In this article, we’ll look at what Chronic Stress is, how to identify it, and the medical consequences it can have. Also, as I try and describe ways to manage stress.
Furthermore, short-lived feelings of stress are a regular part of daily life. And when these feelings become chronic, or long-lasting, they can severely impact a person’s health. But, do not try to deal with chronic stress alone. If self-help strategies are not working, a doctor can provide support and advice about treatment options.
Equally important, they can also refer a person to a more specialized healthcare provider, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. And by all means, anyone feeling overwhelmed by stress should see a doctor as soon as possible. Especially, if they are having suicidal thoughts or using drugs or alcohol to cope.
In addition, self-help techniques include identifying triggers, as well as developing coping and avoidance strategies. Not forgetting, reaching out to friends and family, and practicing mindfulness. But, if these techniques are not working, or if stress is becoming overwhelming, a person should speak to a healthcare professional.
What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic Stress is a biological response to demanding situations causing the body to release hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones help prepare the body to take action, for example by increasing the heart and breath rates. And when this occurs, a doctor might describe a person as being in a state of heightened alertness or arousal.
Many factors can trigger a stress response, including dangerous situations and psychological pressures, such as work deadlines, exams, and sporting events. The physical effects of stress usually do not last long. However, some people find themselves in a nearly constant state of heightened alertness. This is chronic stress.
Some potential causes of chronic stress include:
- high-pressure jobs
- financial difficulties
- challenging relationships
Chronic stress puts pressure on the body for an extended period. This can cause a range of symptoms and increase the risk of developing certain illnesses.
Which are the Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress affects the whole body. It can have several physical or psychological symptoms, which can make functioning on a daily basis more challenging.
The type and severity of symptoms vary considerably from person to person. Signs and symptoms of chronic stress can include:
- irritability, which can be extreme
- difficulty concentrating, or an inability to do so
- rapid, disorganized thoughts
- difficulty sleeping
- digestive problems
- changes in appetite
- feeling helpless
- a perceived loss of control
- low self-esteem
- loss of sexual desire
- frequent infections or illnesses
What are the Risks of Chronic Stress?
Many people have chronic stress and anxiety. They face symptoms such as nervousness, agitation, tension, a racing heart, and chest pain.
In fact, anxiety is among the most common mental health issues. As an example, in Kenya alone, more than 18 percent of adults are affected by anxiety disorders each year.
In some cases, another health condition, such as an overactive thyroid, can lead to an anxiety disorder. But, getting an accurate diagnosis can ensure that a person receives the best treatment.
Over long periods, chronic stress can contribute to the development of a range of physical and mental disorders.
The range of physical and mental disorders include;
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
- a weakened immune system
- sexual dysfunction
- gastrointestinal disorders
- skin irritation
- respiratory infections
- autoimmune diseases
- anxiety disorders
- post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
How do I Manage Stress?
Chronic stress can seem overwhelming, and a person may feel unable to regain control over their life. However, a number of strategies can help to reduce stress levels and improve well-being.
It can also help to unwind before sleeping, by listening to music, reading a book, taking a warm bath, or meditating, for example.
Some methods for managing stress include:
- Understanding the signs and symptoms. These indications can vary, but if a person can recognize their own signals of stress, they will be better able to manage them.
- Speaking to friends and family. They can provide emotional support and the motivation to take action.
- Identifying triggers. It is not always possible to avoid triggers of stress. However, taking note of specific triggers can help a person to develop coping and management strategies, which may involve reducing exposure.
- Exercising regularly. Physical activity increases the body’s production of endorphins, which are chemicals that boost the mood and reduce stress. Exercise can involve walking, cycling, running, working out, or playing sports.
- Trying mindfulness. People who practice this form of meditation use breathing and thought techniques to create an awareness of their bodies and surroundings. Research suggests that mindfulness can have a positive impact on stress, anxiety, and depression.
- Improving sleep quality. Getting too little sleep or sleep of poor quality can contribute to stress. Try to get at least 7 hours every night, and set regular times for going to sleep and waking up. Avoid caffeine, eating, and intense physical activity in the hours before bed.
If strategies such as those listed above are not helping, it is important to see a healthcare professional for advice and support. A doctor may recommend psychological therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (in short CBT).
How is Stress Treated?
Eventually, Chronic Anxiety that interferes with a person’s ability to function warrants treatment. And when there is no underlying medical condition, such as a thyroid problem, therapy is the most popular form of treatment.
Additionally, therapy can help a person to understand what triggers their anxiety. Also, it can help with making positive lifestyle changes and working through trauma.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the most effective therapies for anxiety is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (in short CBT). The goal is to help a person understand how their thoughts affect their emotions and behavior. While replacing those reactions with positive or constructive alternatives.
Then again, CBT can help with generalized anxiety and anxiety relating to a specific issue, such as work or an instance of trauma. Not to mention, medication can also help a person to manage chronic anxiety.
A doctor may prescribe medications in any of the following groups:
- antianxiety drugs called benzodiazepines, including Xanax and Valium
- antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, including Prozac
- sleeping medications, if anxiety interferes with sleep
Natural anxiety remedies can replace or complement traditional treatments.
Untreated anxiety can get worse and cause more stress in a person’s life. However, anxiety is highly treatable with therapy, natural remedies, lifestyle changes, and medications.
A person may need to try several combinations of therapies and remedies before finding one that works. A doctor can help a person to determine which options are best.
Other means of curbing stress include;
- physical exercise,
- meditation or relaxation yoga,
- writing down your mind,
- time management plan creation,
- aromatherapy or massage,
- cannabidiol oil or herbal tea
- herbal and dietary supplements
- biking or hiking with friends, etc.
I would be glad to see your additional methods listed above for our readers.
You can also click here to get more support and help on how to fight depression and anxiety from home by BetterHelp. Or even, help a friend to get advice while fighting with chronic stress.
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