Stress is a widely used term that typically refers to situations that trigger feelings of anxiety and depression because they drive individuals beyond their capacity to cope effectively (McEwen, 2015). Confronting stress as an adaptive response refers to demands evaluated as exceeding or taxing the subject (Perrez, 2001). These demands include micro-events such as everyday complaints, significant life events, divorce, loss of a loved one, and chronic stress at work (Perrez, 2001). In medicine, body systems involved in the short-term and long-term effects of being stressed out often respond to stress (McEwen, 2007). Nevertheless, the brain can still adjust and run under chronic stress (McEwen, 2007). In practice, many researchers have studied stress to help society to cope with stress better. This article presents the symptoms and causes of stress. In addition, effective ways to cope with stress are also highlighted in this article.
Symptoms of Stress
Initially, stress may not show any severe symptoms. However, it can worsen and cause other mental disorders such as anxiety and depression if not treated. Early warning signs of stress include memory problems, low concentration, anxiety, and poor judgment. These symptoms are known as cognitive symptoms (Bernal-Morales et al., 2015; Lukasik et al., 2019; Yuen et al., 2012). Besides, stress can also cause emotional symptoms (Moksnes et al., 2014). These symptoms include depression, mood swings, and loneliness. The signs will lead to social withdrawal if further treatment is not carried out. Physically, stress can cause aches, diarrhea, constipation, dizziness, chest pain, and loss of sex drive (Agnihotri, 2018). These signs of stress are usually noticeable by the affected individual after some time. Occasionally, some symptoms can be evident for other family members or friends to recognize. The example includes changes in eating habits, insomnia, oversleeping, alcohol or drug usage, nail-biting, and social withdrawal (Yau & Potenza, 2013).
Causes of Stress
In this modern age, stress is prevalent in society. A recent study by the American Psychological Association (APA) (American Psychological Association, 2019) found that while overall stress levels have not increased dramatically over the last few years, the proportion of Americans who claim they are feeling stress on particular issues has risen over the past year. Almost seven in ten adults (69 percent) say that health care is a significant stress source, whereas more than seven in ten adults (71 percent) say that mass shooting is a significant stress source.
In general, stress is natural and a required part of life to some degree. Despite being something that everyone feels, what triggers stress will vary from person to person. One of the major causes of stress among adults is a financial problem. The APA recorded in a 2015 survey (American Psychological Association, 2015) that 72 percent of Americans stressed at least some of the time during the previous month about income. Most of the survey participants indicated that money is a significant stress source, with 77 percent experiencing substantial financial anxiety. Another cause of stress is the working environment. Americans now spend 8 percent more time at work compared to 20 years ago, according to (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2014), and about 13 percent of people work a second job. At least 40 percent say that their careers are stressful, and 26 percent say that their work sometimes makes them feel stressed out.
Relationship problems can also lead to stress. The reason is that toxic people can lead to bad experiences in relationships. These people can be family members, relationship partners, friends, colleagues, and clients. Usually, communication is essential to a successful relationship. Thus, failure to communicate with each other will often result in an unsuccessful relationship. This relationship failure can lead to stress and eventually cause depression. Sometimes, social media can also lead to stress (Rus & Tiemensma, 2017). For instance, social media appears to automatically empower individuals relative to others, contributing to the burden of feeling insufficient.
Some events and environments can also trigger stress. However, it can be hard to determine the causes because they differ from person to person. For instance, an individual’s response to the world’s demands determines the level of stress (Freedenburg M.D., 1987). Another example can be natural disasters or a disease widespread, such as Covid-19, that happens for a long time, haunting civilians with fear. These incidents can cause stress, anxiety, and fear among people, regardless they are affected or not. Moreover, sensitive people also tend to experience stress more (Benham, 2006). Therefore, stress management is vital among these people not to be quickly affected by small problems.
Effective Ways to Overcome Stress
It is difficult not to get distracted these days. Anyone may become too stressed out and busy with balancing work, family, and other responsibilities. It takes practice to manage stress. Effective ways to overcome stress include exercising, eating a balanced diet, sharing problems with trusted people, and eliminating triggers. Exercising is vital to lower stress. Endorphins are created by exercise and other physical activity (Reevy et al., 2010). These brain chemicals serve as natural painkillers and enhance sleep capacity and decrease stress (Reevy et al., 2010). A study by (Norris et al., 1992) shows that less stress and lower depression levels were indicated by those who reported more significant physical activity. A strong correlation between stress and anxiety/depression/hostility was also shown by teenagers who encountered a higher frequency of life events. Other studies have also confirmed that physical exercise is beneficial to reduce stress (Moses et al., 1989; Norris et al., 1990; Steptoe et al., 1989).
Some nutrition, such as complex carbohydrates like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, may reduce stress (Singh, 2016). On the other hand, oral magnesium can effectively relieve changes in the premenstrual mood (Facchinetti et al., 1991). However, caffeine can trigger stress (Richards & Smith, 2015). Thus, one should not consume foods or drinks that contain caffeine if the person is feeling stressed. It is also better to limit alcohol intake because it can also contribute to stress (Anthenelli & Grandison, 2012). Generally, a balanced diet is always essential, regardless of what disease or psychological complication to overcome. The reason is that a balanced diet can improve a person’s nutrition, thus elevating the immune system to defend various conditions. Mentally, it can provide useful vitamins such as Vitamin B in order to relieve stress and other severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia (Firth et al., 2017; Stough et al., 2014).
Another significant way of relieving stress is social interaction. However, it may be too tempting to forgo interaction with friends in favor of all the other things they have to accomplish as people grow older and have more obligations. Nevertheless, this does not mean that social interaction is ineffective in treating stress, especially among adults. According to (Doom et al., 2017), by the age of 15-16, friends do not take over the role of social buffering. Hence, adults can reduce stress through social stress-buffering because sharing problems with others can help them feel understood. Another reason is that social interaction is human nature. Historically, humans tended to live in a group and hunted together. This kind of social activity unite humans and bring support to each other. In this modern age, stress can be relieved through social interactions due to the support given by friends and family.
Successful stress management to overcome stress begins by defining and implementing methods to handle the causes of stress. A simple way to do this is by listing the circumstances, problems, or obstacles that cause a stress response. This effort can highlight a person’s triggers that can lead to stress. By doing so, one can avoid these triggers to live a fulfilling life. It is useful because it creates self-awareness to know what causes stress and how to handle them. Practically, comprehensive stress management is used to empower people to learn what stress is, measure their stress levels, and apply the resources and skills to manage stress to their own lives (Greenberg, 2013). This stress management technique is also beneficial to determine sources of stress.
While stress is getting common among modern people, we should not take it lightly because it can lead to more severe complications if prolonged. However, good stress management is not an easy task. It takes time to practice stress management. Nevertheless, effective ways have been proposed by researchers to aid people in handling stress. These techniques act as a guideline for stressful people to live a fulfilling life despite facing many hardships in life.
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