One can think of stress as the body’s alarm system that activates when faced with an overwhelming or threatening situation. It’s like having an internal warning system that helps us prepare for action. It is the body’s way of preparing for a perceived challenge or danger, commonly called the “fight-or-flight” response.
In our daily lives, stress can be brought on by various things, including pressure at work, strained relationships, money troubles, health issues, or significant life changes. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which raise blood pressure, sharpen focus and attention, and increase heart rate, are released by the body when it is exposed to stressors. This reaction is intended to give you an energy boost and increased alertness to help you deal with the perceived threat.
While stress is sometimes beneficial in tackling challenges, chronic stress can negatively affect physical, mental, and emotional well-being in the long run. Prolonged stress can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, changes in appetite, and increased susceptibility to illnesses.
Hence it is essential to recognize and manage stress effectively through various coping mechanisms. For this, it is vital to identify the obvious and some more subtle signs of stress.
Let’s look at the signs of stress and how you can help prevent it as a few coping techniques to help you relax when you feel stressed and overwhelmed.
What happens to the body when you are stressed?
One must understand how our body reacts to stress to understand the physical signs of stress. This is a step-by-step breakdown of what exactly the body goes through when a stressor is detected:
- Activation of the stress response: When a person perceives a threat or a demanding situation, the brain’s stress response system, primarily the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, sends signals to the adrenal glands.
- Release of stress hormones: The adrenal glands release stress hormones, mainly adrenaline, and cortisol, into the bloodstream. These hormones prepare the body to respond to the perceived threat.
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Adrenaline causes the heart to beat faster, increasing blood flow to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and organs. This results in elevated blood pressure.
- Rapid breathing: Breathing becomes faster and shallower, supplying more oxygen to the lungs and preparing the body for quick action.
- Muscle tension: Stress hormones cause the muscles to tighten as part of the body’s preparation for physical exertion or self-defense.
- Heightened senses and focus: The stress hormones that are released, especially adrenaline, enhance sensory perception and alertness, sharpening focus and improving reaction time.
- Suppressed non-essential functions: During stress, the body prioritizes survival, temporarily stopping non-essential functions like digestion and immune system responses.
- Glucose release: Cortisol stimulates the liver to release stored glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream, providing additional energy for the body to respond to the stressor.
- Emotional and cognitive changes: Stress can also affect emotions and mental processes. It may lead to increased anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or impaired decision-making.
- Return to baseline: Once the stressor is eliminated, the body returns to its normal state as hormone levels stabilize, heart rate and blood pressure decrease, and muscles relax.
Because of how the body reacts to stress, we go through several physical signs of stress, such as
- Headaches or migraines
- Muscle tension and pain
- Stomach aches, indigestion, bloating, changes in appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Weakened immune system
- Skin problems
- Body aches like back pain, neck pain, jaw clenching, or tightness in the shoulders.
But stress does not just affect us physically. It also affects our mental and emotional well-being in the form of
- Panic attacks
- Irritability or agitation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Racing thoughts
- Negative thinking
- Reduced motivation
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Mood changes or mood swings
- Social withdrawal
Now that you know the physical and mental symptoms and signs of stress, let’s look at some healthy coping mechanisms and techniques you can incorporate in your daily lives to take care of your health by reducing stress.
Here are a few ways in which you can overcome signs of stress:
1. Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing exercises help activate the body’s relaxation response and reduce stress. Find a quiet place, sit or lie comfortably, and take slow, deep breaths. Inhale deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Focus on your breath and let go of any tension or racing thoughts, do this for as long as you need or till you feel more calm and relaxed.
2. Exercise and movement
Physical activity or movement is a great way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Engaging in regular exercise releases endorphins. Find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, or yoga, and aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves being fully present at the moment. It can help you reduce stress by shifting your focus away from worries about the future or regrets about the past. You can practice mindfulness through meditation or simply by paying attention to your senses and the present moment throughout your day.
4. Connect with Others and Socialise
Humans are social creatures; we aren’t meant to be solitary for long periods. Social support is essential for managing stress. Contact friends, family, or a support network and share your feelings or concerns. Talking to someone who understands and supports you can provide comfort and perspective. Additionally, engaging in social activities and spending quality time with loved ones can help reduce stress levels.
5. Take Breaks and Engage in Self-Care
Regular breaks and engaging in joyful and relaxed activities are essential. Set aside time for self-care activities like reading, bathing, listening to music, practicing a hobby, or spending time in nature. Taking care of your physical and emotional needs can help reduce stress and increase your resilience in facing challenges.
Another effective way to help manage signs of stress is with the help of supplements for stress, here are some accessories you should consider adding to your daily routine:
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to help the body cope with stress. It helps reduce cortisol levels, improve mood, and promote relaxation. An easy way to incorporate Ashwagandha into your diet is through Ashwagandha gummies or pressure gummies. These Ashwagandha gummies often contain a blend of ingredients, usually Ayurvedic ingredients like Chamomile and Lavender, which have calming properties and help reduce stress.
Magnesium is a mineral that is crucial in relaxation and stress management. It can help regulate neurotransmitters and promote a sense of calm. Magnesium supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and stress gummies.
3. B-complex vitamins
B vitamins, particularly B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are involved in energy production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and stress regulation. B-complex supplements can help support the nervous system and improve mood.
Remember that everyone is unique, so finding the coping techniques that work best for you is essential.
When should I seek professional help for stress?
If you’re feeling overburdened, abusing drink or drugs to cope, or having suicidal thoughts, you should get medical help. Your primary care physician can assist by giving you advice, writing a prescription, or directing you to a therapist. Also, remember it is best to prevent stress and then
It’s normal and common to experience stress occasionally. Long-term stress, however, can result in undesirable behaviors and physical and emotional consequences. Try a few easy tactics for stress relief and management. And remember it is best to seek professional help in the earlier stages and prevent stress than to wait for the symptoms to get adverse over some time. Take smaller steps daily to calm and relax, and talk to someone when you feel overburdened.