Stress is a normal feeling that happens in everyone’s life one time or another. It can encourage you to remain focus on something or get things done; we all have it sometimes in our life. Certain occasions are known to cause stress. For some people, it happens before having to speak in public, before meeting a first date. For some individuals, stress happens when they meet someone that they love deeply. What causes stress in you may not be stressful for someone else. However, a long-term stress over which you do not have any control can be a serious problem. It can lead to physical or psychological illnesses such as depression, cancer, heart disease and a variety of other problems including alcohol or drug abuse and even suicide.
In fact, stress is a part of our Western civilization; they affect all social classes. This becomes such a problem that thousands of stressed individual commit suicide every year in the U.S. and all around the world. Some people go to take antidepressants so much that they become drug addicted.
In addition, stress may also affect your weight. Scientists have discovered that stress may cause stubborn belly fat. According to many researches, there is a link between stress and excess belly fat. High levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – can cause pounds of fat to accumulate around your waist and in other parts of your body leading to obesity or overweight.
Stress Causes and Risk Factors
The most common causes of stress include:
Lack of sleep – a good night sleep is a potent stimulant for your whole body; it has a variety of health benefit. Lack of sleep, in the other hand, can negatively affect your physical and mental health. If you feel stressed, before taking any medication, relax your mind and have about 8 hours of sleep.
Diet – few people realize that their stress is the result of unhealthy diet. Poor nutrition can contribute to the development of many mental problems including stress. If you feel stressed, increase omega-3 and amino acid supplements in your diet. They are precursors of neurotransmitters, which play an important role in your personality. When you persistently miss to take the recommended value, you can end up being stressed.
Thyroid problems – certain thyroid disorders such as under active thyroid can cause stress, depression, fatigue and lack of dynamism.
Environment problems – unsafe neighborhood, pollution, noise, being consistently distracted by gossiping colleagues can the root of your stress.
Insulin hyper secretion – it is shown in many studies that excessive insulin secretion is a factor of stress, fatigue and depression
Professional problems – a great majority of people are stressed in the US due to bad treatment they receive in their job. About 57% of employees in the US are unhappy with their jobs according to a BostonWorks’ poll. In addition, certain medical professions such as doctors, nurses and paramedics can be very stressful when you are newly employed.
Family and relationship problems –marital disagreements, dysfunctional relationships, jealousy, rebellious teens and financial problems (bills, debt, high mortgages) can lead to stress.
Lack of social contact – many studies reveal that individuals who are socially involved tend to be less stressed. For instance, stress rate is estimated to be 3 times lower among church goers than those who do not go to church and stay home all the times.
Age – although stress affects people of all age, it is very common to find teens who suffer from the disorder.
Stress is always accompanied by signs that allow you to discover it at an early stage. However, symptoms of stress tend to vary differently from one person to another. In general, stess symptoms are divided into 4 groups:
- Physical symptoms: if you are stressed, you have high risk to have the following medical conditions: fatigue, lack of appetite, dry mouth (which can cause bad breath), muscle tension, headache, dandruff, sleep disorder, weakened immune system, digestive disorders (which may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting), rapid heartbeat, hypertension, hair loss, menstrual problems (in women), erectile dysfunction or loss of sexual desire. Although rare, severe forms of stress can lead to the development of infectious diseases such as herpes, genital warts, sore throats, colds, etc.
- Mental Symptoms: if you struggle with stress, you will tend to develop the following mental problems: Loss of concentration, memory loss, indecisiveness (a lack of purpose), repeated mistakes, difficulty finding words when you speak, difficulty relaxing (feeling like you can’t relax even when you want to).
- Emotional symptoms – it is very difficult to control your emotion when you are stressed. From time to time, you may experience: irritability, anxiety, unreasonable worries, melancholy, sadness, mood swings, depression, devaluation (decrease of self-esteem), spasmophilia (an abnormal tendency to convulsions, tetany, or spasms from even slight mechanical or electrical stimulation) or hypochondria (excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness).
- Behavioral Symptoms: stress is a common contributing factor to behavioral symptoms: addictive behaviors (to chocolate, tobacco, alcohol or drugs), tendency to isolation, agitation, excitement, feeling of being full or difficulties in social relations.
Other medical conditions can cause these symptoms. However, if you’re at risk of stress and you feel some of these symptoms, you are certainly one of many people in our modern society suffering from stress. If you experience these stress-related symptoms, it is important to see your doctor in order to avoid more serious problems; stress can lead to suicide.
Those clinical signs may indicate stress, but your physician cannot rely on them only to confirm the diagnosis, he/she will look into your medical history to search for illnesses that may be related to stress. You may be also asked questions about your financial, familial and employment status since they are often the root of stress. In addition, psychological tests can be done to help determine the severity of the stress that you experience. The tests also help your doctor to decide the best therapies to use to treat you.
There is no specific test in the diagnosis of stress; it depends to the state of your health or the severity of the disorder. Therefore, if you feel you so stressed that you cannot control yourself, the wise decision is to seek medical help immediately. In addition, you can get support from social groups specialized in helping individuals struggling with stress.
To treat stress, it is essential to investigate the cause of the problem. Once the cause is known, it is easier for the stress to be treated even by yourself.
While most people take drugs to treat their stress problem, it is better to detect the causative factor of the disease and treat it naturally. In fact, most stress medications have side effects that can do you more harm than that the stress itself. Common drugs used in treatment stress include: Elavil, Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, Celexa and Zoloft
While those drugs may bring a temporary relief, they often cause serious side effects, which may include:
- Dry mouth
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty initiating urination
- Lack of sexual desire, and more.
You can naturally maintain a healthy positive attitude and prevent occasional emotional disorder. It is a good idea to keep your natural feel-good chemicals high by eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods, breathing in plenty of fresh air, having adequate sleep and moderate sunshine, and exercising regularly. Along with all stress treatments, it is important to follow the healthy following measures:
- Do no smoke – some people tend to smoke when they are stressed; they aggravate their problem. Cigarette smoke is deadly to your cells; stress weakens your immune system. Weakened immune system combined with cigarette smoke means nothing but killing yourself.
- Avoid tobacco, caffeine and alcohol – they may seem to relieve the stress at first; in the long term, they only worsen the problem.
- Make yourself social – make yourself a member of social networks, meet new people (be careful however), go out with friends and family… these simple steps can help you a lot.
- Make yourself friendly – smiling and laughing with your co-workers. If, at lunch, share a meal with them. Have a conversation outside the workplace with people you enjoy being around.
- Make yourself busy – walk, go see a show, do a little shopping, participate in a community services, and most importantly go to church.
- Forget the bad memories of the past – you cannot change your past, get over it. If you stress because of a betrayal from a love one, love someone else; there are other people waiting for someone like you to be in their lives.
- Find new areas of interest – your life must not only be focused on work; live a little.
- Exercise regularly – physical exercise (walking, gymnastics, yoga, stretching, sauna …) is the best weapon you can use to fight against stress and hundreds of other medical conditions
- Try to sleep naturally – do your best to fall sleep without taking drugs, which make cause more problem in the future. The quality of your sleep has a direct impact on your physical and mental health.
- Eat a healthy diet – supplement your diet with some nutritional supplements; if you are stressed, take primarily magnesium, omega-3 and amino acid supplements.
Some plants are reported to have anti-stress properties: hawthorn, California poppy (eschscholzia californica), hops and melissa, mayweed (also known as corn chamomile or scentless chamomile) are traditionally used to fight against stress and sleep disorders. Using them regularly, those herbs can fight stress and depression without causing side effects.