Though it’s easy to say, when you have chronic stress, it is a tough time and can often take a toll on your mental condition and daily chores. In today’s society, it appears like everyone is constantly worried. From the current epidemic to economic problems, racial unrest, political conflicts, and natural disasters, the start of the new decade has been filled with problems that don’t seem to end. You may reach a point when you can no longer brush off that stress.

If you’ve been feeling stressed out for a long time, it could be a sign that your stress is chronic. The effects of stress on the body and the mind can become detrimental over time. You can get your emotional and physical health back on track, and there are steps you can take to do so.

What Do we mean by stress? 

Stress isn’t always a bad thing, despite popular belief. Experiencing stress and reacting with the “fight or flight” response is normal. Our bodies are better able to move quickly and decisively, whether it’s to avoid a speeding bus or beat the clock to finish an important project. Feeling frightened causes the body to release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase alertness, tense muscles, and quicken the pulse rate.

Acute stress, which might help you remain attentive, is something that everyone experiences from time to time. Long-term use is not practical. On the other hand, for some, stress might last for years. The body keeps reacting the same way as if it were getting ready for danger, even though there is none. It makes you watchful all the time, even when it’s not necessary.

That’s what doctors call chronic stress, and it’s bad for you.

At what point does stress become Chronic Stress?

When stress lasts longer than a few days, it is considered chronic. Constant anxiety can damage your body over time. Hypertension, also called excessive blood pressure, is a potential threat. Chronic stress, for instance, has been linked to increased blood pressure (or high blood pressure). Additionally, some dangers can lead to further risks: The chance of having a heart attack or stroke is increased by hypertension, for instance.

Cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to long-term stress, may also make you want sweet and fatty foods more. Bad eating habits have been linked to a higher risk of obesity and other long-term diseases for a long time.

However, prolonged mental or emotional stress has additional consequences. Stress can hurt your emotional or mental health, making you more likely to feel things like nervousness, anxiety, or even depression. COVID-19 makes people feel alone, which has been linked to more anxiety and depression. The American Medical Association recently acknowledged this link.

The mental and physiological effects of chronic stress can be debilitating.

Symptoms and indicators of chronic stress

Indicators of chronic stress may include:

  • Having difficulties remembering things or focusing
  • Insomnia, Daytime Sleepiness, or Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Insufficiency in the sack
  • Weakness or aches all throughout the body
  • jaw or neck muscle stiffness
  • problems digesting food, such as gastrointestinal distress
  • Addiction to drugs or alcohol as a stress reliever

Strategies for Coping with chronic stress

What works for one person may not be effective for another when it comes to the treatment of chronic stress. Some stress-reduction strategies are outlined below.

Move around. Exercise has been shown to improve mood and alleviate stress. The best place to begin is with a brisk walk, but if you’re looking for a more intense workout, try running, dancing, or swimming. Be sure to get your doctor’s OK first, though.

Try some tai chi or some other kind of stress reduction. Though trying new things like tai chi, yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises may feel uncomfortable at first, many find the benefits to be well worth the effort. One study on the elderly published in The Journals of Gerontology, for example, discovered that tai chi practice reduced stress and increased happiness.

Spend some time in bed. Managing stress is only one of the many positive effects of getting adequate sleep. During sleep, especially rapid eye movement sleep, the brain works through the day’s events and stresses. Learn how to train your brain to sleep longer and better with these suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Put your energy into the things you can alter. You can feel more secure in your worldview if you have a firm grasp on the reins. The weather, for example, is outside of anyone’s control. Other things, like deciding what to have for dinner tonight, might provide a sense of stability in the face of uncertainty.

Give yourself some grace. It’s normal to lose your cool occasionally or struggle to let go of tension as easily as other people. Self-kindness is one of the most powerful forms of kindness. Avoid isolating yourself. Create a safety net of people who care about you and tap into it (in a controlled, disengaged manner) when you’re struggling.

When to Get Some Assistance with Chronic Stress

Sometimes additional help is required, even when following a well-thought-out self-management strategy. You need to talk to a mental health professional as soon as you can, especially if you are thinking about killing yourself or using drugs to deal with your problems.

If you are contemplating suicide, get help right away. Please contact your doctor or psychiatrist immediately. Rely on someone with whom you have confidence. If you or someone you know is in danger right now, call the medical emergency cell of the nearest hospital.

Although many people go through periods of chronic stress, that doesn’t mean you have to. You’ll start to feel more like yourself once you begin prioritizing your own healing and getting the attention you need.

A chronically stressful scenario—whether something environmental, such as an impending work deadline, or psychological, such as the constant fear of losing a job—can spark a cascade of stress hormones that induce well-orchestrated physiological changes. The heart can race and the breath can become shallow in response to stress. Red beads of sweat form on your forehead as your muscles tense up.

