Chronic stress - signs, symptoms and ways to deal with it
 
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How do I recognize and cope with chronic stress?

Date: 14/03/2022
Last edited: 03/05/2022

What is stress?

Stress is a normal biological response that allows us to mobilize all available energy for action. Inherited from our prehistoric ancestors, this reaction allows us to find strength in the face of threat.

There are two stress hormones. Both are secreted by the adrenal glands, but each has its own role:

– Adrenaline provides a large and rapid release of energy during acute and short-term stress

– Cortisol is released during chronic and prolonged stress. It helps the body cope by mobilizing the necessary energy to power the muscles, brain, and also the heart.

When adrenaline and cortisol levels rise too often, chronic stress can occur with negative consequences.

 

What are the symptoms of stress?

Whatever the origin of stress, the brain signals the alarm and the symptoms show up to a greater or lesser degree depending on the person:

– On the physical body level: problems with digestion, sleep or appetite, headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing or fatigue

– Mentally: restlessness, irritation, anxiety, sadness, difficulties concentrating, low libido, low self-esteem, substance abuse, depression

The intensity of the symptoms depends on the brain’s sensitivity to real or imagined danger.

 

What is the difference between acute stress and chronic stress?

If the symptoms appear and disappear as quickly after the stressful situation, then we are talking about short-term, even if acute stress.

Chronic stress is a condition that affects well-being in all areas of life.

 

Common causes of chronic stress:

– Severe long-term situations at work, family, finances

– Bereavement, divorce, or separation

If stress is allowed to build up over a long period of time, it can lead to unexpected health problems.

In some cases, chronic stress becomes so severe that it causes acute panic attacks or anxiety attacks. A person experiencing such an attack experiences very intense physical and psychological symptoms for several minutes:

– A sense of impending death, chest cramping, rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, dizziness, anxiety, difficulty breathing

When stress becomes chronic and panic attacks begin, professional supervision by a psychologist is necessary.

 

What are the consequences of chronic stress?

– GI problems, ulcers, gastritis, eating disorders

– Accelerated aging

– Decreased immunity due to cortisol levels

– Increased risk of cancer

– Increased risk of autoimmune diseases (psoriasis, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia)

– Psychological burnout, depression, phobias, addictions

 

What to do with everyday stress?

In order to better manage the stress of daily life, the simplest steps are recommended :

  • A balanced diet. It is important to focus on foods rich in protein, whole grains, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid stimulating drinks such as coffee, tea, alcohol and energy drinks.
  • Sleep about 8 hours daily in a quiet, dark environment, at 18 to 20 degrees
  • Don’t watch TV for at least an hour before bedtime
  • Regular physical activity to reduce stress hormone levels
  • Breathe fresh air, take walks in the park, do breathing exercises
  • Meditate.
  • Be in contact with nature and sunlight as much as possible
  • Take time to rest
  • Phytotherapy, aromatherapy, homeopathy, acupuncture
  • Relaxation and positive thinking as well as breath control to better relieve tension and see stress in a constructive way.

 

Stress management is an important issue for both mental and physical health.

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