Can lead to heart disease
  • Decrease in immunity
    • May notice you get colds and stuff more often
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Stomach ache and upset
  • Backache and muscle ache
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • Decrease or sometimes an increase in appetite
  • Tremors in the hands
  • Nervous habits
    • Nail biting
    • Fidgeting
  • Tiredness

Long-term stress or feelings of being overwhelmed may lead to more chronic health problems or attempts to find coping mechanisms

  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Eating disorders
    • Over eating
    • Anorexia
  • Relationship problems
  • Anxiety and insecurity
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Forgetfulness and problems concentrating
  • Insomnia

Causes of Stress

Stress is different for everyone. So there is no definitive list of what causes stress and what doesn’t. The event itself is not important it your perception of the event as stressful that causes stress and usually happens with there is more than one thing to deal with. Some common causes include:

  • Bereavement
  • Family
  • Finance
  • Illness
  • Job
  • Relationships
  • Moving house
  • Bullying
  • School work  and homework

Stress Relief

There are loads of different ways to combat stress and just as stress is different for everyone, different people will find different things help relieve their stress. Some ideas

  • Exercise
  • Painting or drawing
  • Deep breathing and breathing practices
  • Taking a break to yourself (no work, no family etc)
    • Such as a bath
    • Or a walk
  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Talking to your friends and family
  • Seeking professional help if necessary
  • Reading a good book, watching a good film

Management of Stress

  • Remove or change the source of the stress
  • Ask for help
  • Alter your perception of the situation as stressful

In conclusion stress is one of those things you mostly have to end up managing yourself. If you can’t get rid of the feelings of stress chances are you have depression and that can lead to deep dark moods and affect a lot of aspects of your life. If you think you’ve got to that stage and you feel you aren’t coping, don’t leave it, it’s time to go and see your doctor.

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