Stress: Causes, Effects, Solutions
-By Sania Patel
Stress. This word seems to be involved with everything and everyone. The sentences in which this word is used are the common, “Stacy is stressed for the math test” or, “School provides a stressful amount of work.” Either way, stress highlights common themes that arise due to pressure and the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty. The Mental Health Foundation defines stress as the,
“feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.”
From a mental health standpoint, stress is the body’s response to a situation that evokes feelings of anxiety and lack of control. Overall, stress is formed when people face certain circumstances with an “unknown” factor or result.
There are three main types of stress - acute stress, episodic stress, and chronic stress - all of which have different causes and effects. Acute stress describes a situation in which symptoms develop rapidly, but also end in a relatively short amount of time. Acute stress is often involved with severe panic attacks and typically occurs after an unexpected life crisis. An example of when acute stress may arise is when one is exposed to physical or sexual assault. Acute stress often leads to increased levels of cortisol, adrenaline, and other factors that produce an increased heart rate, quickened breathing rate, and higher blood pressure.
Another type of stress is episodic stress. Episodic stress occurs when someone gets frequent episodes of acute stress. People that experience this type of stress often take on more responsibilities than they can handle. They may seem like they are constantly in a rush, always running late, and disorganized. Episodic stress causes anger and irritability, rapid heart rate, panic attacks, heartburn, tightness and pain in the muscles, and digestive problems. It is caused by one overburdening themselves with work or being in an unusually demanding situation. Overall, sudden, extreme, workloads and other stress-causing agents, are the main culprits of episodic stress.
The final type of stress is chronic stress. Chronic stress is a prolonged and constant feeling of stress caused by everyday pressures of family and work, or by traumatic situations. It can cause people to become easily agitated, frustrated, and moody. It can also cause people to feel overwhelmed and face difficulty eating and sleeping. Other symptoms include aches, pains, weakness, and decreased socialization. Yale Medicine decisively sums up chronic stress by describing it as a disease that,
“slowly drains a person’s physiological resources and damages their brains and bodies.”
There are many causes of stress, and they all share a common theme - facing the unknown. Some examples where this is heavily applicable are, losing a job, the death of a loved one, getting married, and moving to a new home. The causes of stress can either have positive or negative implications and outcomes, however, people often develop feelings of stress due to an overwhelming amount of coinciding emotions. For example, the prospect of getting married is exciting, as lovers plan their future together and officially symbolize their relationship. However, marriage can be extremely stressful due to the situation and the other emotions involved. Many become anxious and fearful, as planning a marriage can be a daunting task. With the number of expenses, the discussion of finances can become another overwhelming factor that can result in frustration and depression.
Stress can also come from the perceived threat of the unknown. The unknown is anything one may face with an unexpected or unexplainable outcome. The situations that cause stress can seem daunting due to the little understanding one may have of its potential outcomes. These situations can cause unrealistic expectations and concerns, as one tries to find everything that may hinder the expected result.
Stress can cause numerous adverse effects on one’s physical and mental wellbeing. Stress can increase anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It can also lead to substance use problems and bodily complaints such as muscle tension. Stress also increases the risk of medical problems such as headaches, a weakened immune system, difficulty conceiving, high blood pressure, stroke, gastrointestinal problems, and cardiovascular disease.
To avoid the detrimental health effects of stress, it is important to recognize the issue and identify the cause. Cognitive symptoms of stress include difficulty concentrating, memory problems, negativity, constant worrying, and indecisiveness. Emotional symptoms involve moodiness, low morale, irritability, and feeling hopeless, helpless, agitated, and apprehensive. Stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tensions, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, as well as fatigue, rapid heart rate, and stomach problems. Finally, there are behavioral symptoms of stress which include changes in eating or sleep patterns, social withdrawal, nervous habits, increased use of drugs, alcohol, or caffeine, the neglect of family or work responsibilities, and a decline in performance or productivity.
Although there is no way to eliminate stress, there is a way to seclude the harmful effects of stress and use it as a positive factor. To use stress effectively one must complete a four-step plan that allows the address and clear understanding of the stressful situation, which further helps one develop a way to suppress the emotions the situation brings.
First, one must identify the cause of their stress. Next, they must reach out to family members, friends, or even mental health professionals to receive help and talk about how their current situation is affecting them. By completing this step, people will have the ability to discuss their issues and find possible solutions to help them cope with the stressful agents. Then a person must rationalize the situation. It is very common that emotions play with the circumstances and exaggerate a person’s viewpoint to increase the amount of stress. Finally, one must act. By completing the previous steps, one can look at their situation with a new lens and a clever mind. This will make it much easier for the person to complete the stressful situation and eliminate the cause.
Overall, stress can be used as a positive factor because, in many cases, it acts as a motivation. However, many people are crippled under the pressure of stress because it blocks their ability to think and understand their situation. It is important to calm your mind and organize your thoughts before delving into a stressful situation. If not watched closely, stress can be detrimental to one’s mental and physical wellbeing; it is important to have stress in life, but also find ways to relax in order to counteract the effects of stress. It is also vital to recognize the symptoms of stress and seek help when needed.