Do you know exactly what stress is? Do you think you can get it? Enter and discover your level of stress through our tests. Find the psychological keys to fight it.
Stress is a normal reaction of our body when it has been subjected to a state of tension or major stress. It can appear because of an excess of work or family responsibilities, a traumatic event, etc.
Precisely because of this, experts speak of various types of stress, depending on the cause that has led to the physiological reaction that we manifest. If the stress is occasional and punctual, it will not generate problems in our health. But if it is prolonged in time or is too pronounced, it will manifest itself in a series of symptoms that, in the most serious cases, will require the help of a professional psychologist for their treatment.
What is stress?
We could define stress as a series of physiological and psychological reactions in which the nervous system, the immune system, and the endocrine system are involved. These systems serve to re-establish the homeostatic balance that is lost during a stressful situation.
- It puts us on alert
As soon as an alert or threat appears outside (an external stressor) an “alarm” situation has produced that sets in motion all a series of physiological mechanisms that prepare the organism to face it (fight) or to avoid it (flee). These reactions are very diverse and involve the whole body.
- Increased activity of certain systems
When stress is generated there is an increase in activity in different systems, such as dilation of the pupils, sharpening of the ear, increase in the level of certain hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol, epinephrine,.), greater contraction of the heart muscle, increase in energy in the musculature, etc.
- Decreased activity of other systems
But there is also a decrease in the activity of all those systems that are unnecessary to deal with the threat, For example, the blood flow to the digestive system decreases, since we have increased that blood flow in the heart muscle so it pumps more blood to the muscles in case we have to flee or fight. In this way, it also decreases the activity of the immune system, the growth system, or the reproductive system, among others. As soon as this threatening (stressful) situation disappears, the organism returns to its normal functioning.
- It is generated in very diverse situations
Stressful situations can be triggered in different ways and in different areas of our lives: at work, at home, with family, with a friend, through studies, because of a health problem, etc. But the stressful potential does not lie so much in the stressor itself, but in the way each of us perceives it and how we manage that perception. Therefore, a situation can produce stress in one person and not in another.
We can identify one of these emotional illnesses both through the symptoms of emotional and physical stress and even by seeing how it affects our behavior. So much so that frequently we can see different physiological reactions and effects of stress on our emotions. Mainly we could identify if we have stress or if it is a case of a nervous person if this one presents the following symptoms of stress.
How do we behave: avoidance of the situation that worries us, difficulties in sleeping, crying, change in eating habits…?
What emotions do we feel: feeling of tension, restlessness, irritability, uneasiness, constant worry, fear, feeling of excessive tiredness?
What happens to our body: muscle tension, sweating, headache, breathing and swallowing difficulties, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, weight loss or gain?
The main symptoms that occur in a state of high stress could be defined as follows.
Outbursts of anger
State of agitation
Muscular problems (back muscle tension, jaw pain…)
Headache and Migraine
Elevation of blood pressure
Increased heart rate
Gastrointestinal discomfort (stomach pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea…)
Lack of sexual appetite
Frequently the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety are presented together because these pathologies have many features in common. So much so that stress goes hand in hand with these diseases in most cases where their levels are high.
Stress Test: How stressed are you?
There are several stress tests that you can take to see if you are living a stressful life or if you are just feeling it in certain situations. If you test positive on many of the following answers, it is very likely that your stress level is well above the established norm. Therefore, it will be necessary for you to act on the symptoms of stress, and on the level, you are suffering from the help of a professional psychologist.
Does everything around you tell you that everything is bothering you?
Are you too angry?
Are you low in energy?
Do you have any worries?
Are you overwhelmed by things?
Do you feel bad about criticism?
Do you not know how to deal with problems?
Are you bored?
Are you unable to establish a routine of time?
Do you think your effort is not recognized?
Do you feel bad about yourself?
Do you sleep little, badly, or too much?
Have you experienced too many sudden changes?
Do you suffer from any health problems?
Have you recently lost someone?
If you answered yes to most of the questions, your stress level is quite high. It is time to look for solutions or it will end up affecting your health. Focus on getting help so you can feel good and eliminate stress from your life.
Causes of Stress
Stress appears as a warning, a signal sent by our body to warn us we are overdoing it or that something is simply not right. Whether it’s times of overwork, financial problems, grief, breakups, or even changes in our life or routine.
In moments like these our body releases hormones that on the one hand, accelerate our heart rate and make our digestion much slower. In this way, our body undergoes a change that it was not used to. Once we are back to “normal” we relax again. But if this resting situation does not come, we can start talking about chronic stress.
Psychologists have identified after several studies some main causes why most of us can suffer from stress.
Fear and uncertainty
When you are, when you experience fear and uncertainty, it is very likely that your body will end up suffering from stress. This way, frequently, people perceive it both in situations of work discomfort or together with the emotional tension that can arise in the bond of your friends or partner.