The “fight-or-flight” response is a set of behaviors that mammals do when they are stressed. These behaviors evolved as a way to help mammals respond quickly to situations that could kill them. The carefully timed and almost instantaneous changes in hormones and body functions help a person fight off an attacker or run away to safety. The body might also overreact to stress from sources other than actual physical danger, such as traffic, work, or family issues.

Over time, scientists have learned not only how and why these reactions happen, but also the long-term effects of chronic stress on physical and mental health. Constantly triggering your body’s stress response isn’t good for you in the long run. 

When stress lasts for a long time, the brain changes, which may lead to mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and addiction. Initial evidence suggests that chronic stress may cause obesity either directly (by making people eat more) or indirectly (by making it harder to exercise) by making people less likely to sleep and exercise.

The Response and Effect Of The Brain

The brain is the organ responsible for starting the stress response (see illustration). The amygdala, a part of the brain that helps with emotional processing, receives information from the eyes or ears (or both) when a person faces an oncoming car or another hazard. The amygdala gives meaning to the stimuli. The amygdala immediately alerts the hypothalamus when it detects danger.

The amygdala, a brain region involved in emotional processing, alerts the hypothalamus when a person is under stress. Like a control room, this region of the brain relays information to the rest of the body via the neurological system, giving the individual the strength to either fight or flee.

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The hypothalamus serves as a nerve center of sorts. The autonomic nervous system is the brain’s main line of communication with the rest of the body. It regulates the body’s involuntary activities like breathing, blood pressure, heart rate, and the dilation and constriction of major blood vessels and bronchioles. The autonomic nervous system is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic subsystems. 

facing issues due to chronic stress

The sympathetic nervous system operates similarly to a car’s accelerator. It causes the body to release adrenaline in a “fight or flight” reaction, giving it a burst of strength to deal with threats. To slow things down, the body uses the parasympathetic nervous system. When danger is gone, the body goes through a process called “rest and digest,” which helps it calm down.

When the amygdala senses danger, the hypothalamus responds by waking up the sympathetic nervous system through the autonomic nerves of the adrenal glands. When stimulated, these organs release the hormone epinephrine (sometimes called adrenaline) into the bloodstream. When released into the bloodstream, epinephrine causes a cascade of reactions throughout the body. When the heart accelerates its rate, more blood is pumped to the brain, the heart, and the muscles. 

Increases in both heart rate and blood pressure are felt. These alterations are accompanied by a quickening of the affected person’s breathing. The bronchial tubes in the lungs dilate. In this method, oxygen is more efficiently delivered to the tissues of the lungs. As a result, the brain gets more oxygen, which makes the person more aware. The sharpening of the senses includes sight, hearing, and all the rest. 

On the other hand, epinephrine causes the body’s short-term storage areas of glucose (blood sugar) and fat to empty. By getting into the bloodstream quickly, these nutrients fuel all of the body’s cells.

These shifts occur so swiftly that most people don’t even notice them. Actually, the amygdala and hypothalamus initiate this cascade before the visual centers of the brain have had a chance to process what is happening. Because of this, people can react instinctively to a speeding car and leap out of its way.

Shortly after the initial rush of epinephrine wears off, the hypothalamus triggers the HPA axis, the second part of the stress response system. The hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands make up this system.

The Hormonal Response

A complex hormonal feedback loop is needed to keep the “gas pedal” of the sympathetic nervous system (the HPA axis) down. If the brain continues to see a situation as dangerous, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). This hormone then goes to the pituitary gland, where it stimulates the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). 

In response to this hormone, the adrenal glands secrete the stress hormone cortisol. The body is therefore kept on constant alert. Reduced cortisol levels occur after the threat has been eliminated. After that, the parasympathetic nervous system (the “brake”) reduces the stress reaction.

Methods of Dealing with chronic Stress

There are a lot of folks who just can’t seem to figure out how to slow down the stress in their lives. The HPA axis remains active in the case of chronic low-level stress, much like an engine that has been left running at too high a speed for too long. Long-term exposure to this has an effect on the body that adds to the list of issues brought on by chronic stress.

A constant rush of epinephrine can hurt the blood vessels and arteries, which can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease. Because the stress response uses up the body’s energy reserves, high cortisol levels cause changes in the body that help replenish them. 

But they unwittingly help the body store more fat, leading to weight gain. For example, the stress hormone cortisol makes people feel hungry and makes them want to eat more so they can stay alive. In addition, it encourages the body to store excess nutrients as fat.

Disclaimer: The author’s views are his or her own. The facts and opinions in the article have been taken from various articles and commentaries available in the online media and Eastside Writers does do not take any responsibility or obligation for them.

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