Stress is part of our lives . The pressure to get to work on time, to finish that final project that needs to be delivered first thing in the morning at school, to cook for a large number of consumers in a restaurant; these are stress-generating situations.
However, when stress is prolonged, its effectiveness disappears and its effects can be fatal, as the consequences move from the psychological to the physical. So… what to do in the face of stress? Let’s see it throughout this article.
Consequences of Stress
To a certain extent, stress represents a source of energy that makes us go into action , because it sets the nervous system in motion by releasing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol; it accelerates the heart rate and raises blood pressure. Once the problem is over, the body usually regains its balance and tranquility, but sometimes there is too much tension and this wears down our quality of life.
Next we will see some psychological effects of excessive stress , which affects thought, emotions and behaviour:
- Lack of concentration
- Memory failure
- Proclive to make mistakes, low performance
- Impatience and irritability
- Constant voltage
- Feelings of inferiority
- Risk of using harmful substances
- Interpersonal problems
As a consequence of situations that prolong stress, the mental state in which the person is can produce physical illnesses and psychosomatic reactions , such as
- Gastric Ulcer
- Irritable colon
- Heart attack
- Muscle pain
- Vaginismus, changes in the menstrual cycle
- Erectile Dysfunction
- Anxiety, depression
In Mexico, 75% of the population suffers from occupational stress, above countries like China and the United States, says the WHO. This is due, according to Dr. Armando Ahued, to an imbalance between what is required in the labor area with the ability, knowledge and profile of the worker .
What to do in the face of stress?
It should be noted that the high levels of cortisol (stress hormone) cause a decrease in the body’s defences , which makes us more likely to get sick. All the more reason to prevent your stress from continuing into such instances.
Sometimes the solutions we try to find to free ourselves from stress end up aggravating the problem. Some people resort to substances that are harmful to their health, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or taking other drugs to relieve stress. However, in addition to not getting it, the person gets addicted to the substance and will have to deal with withdrawal, so both problems will keep him or her restless and their health will be further endangered.
On the other hand, food is also often a common resource. According to Fernando Fernández-Aranda, coordinator of the Eating Disorders Unit at Bellvitge Hospital, Barcelona, stressful situations influence our mood, modify our food intake , causing us to eat in large quantities, so we try to address negative emotions by eating. This is known as emotional hunger. This strategy, beyond not relieving stress, runs the risk of gaining weight.
Instead of managing stress, it manages us. How we deal with situations makes a difference. That’s why I’m sharing with you some suggestions you can use to lower those stress levels.
1. Do what you can
We often get stressed out by circumstances that are out of our reach or by pretending to do several activities at once .
Do what you can, setting priorities. Don’t hesitate to ask for support from someone you trust. It is not always possible to do everything yourself. When you are in doubt about what to do in the face of stress, this is one of the easiest steps to follow, as it is based on focusing efforts on concrete actions that we have already planned.
2. Seek balance
It is not convenient to focus your life only on work or school. Do you live to work or work to live? Your answer may determine the level of stress you have or can achieve.
Without a doubt, work is very important to get the quality of life you want. But rest, relationships with others, such as family, partners, children, friends, should not be neglected. Even your relationship with yourself.
Allowing stress to take over your life and suffering its effects both psychologically and physically is a form of abandonment and neglect of yourself, because it is about your health, which if lost is difficult to recover. Setting aside some leisure time is so important that it complements your usual tasks, since it is the time that allows you to get out of the daily stress.
Don’t let the scales fall to one extreme or the other, because excesses have never been healthy. Seek balance in the areas of your life. If the work you do is physical, look for quiet hobbies; but if your work is sedentary, look for active hobbies.
3. Nurture your relationship with others
Try to spend time with the people you love and express your love for them. Hugs help to reduce stress, because when we have this contact with each other, cortisol (stress hormone) decreases and the brain releases oxytocin (known as the love hormone), serotonin and dopamine, which produces a pleasant sensation in us and in the other person.
4. Exercise regularly
Considered the best natural remedy for stress. Exercise allows you to release that accumulated energy. It produces hormones in the brain, such as serotonin , which allow us to have a feeling of well-being, which also gives the benefit of avoiding emotional problems such as anxiety and depression.
After exercise and a tiring working day, a refreshing rest is necessary. Sleep decreases the amount of stress hormones in the body, so without adequate rest, fatigue and stress will build up with the next day’s activities, which can lead to anxiety and depression over time.
It is therefore very important to respect the approximately 8 hours of sleep to prevent prolonged stress.
6. Performs breathing techniques
This is a very useful relaxation technique for those moments when you are under stress: start by breathing deeply by inflating your abdomen (not your chest), hold your breath for a few seconds and exhale slowly through your mouth .
Try to focus on the air going in and out of your body, or think of positive affirmations, so that you can distract your mind for a moment from that stressful situation you are experiencing. Do this technique over and over again until you feel a little calmer.
7. Seek professional help
If you prefer it or if the discomfort persists taking into account other factors, in psychotherapy you will be able to learn how to handle stressful situations in an adequate way .
Stress is part of life, but it is important to control it to the extent that it allows us to resolve the threats to our emotional balance .
A good quality of life is not only the result of work, it also involves rest, exercise, nutrition and the love of the people around us, including the one you have for yourself. In short, reflect on where the balance of your life is tipped and seek balance where possible.
- Ahued, A. (May 27, 2018). 75% of Mexicans suffer from stress, poor work and academic performance. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from Excelsior: https://www.excelsior.com.mx/opinion/armando-ahued/75-de-los-mexicanos-padece-estres-escasa-funcionalidad-laboral-y-academica.
- Blake, H. (September 4, 2017) What happens to your body when you’re stressed? Retrieved January 10, 2019, from El Pais: https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/08/11/ciencia/1502462353_596394.html
- Gómez, Á. (March 22, 2018). Stress is as fattening as a double cheeseburger. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from El Pais: https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/03/17/buenavida/1521290847_089200.html.
- Melgosa, J. (2008). How to have a healthy mind. Madrid: Safeliz.