Stress is a word casually thrown around whenever we experience busy days, long to-do lists, or competing responsibilities. Unfortunately, with most of us having a fast-paced life, stress has become so commonplace that most of us tend to overlook it. And when ignored, stress can cause several physical and mental health issues. In this Safe Space™ Resource, we tackle the causes of stress and its effect on your physical and psychological health.
The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as the body’s response to pressure. Several aspects of life can cause stress, and it differs from person to person. There are general tips on managing and reducing stress, but what works for one person may not work for another. So, we must learn to recognise and manage stress.
What causes stress?
Stress comes from various sources. Depending on what stage of life a person is in or the challenges they experience, stress can come in multiple ways. Some familiar sources of stress include work-related problems, relationship issues, and financial problems. For some people, seemingly minor things such as traffic can cause significant stress. For others, major life changes that are often perceived as positive such as moving into a new house, starting a new job, or even having a new baby, can be causes of stress. Anything that puts pressure on a person can cause anxiety.
Is stress good or bad for us?
It depends. Research shows that some stress is good for you and can prime the brain for improved performance. For example, short-term focus, which most people usually refer to as stress, can be beneficial if managed well. However, long-term anxiety or chronic stress can cause several mental and physical health issues. Therefore, it’s essential to recognise the type of stress we’re experiencing to determine the right kind of action for it.
Can stress affect a person’s physical health?
Yes, it can. Stress can cause various physical issues such as fatigue, headaches, nausea, indigestion, tightness in the chest, heart palpitations, and other aches and pains. Therefore, we need to pay attention to these physical symptoms of stress to address the root cause. Worse symptoms of chronic stress can be high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases, among other things.
Can stress affect a person’s behaviour and mental health?
Unfortunately, yes. Severe levels of stress make a person irritable, affecting relationships with family and friends. Some people even go as far as isolating themselves from their loved ones. Long-term stress can also negatively affect a person’s mental health, causing depression, burnout, insomnia or even PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
It’s important to understand our triggers with stress and how they manifest either physically, emotionally, or mentally in our lives. When we know our triggers and how they manifest, we can work on strategies to better manage the stress that can hopefully minimise its adverse effects on our lives. Unmanaged stress can become a serious problem, and we need to put in the necessary tools to manage it. People will respond to coping strategies differently, and it can be hard to determine the right approach when we’re in the middle of experiencing stress.
If you’re experiencing stress and are unsure how to deal with it, talk to a therapist to help you develop a stress management plan that works for you.