From final exam jitters to wedding day jitters, stress is a part of life. But not all stress is created equally.
Danielle Collins-Facto, a licensed professional counselor at ThriveWorks in Virginia Beach, said, in simple terms, there is good stress or eustress… and bad stress, which is distress. We know that it’s impossible to avoid stress in the world we live in, and small doses of good stress can be really motivating.
For example, good stress can give us energy before a 5K race or enable us to perform better during a work presentation. This normal stress may happen suddenly or it may be something you planned for, but either way, you know it’s going to be relatively brief, said Sheehan Fisher, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Neuroscience. It will happen and you will be able to overcome it. Of medicine.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, is long-term and has no definite end. And chronic stress can take a toll on you, both physically and mentally.
It’s important to remember that our bodies are well equipped to handle small amounts of stress. However, it is long-term or chronic stress that can seriously affect the body, and no system of the body is immune, Collins-Facteau said.
Examples of chronic stress are far-reaching, but often they can be an unavoidable aspect of your life. For example, losing your glasses is a small stress that can probably be cured by visiting an eye doctor, but some issues that cause long-term stress such as medical conditions, poverty and living in a congested traffic area may be unavoidable. Is, Collins-facto explained.
The prejudice that marginalized communities face is another example of this. Racial discrimination, sexism and homophobia can all be prevalent chronic stressors, Fischer said.
For people from marginalized groups, discrimination and microaggressions are (unfortunately) the same way of the world you’ve always seen your entire life, Fisher said, but that doesn’t negate the long-term impact of this kind of chronic stress. Is. Marginalized people know that they are always at risk of discrimination or prejudice, so even if actual incidents of discrimination do not happen every day, there is still a constant threat that can do It happens, he explained.
Below, doctors explain what health problems to watch out for if you experience chronic stress, as well as steps you can take to keep your bad stress under control:
1. Thinking that can disrupt sleep
Studies show that chronic stress can lead to insomnia, poor sleep quality, and more.
People often experience that they have trouble organizing their mind and body, which can lead to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, Collins-Facteau said.
Think about it: If your chronic stressor is your inability to pay off the debt you’ve racked up, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it when it’s time to go to bed. If anything, you may be less likely to have anxious thoughts when you’re trying to sleep because there are fewer distractions to keep your mind off stress.
2. Muscle tension
Muscle tension is an adaptive response of our body, Collins-Facteau said. This is our body’s way of protecting itself from pain and injury.
He said, being in a state of tension for a long time causes the muscles to maintain that tension. This can cause pain, especially in the neck, shoulders and back, in addition to tension headaches and migraines.
3. Gastrointestinal Problems
People dealing with chronic stress may feel like they have a lump in their stomach and may even develop gastrointestinal problems like irritable bowel syndrome, Fisher said.
According to Collins-Facto, this happens due to a reduction in blood flow and oxygen to the stomach when you are under stress. Bloating, cramps, and disruption of gut bacteria are other ways your digestive system can be affected by chronic stress.
4. Anxiety and depression
It goes without saying that anxiety and depression are two big ways that chronic stress can manifest.
Research shows that environmental stressors such as poverty can contribute to depression. Additionally, other forms of chronic stress such as cancer or heart disease are also associated with increased rates of mental disorders.
5. Heart related problems
You’ve probably heard that stress causes deaths, right? Collins-Facteau said.
A bigger risk, he said, is that chronic stress can lead to problems like high blood pressure and heart disease, making it extremely important to manage your stress as best as possible.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, stress can cause inflammation, which can lower levels of good cholesterol and lead to high blood pressure, both of which can adversely affect your heart.
Additionally, the American Heart Association says that getting good sleep is an important way to maintain or improve your heart health and, as mentioned above, chronic stress disrupts your rest, creating a vicious cycle. .
Dealing with chronic stress is challenging, but there are some ways to deal with it.
The first step, Collins-Facto said, is to recognize what’s causing the stress and embrace it as an opportunity to make changes.
This does not mean that you will immediately eliminate the chronic stress-causing problem, as this is often not an option. Instead, it means adjusting your lifestyle to better manage stress.
Fisher said different people need different things to keep their stress levels under control. You may need to relax on the couch to give your body physical rest, or you may find that you need to release some energy by going for a run or playing basketball.
Collins-Facteau suggested that managing your stress could also mean making sure you have a balanced breakfast before heading to your high-stress job or maintaining your support system.
Practices like mindfulness and meditation can also help you understand what your body needs to deal with chronic stress, whether it’s more relaxation, a walk in nature or spending time with friends, Fisher said.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you feel you need additional support, you can contact a mental health professional who is trained to guide you through this, Fisher emphasized. If you are experiencing chronic stress symptoms that are interfering with your daily functioning, it is important to get support sooner rather than later.
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