Posted August 20, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 6 min read
Stress is the body’s natural reaction in case of danger or challenge. It causes the body to flood with hormones that prepare its systems to evade or confront danger. This is commonly referred to as the fight-or-flight mechanism. The body produces larger quantities of chemicals called cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These cause an increase in blood pressure, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness.
Stress can be caused by different things and seen during different stages of life. Outcomes related to stress can vary according to personal and environmental factors. Events caused by stress have a major influence on mood, sense of well-being, behavior, and health.
Stress during childhood or adolescence
The most widely studied activities that can cause stress in children and adolescents are:
- Divorce/marital conflict
- Exam stress
Some of the common causes include:
Difficulties in our personal lives and relationships
Unexpected life changes like moving house, having a baby, or starting to care for someone
Daily life minor inconveniences like misplacing keys or forgetting to bring an important item
Financial difficulties like debt or struggling to afford daily essentials
Health issues of oneself or close family members
Pregnancy and children
Housing problems like maintenance or tenancy
Feeling lonely and unsupported
Stress while driving or being late
Stress may sound like a common factor related to the workplace, but the pressure leads to stress when there is little or no help and support from supervisors and colleagues. Work-related stress is often caused by the design of the job and the working system of an organization like poor management, and lack of support within the organization. Workplace stress includes:
Being unhappy in the job
Having a heavy workload or too much work pressure
Long working hours
Poor work management
Unclear expectations of your work
No involvement in the decision-making process
Working under dangerous conditions
Risk of termination
Having to give speeches in front of colleagues
Discrimination or harassment at work
A study outlined four main varieties of stress that are experienced in many different situations from workplace to home. They are especially relevant to the life of a student. They include:
It occurs when you feel worried about time, and more specifically when you don’t have enough time to accomplish all necessary tasks.
This kind of stress is seen before a test, assignment, or presentation.
This type is usually experienced in an upsetting or alarming situation that one cannot control like the present situation of COVID-19.
It is when one feels anxious about seeing certain people, either alone or in a group.
Levels of stress
This type of stress is generally short-term and can be positive or more distressing, which is encountered in day-to-day life.
Episodic acute stress
Episodic acute stress is when acute stresses happen on a frequent basis because of repeatedly tight work deadlines. It can be seen in professionals with high-stress jobs such as healthcare workers. There are 2 main personality types that frequently present with episodic acute stress.
Type A personalities
These individuals are outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, impatient, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics” and have a need to get things done that might actually become overwhelming.
The worrier presents with almost incessant negative thoughts causing episodic acute stress on physical and mental health. These negative binge thinkers also tend to be over aroused and tense, but are more anxious and depressed than angry and hostile. Their thoughts are frequently filled with “What if….” statements.
This type is long-term and seems never-ending and inescapable. It can stem from traumatic experiences, childhood trauma, personal issues with the spouse, or work pressure.
Long-term or chronic stress affects the mind and can cause wear and tear on the body. This can lead to physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. They include:
Palpitations (feeling like the heart is racing)
High blood pressure
Temporp-mandibular joint problems (due to jaw clenching) x
Difficulty in concentrating
To be constantly worried, anxious, or scared
Expereincing troubled sleeping patterns
Being extremely emotional
Snapping at people
Feeling tired all the time
Avoiding things or people
Eating more or less than usual
Drinking or smoking more than usual
Being agitated all the time
Experiencing sexual problems
There is no specific test to diagnose stress. Diagnosis of stress may include a personal and family health history, blood and urine tests, and other assessments to rule out various medical conditions.
A thorough, stress-oriented, face-to-face medical interview is currently the most practicable way to diagnose stress and its effects. It remains for future research to develop a cleaner methodology to diagnose this complex yet very common disorder.
Stress can take its toll on anybody, but correct therapy can help one manage it better. There are certain therapies that aim to prevent future stress as well. Here are the most commonly used therapies for stress and related mental health conditions:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT is the most common type of therapy available to manage short-term stress, as it addresses thought patterns and behaviors. The aim of this therapy is to help the patient identify their stressors, and come up with healthier responses to reduce the impact of their triggers.
This therapy is not just used to help people with stress, but it has shown beneficial results in treating patients with anxiety disorders as well.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
This therapy aims to work on long-term chronic stress, and helps people move past challenges and create their own version of quality life. Acceptance and commitment therapy changes how people respond to stress.
This therapy is used on a more long-term basis and aims to help one identify thought patterns that may dictate behavioral responses. It may be best suited for stress caused by long-standing issues which are intertwined with other mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Positive psychology therapy
Positive psychology is a scientific field of study that is useful for stress because it is based on the perspective of “what works” instead of focusing on “what is wrong”. This therapeutic approach helps identify the patient’s character strengths as well as plan and take positive action to improve their life.
It is similar to CBT with its focus on changes in behavior. But unlike CBT, behavioral therapy is more focused on one’s actions, rather than their thoughts.
Behavioral therapy tends to work best for long-term triggers of stress, including traumatic events, as well as conditions such as anxiety, phobias, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
There is no specific medication for stress, but there are medications that can help alleviate or manage some of the signs and symptoms of stress. They are:
Sleeping pills or minor tranquilizers for sleeping troubles
Antidepressants for anxiety along with stress
Specific medication to treat any physical symptoms of stress, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or hypertension (high blood pressure).