Everyone gets stressed out. Some stress is good. It helps keep you alert and focused. Other stress, like our fight-or-flight natural instinct, can be life-saving. But when stress happens too often or lasts too long, it can cause physical, mental and emotional harm.
Types of Stress
There are three different types of stress that include acute, episodic acute and chronic. Each has its own characteristics, symptoms and treatment.
Acute Stress is the most common form of stress. It often stems from demands and pressures of the past and anticipated pressures of the future. Symptoms are experienced infrequently and may include emotional distress, muscular tension, fatigue, upset stomach and elevated vitals.
Episodic Acute Stress often stems from taking on more than someone can handle, causing ceaseless worrying. Irritability is felt when someone feels he or she is unable to accomplish things in a timely manner. Additional symptoms may include hypertension, stomach cramps, anxiousness and headaches.
Chronic Stress is a response to an emotional pressure suffered over an extended period of time. When the body experiences constant stress, it cannot relax. This can cause long-term mental and physical health problems. Symptoms may include anxiety, depression, social isolation, insomnia and panic attacks.
Causes of Stress
Stress can come from internal and external factors. External stressors relates to events and situations that happen to you – moving, getting a new job or death of a family member. Internal stressors come from thoughts and feelings within ourself – fears, beliefs, perfectionism or uncertainty. The more stressors you experience, the more stress you feel.
Stress Management Tips
Finding positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, can put you on a path to a better quality of life. Boys Town Internal Medicine recommends:
Taking charge of your thoughts, emotions and the way you deal with problems so you can focus on the present.
Streamlining the schedule by learning to say ‘no’ and assessing what is the best use of time.
Cultivating positive friendships and surrounding yourself with those who support you. A good laugh, cry or nice conversation can work to alleviate daily pressures.
Taking care of you by setting aside time for relaxation, enjoying hobbies and exercising.
The most effective stress management tip begins with identifying your source of stress and finding ways to manage it. Keeping a stress journal and recording your thoughts and how you responded to each situation, can be a valuable tool in your journey to living a less stressful life.
When to Seek Professional Help
If you continue to feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor. Your physician can provide you with additional information on how you can learn to manage stress, identify situations or behaviors that contribute to your stress and help you develop an action plan for changing them.
There was a really good book, years ago, called 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff,' and I try to tell that to my patients.
Try to look at the situation and understand it for what it really is. Most of the things we stress out about really aren't that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.
It's very helpful to take a breath, look at the situation, reevaluate things and go from there.
What are the health risks of stress?
Some of the dangers of letting your stress get out of control include things like depression, anxiety, but also other health conditions such as hypertension, high blood pressure.
What can I do to slow my life down?
Try to make a schedule. I know for some people that might stress them out more but it really helps if you have a finite list to look at. Then take the hours in the day and figure out when you can fit it in. What that also helps with is prioritizing things. Trying to realize what's important, what can you do today and what can wait until tomorrow.
When should I seek help for stress?
If a patient is stressed out to the point where they notice that their home activities aren't really coping well enough or exercise isn't cutting it, time alone isn't cutting it. Those are patients we need to evaluate a little bit further and see if there is something else going on. There are things, such as panic attacks or generalized anxiety disorder,that may require help with a prescription medication or maybe formal counseling.