Stress is a regular feeling that can occur in everyday life. When these feelings become long-lasting, or chronic, you will see first-hand the impacts it has on your health.
Experiencing stress is simply your bodies defence mechanism to external situations. At a point, stress can become something you simply can’t shake off. The feeling of stress over an extended period may indicate that your stress is chronic.
Chronic stress can have a severe impact on your body and mind. Developing a long term strategy is key to managing stress, this will put you in a better position to cope with stress afterwards.
In this article we’ll discuss the symptoms of stress, the long term effects it has on your physical and mental wellbeing, and how to manage it.
What Are The Five Symptoms Of Chronic Stress?
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain caused by external circumstances.
At one stage in life, most people will deal with the feeling of stress. One study found that 33% of adults reported experiencing high levels of stress.
The stress response is natural, it’s seen as a bad thing, but that’s not always the case.
Our response to stress helps our body stay more alert in acute situations. When we feel threatened, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol. Both boost mental clarity, tightened muscles, and an accelerated heart rate.
This feeling disappears with the external factor.
But in some cases, stress can have a lasting effect. The body reacts in the same way as short-lived stress, but the external situation never comes, your body is in a state of physiological arousal.
This long-lasting feeling can be defined as chronic stress, and it isn’t healthy.
Symptoms of chronic stress include:
- Lack of concentration or forgetfulness
- Headaches and stiffness in the muscles
- Digestive problems, diarrhoea, constipation or nausea
- Fatigue or having too much or too little sleep
- Sexual disfunction or excessive use of alcohol/drugs
What Does Long Term Stress Do To Your Health?
Stress that lasts for weeks or months indicates chronic stress.
Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress that can negatively affect your body and mind if it goes untreated.
Chronic stress occurs when the body experiences stressors. The intensity and frequency of the stressors do not allow your body to release the relaxation response regularly. This means our body remains incomplete physiological arousal.
Because chronic stress is long term, it can have a detrimental effect on your health, if it is left untreated or managed. Here is a list of complications related to chronic stress:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Heart disease
That’s why it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope and manage your life stressors.
How Do I Manage Long Term Stress?
Stressors are a way of life, you might not be able to change your environment, but you can take steps to cope and manage them internally and externally.
1. Understanding the signs and symptoms
– Your signals can vary from person to person so recognising your signals of stress, will provide a better platform for you to deal and manage with them.
2. Open conversations
– Speaking to loved ones or therapy can take an enormous amount of pressure off you, as well as displaying you aren’t alone. They can provide emotional support and the motivation to take action.
– A healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity. Physical activity increases the body’s production of endorphins, which are chemicals that boost your mood and reduces stress. Activities can include walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, or playing sports.
4. Improving sleep
– Getting too little, too much or poor-quality sleep can have a detrimental effect on your stress levels. To look after your health and wellbeing, you should roughly get 8 hours of sleep every night. Set a regular time for going to sleep and waking up, avoid caffeine, eating and exercise hours before bed.
5. Practice gratitude and optimism
– Research shows that optimists finish first and practising gratitude has incredible effects, from reducing stress to boosting our relationships with others. Optimists become less reactive to stressors as they see things in a different light, they’re able to turn negatives into positives.
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