Attitudes and perceptions
The way we perceive or see our surroundings is one reason we can suffer from stress. A nervous person who worries about day-to-day situations is very likely to end up having stress symptoms that end up damaging his or her life. For that reason, most of the cases, where symptoms of acute or chronic stress appear, are related to the negativity of a person.
Perfectionism has a double side. On the one hand, we could say that it is good to give your best, but trying everything with unrealistic expectations can be a source of stress and anxiety. Expecting to do everything right is one way to end up feeling stressed.
Leaving the comfort zone creates a stressful situation for many people. As a result, if this change is prolonged for a long time, it can generate so-called emotional stress. In it, we perceive the stress in situations where we cannot control it, like for example the death of a relative, the divorce, or even preparing a happy event like a wedding.
These are the main causes and consequences of stress in our lives. Despite being in these situations, many people do not have a psychological problem since at low levels stress is positive and generates a correct response in our organism. The problem of a stressed person ends up being that stress hormones and all the nervous tension associated with these escape or fight reactions are continuously generated.
How does chronic stress affect us?
When the situations where we suffer from stress are prolonged for a very long time, we could talk about the so-called chronic stress. So much so that this type of stress ends up having different symptoms from those perceived in certain daily situations.
Because of a prolonged situation of stress, we can have non-adaptive behaviors that worse if possible, our physical and mental health.
Denial: we can ensure that we have the situation under control, even if it does not correspond to reality, so as not to appear weak.
Sedentarism: one feels so tired that one stops doing closed activities, like going to the gym, going for a walk…
Isolation: we start not to meet with friends, preferring to lock ourselves in the room alone…
Lack of rest: intrusive thoughts do not let us sleep at night, so we show insomnia and daytime hypersomnia.
Aggressiveness: in response to the discomfort we are feeling, we are more irascible with others.
Bad nutrition: we eat more, or little, unhealthy, we ingest more fats and sugars (they are called “comfort foods” because they fill the emotional void that we are in).
Substance abuse: when faced with a situation that causes us general discomfort, we try to seek immediate comfort or pleasure in the “magic wands” such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, coffee, or anxiolytics.
Work addiction: filling our lives with occupations is a way to avoid facing our stressful situation.
These behaviors are internal stressors that come to complicate the situation we are living in, becoming a vicious circle that some people turn into a lifestyle.
It is important to know that this situation is not desirable, nor normal, nor inevitable. We can stop reacting to stress and start responding in a more adaptive way. This happens by becoming more aware, moment by moment, of our body and mind, and by not getting caught up in our usual automatic reactions to stress, but by creating alternative responses with greater creativity and openness to complicated situations.
How to manage stress?
Managing stress is very important to deal with the symptoms and that they do not affect our health. Therefore, the first thing we must do is try to determine what causes our state of nerves and tension. In cases of work stress or post-traumatic stress, the reason seems to be clear, but not in the rest of the situations, which may require the professional help of a therapist.
It starts by being aware that stress appears in many moments of our lives and it is not a matter of managing it once and once it is gone, the problem has been eliminated. It is about learning to apply a correct routine so that the stress does not appear, and if it does, it is momentary and manageable.
- Recognizes where stress comes from
One of the first steps in dealing with stress is to recognize the warning signs your body sends you. Among them, you will see different styles of stress symptoms.
Emotional symptoms: anxiety, fear, irritability, anger, resentment, loss of confidence.
Cognitive symptoms: difficulty concentrating or deciding, confusion, repetitive or circular thoughts
Physical symptoms: dry mouth, tremors, sweating, strong or rapid heartbeat, chest tightness and shortness of breath, muscle tension, headache, dizziness
Behavioral Symptoms: Nervous habits such as nail-biting or walking, drinking more coffee or alcohol, eating too much or too little, sleeping poorly, acting brazenly or unreasonably, losing patience, being inconsiderate of others, neglecting responsibilities.
Once we have identified where the stress comes from, it is easier to attack the root of the problem and leave aside the source that creates our nervousness. In this part of the process, you can help from a professional psychologist to make this exercise much more effective.
Physical activity reduces stress hormones and also releases endorphins, which improve our mood. It also improves our sleep hygiene and benefits our self-esteem.
- Eat healthily
Avoiding excessive caffeine, chocolates or ultra-processed products will help us be more positive and avoid anxiety.
- Practice mindfulness
This technique of full attention allows us to observe and realize the things we have around us we are doing and to stop turning our heads with things we should do or haven’t done yet.
- Change your lifestyle
Many times the stress we experience is because of a busy lifestyle without the presence of moments for us or just to rest. For this reason, one way we can control stress is by changing some aspects of our lives. A good example is to increase our social interactions and make more space to enjoy our family and our hobbies.
The effects of stress constantly shake our society. The reason is that we are more than used to living with much stress in our daily lives and have even normalized it. This attitude is detrimental to both our happiness and our community. Dealing with stress is vital to enjoying all that we are and do with our existence.
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