The Negative Impact of Stress on Mental Health

What is Stress?

Stress can be defined as the way you feel when you’re under abnormal pressure. Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and it is a natural physical and mental reaction to life events. The below infographic from Study Medicine Europe examines the science of stress and offers an in-depth look as to how stress can affect the body.

 Stress in the US

Did you know that a whopping 75 – 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints? In a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association, it was found that 77% of those surveyed regularly experienced physical symptoms caused by stress. These physical symptoms included:

Fatigue 51 %
Headache 44 %
Upset stomach 34 %
Muscle tension 30 %
Change in appetite 23 %
Feeling dizzy 13 %

 

The Science of The Stress Response

To gain a greater insight into how stress affects our physical health, you need to have some understanding of what goes on in the brain. When we feel stressed-out, the brain sends out a distress signal which results in the body being flooded with adrenaline. This sets off our “fight or flight response” which essentially puts the body into survival mode by triggering several physiological changes, such as:

  • Faster heart beats that push blood to all of the vital organs
  • Rapid breathing to take in as much oxygen as possible
  • Extra oxygen sent to the brain to boost sensory alertness
  • Blood sugar and fats flood the bloodstream to energize all body parts

The brain then releases a stress hormone called cortisol which can temporarily change or shut down functions that get in the way of survival. Research suggests that that the physical symptoms of stress are caused by this response which diverts attention away from the usual bodily functions.

Chronic Stress

Sometimes, the stress response can be a positive thing – giving us the energy and focus we need to get through high-pressure situations. When regularly experienced over a sustained period, however, stress can have a dangerous effect on our well-being and can give rise to a condition known as chronic stress. Chronic stress has been linked with an elevated risk of contracting a wide range of conditions and illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and depression.

Stress Management Techniques

We all know about the importance of looking after our physical health, but many of us don’t know how to be proactive about our mental health. A key part of maintaining positive mental health is learning effective stress management techniques. 

  1. Learn To Recognize Your Stressors

Try to keep a record of any instances of stress. After a while, you might be able to discern a pattern, and this will help you to identify your stressors. This greater understanding will help you to develop a stress management plan. 

  1. Develop Stress Management Skills

Everyone has their own way of coping with stress. Whether it’s breathing exercises or affirmations, there will be a stress management technique that works for you. Experiment with a range of stress management techniques until you find the one that works for you.  Learning how to deal with stress in a positive way is an essential skill for leading a healthy, happy life.

  1. Make Lifestyle Changes

Look after your body by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Try to do regular exercise as your body can fight stress better when it is fit. Sticking to a balanced and healthy diet is also a good way to help bodies manage the physiological changes brought about by stress. Good quality sleep is also key as this will give you the energy you need to overcome stressful situations.

When Should You Seek Professional Help?

Be sure to see a doctor if you’re in poor health and you think stress may be the cause. The same applies if you have taken steps to manage your stress but are still experiencing the same issues. It may also be a good idea to see a professional counselor or therapist, who can help you identify sources of your stress and develop new coping tools.

Read the infographic below to learn more about the negative health effects of stress.

 

Author Bio

Aris Grigoriou is the Student Recruitment Manager for Study Medicine Europe. Study Medicine Europe is a medical student recruitment business with offices in the UK, Germany, Greece and Cyprus. They secure placement for prospective students from all over the world into affordable medicine and veterinary courses in universities throughout Europe.

 

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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