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Unraveling Stress

By Niku Sedarat

 

We have all experienced stress at some point in our lives. However, stress has extreme implications on our daily lives when ignored. According to the World Health Organization, stress is “the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response”. In other words, stress is the response to stressors— which are essentially those “adjustments or responses” that evoke stress. Stressors differ from person to person and range from adverse and traumatic events to daily triggers. There are also two types of stress. Distress is what tends to come to mind when we think about stress. Distress stems from a place of perceiving danger, threat, or risk and it typically arises when an individual feels unable to cope. It includes difficult, unpleasant, and distressing emotions and can lead to negative physical health implications. On the other hand, eustress is deemed as the more “pleasant” form of stress. Eustress can often be beneficial and used as a source of motivation. It is often more short-term, manageable, and overall, a more desirable type of stress with few negative physical health implications.


A common misconception is that “real” stress only arises from major adversity or trauma. However, this is not the case. In fact, the Mayo Clinic states that, “daily hassles and demands, such as waiting in a long line or being late to a meeting, also contribute to your stress levels” and over time, if not managed correctly, can cause chronic stress. Chronic stress has many major negative mental and physical health implications. The central nervous system is responsible for the commonly known “flight or fight” response seen when stress is triggered. The hypothalamus then signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline & cortisol— stress hormones. Over time, prolonged increases of these stress hormones manifest into the negative physical and mental health implications of stress.


Impacts on Physical Health:

Chronic stress can impact your physical health by…

  • Increased respiration & blood pressure

  • Increased risk of heart attack & stroke

  • Increased risk of T2 diabetes

  • Increased hormone levels, respiration, & heart rate can lead to digestive issues

  • Increased susceptibility to viral illness and infection


Impacts on Mental Health:

Chronic stress can impact your mental health by…

  • Poor sleep

  • Decreased motivation

  • Poor attention, memory, & focus

  • Increased risk of depression & anxiety

  • Mood swings

  • Poor grades & academic burnout

  • Social withdrawal & aggression

  • Difficulty communicating

  • Poor decision making

  • Difficulty reading social cues

  • Heightened emotional reactivity

Stress undoubtedly affects our overall well-being, but there are a variety of stress management tools one can employ to prevent stress from becoming chronic and overwhelming.

Stress Management

  • Practicing self-care

  • Establishing healthy boundaries

  • Exercising regularly

  • Maintaining a balanced diet

  • Establishing a strong social support network

  • Practicing mindfulness

While stress is something that we all feel to some degree, it is crucial to be aware of its negative implications to prevent it from becoming overwhelming and harmful to our livelihood. Always remember that you are not alone!

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