Stress and anxiety are things that people experience at many points in their daily lives.
Stress can be best described as a response to a threat in a situation and anxiety can be best described as a reaction to the stress.
Chronic stress can affect your health by causing a variety of symptoms including headaches, chest pain, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, skin rashes, and even loss of sleep.
What is stress?
Stress can be best described as the body’s response to any demand. Stress can be triggered by many things including but not limited to life changes and transitions. These changes can either be positive or negative. Changes can be recurring, short-term, long-term and may include situations such as commuting to and from school or work every day, adjusting to a blended family, or even moving to a new home. Stress inducing events can be mild and relatively harmless, such as participating in competitions, watching a scary movie, or meeting deadlines. Major stressful events can result from events such as marriage or divorce, serious illness, or the birth of a baby. Many other stressful events can be extreme, such as the exposure to a violent incident which can lead to traumatic stress reactions later in life.
How does stress affect the body?
Although contrary to belief, not all stress is bad especially when it comes to stress response. Stress response is a biological and psychological response that all humans and animals have that can fortunately be life-saving in many life situations. The neurotransmitters and hormones released during these stressful times, prepares an animal or human to fight a looming threat or to run to safety. When faced with a dangerous situation, your pulse speeds up, you breathe faster, your muscles tense up, your brain uses more oxygen which in turn increases more activity. These functions aim to survival as a result. Stress response in the short-term can even boost your immune system as well.
On the other hand, chronic stress uses those same neurotransmitters that are life-saving in small short bursts and can suppress functions that aren’t needed for immediate survival. Your immune system is lowered and other systems such as your digestion stops working as it normally would. Once the threat has passed, other body systems act to restore normal functioning in the body. Problems occur if the stress response goes on for a long period of time, particularly when the source of stress is chronic or if the response continues after the danger has eventually subsided.
What are the different kinds of stress?
There are at least three different types of stress, all of which carry physical and mental health risks:
- Daily responsibilities such as the pressures of work, family and other daily responsibilities are the cause what is known as routine stress.
- An unexpected negative change, such as losing a job, or having a serious illness are some of causes of what is known as acute stress.
- A major accident, natural disaster, or even an assault, whether one is seriously hurt or in danger of being killed are causes what is known as traumatic stress.
A variety of people respond to each type of stress in similar ways and many people may feel it differently in different ways. There is a small group of people that experience mostly digestive symptoms, while a group of other people may experience headaches, sleeplessness, depression, or even anger. Viral infections can affect people more easily especially if they are experiencing chronic stress which can lead them to catch the common cold or the flu.
Routine stress can be the most difficult to notice in a person at first, this is because the source of stress tends to be more persistent than in cases of acute or traumatic stress, there is no sign that the body needs to return to normal functioning. Over a period of time, consistent strain on the body from routine stress can lead to a variety of serious health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety disorders, and a many other illnesses.