Do you feel this ever lingering weight on your shoulders that doesn’t seem to deflate? Or do you feel like you’re continuously sleep deprived no matter how many hours of sleep you get? If such is the case with you, chances are, you’re under Stress.
What is stress?
Diving into a more literal meaning, Stress “can be any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain and it is your body’s response to anything that requires you to respond or take an action”. At least that is how the World Health Organization describes the phenomenon.
Stress is a natural reaction of our brain and body when either or both of them struggle to cope with whatever is happening in our surroundings, be it in a personal or professional setting.
Causes of stress
Stress can lead you to a variety of difficulties. Someone may have a debt to pay, some may be struggling with a toxic relationship, others may have a fear of losing something or someone. The list is infinite.
How many times have you noticed your chest tightening as you hear your phone ringing and the caller ID says “Boss”, especially when you were supposed to deliver a task but the deadline is over and you haven’t delivered.
When confronted with danger, our body tends to release chemicals and the ‘flight-or-fight response’ is triggered. In short, whatever poses a threat to one’s physical or mental well-being leads to stress.
Reactions of stress
Just like we all have different reactions to physical conditions, emotions, or even the weather, Stress also manifests differently for different people. What basically happens is the release of hormones like Cortisol and Norepinephrine; also widely known as the ‘stress hormones’ when confronted with a dangerous situation.
Our physical receptors send a signal to our brain and the brain employs the nervous system to prepare the body for a fight, flight or sometimes to freeze. It’s a survival mechanism that protects us from the situation but ends up leaving our mind and body strained.
Types of stress
Now that we have developed a basic understanding of how stress is caused, let’s take a look at some of the types of stress that we experience in our lives.
Let’s just say you’re preparing for a job interview and the prospect of not acing the interview is making your head hurt, or, You’re about to walk down the aisle and feel like your heart would jump out of your chest. That is what we term as the Acute Stress. It is the most commonly occurring and could happen for a multitude of reasons.
Episodic acute stress
Now, if that feeling of panic comes about every time you have to make a presentation or every time there is an appointment scheduled with your dentist perhaps, that is what categorizes as Episodic Acute Stress. It’s the frequency of occurrence that distinguishes episodic acute stress from acute stress.
Feeling irritable at all times, experiencing heartburn or frequent headaches are some of the expressions of episodic stress.People who tend to take more responsibility are often more prone to experience it and over time it accumulates.
When stress extends over a longer period of time, it becomes Chronic. Factors like dysfunctional family or work environment, poverty, heath issues, addictions etc. can be major contributors to chronic stress. The physical effects of stress are usually not long-lasting. However, some people are in an almost constant state of heightened alertness.
Emotionally or mentally, the stress can manifest as depression, anxiety, picking up habits that lead to addiction and crumbling the quality of life altogether.
The thing is, we can not always change our circumstances, but we can choose how to react and that can be the first step to managing stress. Coping with stress can be daunting, especially when it becomes ubiquitous but small steps in trying to understand the ‘what’ and ‘why’ can be a good place to start.