What is stress and what causes stress?

Stress is a response to a stressor. A stressor is one of the following:

  • A threat
  • Unpredictability
  • Out of our control
  • A major loss
  • A major change

Stress is a biological response, but it is also a cognitive assessment so if we assess that we are going through one of these things then our body responds by biologically preparing with a fight or flight response. During this time systems such as your digestive system, immune system and sex drive take a back seat and slow down so that your energy is available to focus on the stressor.

Physiologically, when you experience stress it releases hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol. This in turn causes your breathing rate increases to allow your body to take in more oxygen which gets converted into energy. Your heart rate also increases to increase blood flow. Your body releases cholesterol and sugar which are fuel and fuel transporters and your mind becomes fixated on the problem. Muscle tension increases particularly in the neck shoulders and back.

Experiencing stress is not necessarily negative and can in fact be useful. However, prolonged exposure to stress is negative and can lead to heart disease, burn out, injuries, being sick and ongoing digestive issues.

What are the symptoms and signs of stress?

Physical symptoms may include experiencing dryness in the mouth, insomnia, digestive issues, getting sick easier or more frequently, heart palpitations and lower sex drive.

Psychological symptoms include feeling agitation, anger, and frustration – people might find they are snappy or easily irritable. Worry, fear and feeling overwhelmed are also some psychological symptoms that may be experienced.

Stress management and how to reduce stress

The aim in most cases is not to completely remove all stress, however it is important to learn to manage stress where it is having an impact on our performance and daily life. Some ways to achieve this:

One of the very first things to do, when you are building stress related energy, is to do something with that energy such as exercise which has been shown to have positive effects. A psyvhologist will be able to help in identifying stressors which is important though can be difficult. Understanding what has triggered the stress response will help you understand what strategies to apply to reduce the stress response. This does not mean stopping or avoiding the activity, but rather doing it in a way that does not trigger the stress response.

Seeking Help

If you feel that stress is impacting on your ability to enjoy life, a psychologist may be able to help. Psychologists are highly trained and qualified professionals, skilled in providing effective interventions for a range of mental health concerns, including stress. A psychologist can help you to identify and address factors that might be contributing to your stress and the most effective ways to address stress using techniques based on best available research.

External Links

https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Stress

https://www.psychology.org.au/for-the-public/Psychology-Topics/Stress

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