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Stress - All you need to know about its causes and effects

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences, challenges, and other situations. Everyone expresses stress from time to time. Anything from everyday responsibilities like work and family to serious life events such as a new diagnosis, war, or the death of a loved one can trigger stress. For immediate, short-term situations, stress can be beneficial to your health. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations. Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones that increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.

Stress is somewhat necessary for our day to day lives but in a limited and healthy amount, as it increases human arousal and affects performance, it motivates us and helps us to achieve the goals we set for ourselves, during a stressful situation we respond by allocating all our resources and by mobilizing all our efforts towards the stimulus, which helps us in overcoming the situation easily.

Stress is like electricity, it gives us energy, increases human arousal and performance, however, if the electric current is too high it can fuse bulbs, damage applications, etc, in the same manner, high stress can produce unpleasant effects and cause our performance to deteriorate. On the other hand, too little stress can lead to a person being listless and low on motivation, which may cause decreased performance levels, hence it is important to remember that stress is not inherently bad or destructive.

There are 2 basic types of stress:

Eustress: This word refers to the optimum level of stress which is actually beneficial for a person and helps the person in achieving peak performance and managing minor crises.

Distress: Eustress may sometimes turn into distress, and it is ‘distress’ that causes the actual wear and tear of the body.

Thus, stress can be defined as the pattern of response an organism makes in response to the stimulus event that disturbs the mental and physical equilibrium of the person and exceeds the person’s ability to cope.

Causes of Stress

Life Events: Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life which involve: being under lots of pressure. facing big changes. worrying about something. Examples include life events such as Divorce Moving or shifting houses, a major illness or injury, job loss.

Hassles: These are personal stresses we endure as individuals due to the happenings in our daily life, due to noisy surroundings, commuting, quarrelsome neighbors, electricity and water shortages, traffic jams, and so on.

Traumatic events: These include being involved in a number of extreme events such as fires, robbery, road accidents, death of a loved one, natural calamities such as earthquakes or floods. The effects of these instances may occur after a lapse of time and sometimes persists as symptoms in the form of anxiety, dreams, and flashbacks, professional help is required if the symptoms appear for months.

Effects Of Stress

Emotional Effects: Those who suffer from stress are far more likely to experience mood swings, and show erratic behavior that may alienate them from family and friends. In some cases this can start a vicious circle of decreasing confidence, leading to more serious emotional problems. Some examples are feelings of anxiety and depression, increased physical tension, increased psychological tension, and mood swings.

Physiological Effects: When the human body is placed under physical or psychological stress, it increases the production of certain hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones produce marked changes in heart rate, blood pressure levels, metabolism, and physical activity. Although this physical reaction will help us to function more effectively when we are under pressure for short periods of time, it can be extremely damaging to the body in the long-term effects. Examples of physiological effects are the release of epinephrine and nor-epinephrine, slowing down of the digestive system, expansion of air passages in the lungs, increased heart rate, and constriction of blood vessels.

Cognitive Effects: If pressures due to stress continue, one may suffer from mental overload. This suffering from a high level of stress can rapidly cause individuals to lose their ability to make sound decisions, Faulty decisions in the workplace are common. Cognitive effects may also include poor concentration, attention, focus, and reduced short-term memory capacity.

Behavioral Effects: Stress affects our behavior in the form of eating less nutritional food, increasing intake of stimulants such as caffeine, excessive consumption of cigarettes, alcohol, and other drugs such as tranquilizers, etc. Tranquilizers can be addictive and have side effects such as loss of concentration, poor coordination, and dizziness. Some of the typical Behavioural effects of stress seen are disrupted sleep patterns, increased absenteeism, and reduced work performance.

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