Did you know? 15% of Australians experience high, chronic levels of stress every year.
In 2020-2021 alone, 3.4 million Australians sought help for their stress symptoms, whether through a general practitioner or a psychologist.
Stress is one of those disorders that can leak itself into every aspect of your life. If left unmanaged, stress can affect not only your overall wellbeing but your relationships, work ethic, financial stability, and more.
So, what are a few symptoms of stress that may be preventing you from living your best life? Let’s talk about it.
Stress is not limited to your emotional state. Stress is a natural, bodily response to new or challenging situations. Stress responses help us adapt, and keep us alert and ready to avoid danger.
Our autonomic nervous system - the system responsible for our heart rate, breathing, vision, and more, becomes activated during periods of stress. This is known as our “fight or flight” response. While this becomes activated as a means to keep us safe, when stress is unmanaged for long periods of time, it can cause many physical symptoms to arise.
When our fight or flight response is chronically activated, we may experience a type of headache known as a tension headache. This can be described as feeling a tight band around the head, caused by chemicals released during stress. These chemicals can cause physical changes in our blood vessels, causing mild to moderate pain.
When we experience stress, hormones and neurotransmitters are released into the body, impacting our gut motility - or digestive system. When this happens, the way our stomachs squeeze and move waste throughout the body is impaired. In addition, stress can impact the fragile lining in our gut, causing gastro-intestinal irritation.
Stress can not only cause your muscles to tense up, adrenaline coursing through your veins causes blood vessels to constrict. Blood is not delivered as efficiently, making movement more rigid - causing bodily aches and pains. The most common areas to experience aches and pains from stress are the neck, back, and shoulders.
Cortisol - a hormone produced during periods of stress, can decrease immune system functioning. Cortisol wreaks havoc on many parts of the body and kills off lymphocytes - your body's natural virus killers. When this happens, we experience more frequent bouts of sickness and fatigue.
When you’re facing a stressful situation, your body releases a surge of hormones. These hormones temporarily increase blood pressure. In healthy circumstances, the body returns back to its normal state eventually. However, when stress is chronic or unmanaged, these hormones can stay in the body and keep your blood pressure higher than normal. High blood pressure is linked to heart attacks, weakened blood vessels, kidney failure, and more serious complications. This is why physical exercise is important.
Now that we know how stress affects our bodies, what about our minds? Stress increases the chances of mental health problems, as well as leaves us in a permanent state of fight or flight. Since a majority of our behaviours are linked to our emotions, when stress begins to infiltrate our minds we can engage in self-destructive behaviours such as substance abuse, gambling, or overactive sex life.
One of the most basic reasons stress may cause forgetfulness is that we’re often so distracted by our situation at hand, that we fail to be present in the moment. When this happens we tend to run into our subconscious and don’t retain the information being presented to us.
Stress hormones build up over time if left untreated. This buildup can cause clinical anxiety disorder, or exacerbate an existing mental illness. Our worries and fears about the future that are causing us to stress actually trigger our brains to release even more cortisol, furthering the impact of stress. Our quick anxiety test can help you determine whether you need help from a therapist specialising in anxiety.
During a stressful time, do you feel more easily triggered? Do your children or spouse set you off by the simplest things? If so, you’re not alone. Many people experience irritable behaviours and moods when stressed. When we feel overwhelmed by stress, it can be incredibly difficult to manage our emotions, causing us to feel unbalanced.
Stress not only contributes to depression and other mood disorders, but it can also make self-care rituals seem unimportant. As redundant as this may sound when we experience long-term stress, we may begin to give up on ever getting better. This mental exhaustion can lead to sadness and an overall feeling of hopelessness.
Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to lower levels of self-confidence and self-esteem in anxious and chronically stressed individuals. Stress is a major regulator of competitiveness, which if impaired can cause a negative internal dialogue, resulting in low self-image.
The hallmarks of stress are sometimes hard to identify in the moment. That is why it is important to reflect and take the time to ensure that when you are stressed, you can take proactive measures. If you need help in learning how to deal with stress, you can read more of our blog posts or if you wish to speak to a trained and professional stress therapist, you can book a session today.
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