Stress, what is that? Have you ever rocked back and forth or shake your leg while waiting for your appraisal? Have you ever constantly checked that tickling wristwatch on your wrist when you are stuck in traffic and supposed to reach your destination 10 minutes ago? Have you ever come across disturbed sleep due to the examination scheduled the next day? Do you experience low tolerance or get into frequent arguments over small issues when your loved one is diagnosed with a serious medical illness?
Though stress is not mentioned under any disorder, chronic stress can lead to various psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, etc as well as many medical conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.
Here are some of the effects of stress on the body:
- Body aches
when under stress, our body muscles can become tense. With continuous stress, the body doesn’t seem to relax leading to complaints of headaches, backache, etc.
- Sleep disturbances
When under stress, there is constant overthinking and rumination of issues leading to sleep disturbances. Most common complaints of these include lack of sleep, broken sleep, nightmares, difficulty falling asleep easily, or early morning awakening. These can further worsen the health leading to mood swings as well as headaches.
- Eating habits
when under stress, we go through emotional turmoil taking us through a range of emotions like anxiety, depression, anger, irritation, guilt, etc. Many a time people resort to food as a comfort factor. This is what I call emotional eating. While under stress, many a time people struggle to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger and give in to their cravings of eating sweets or junk and fried food. Also, some people get aversive or avoid eating food when under stress. Whether it’s aversive or emotional eating, the digestive system gets affected.
- Menstrual cycle
under chronic stress, the menstrual cycle can get affected amongst women making the periods arrive early, or periods can get irregular, with the heavy flow.
- Loss of Libido
libido or as most commonly known as sex drive gets affected with exposure to chronic stress. This can further put a strain on relationships leading to conflicts and emotional dysregulation.
- Medical conditions
chronic stress can exacerbate current ongoing medical conditions and with sleep and eating habits have gone for a toss, the chances of heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and convulsion increase.
I have heard people reported an increase in the number of cigarettes they smoke and the alcohol consumption intake when under stress. Also, finding relief in drugs is not uncommon. All these can increase the risk of addictions as well as medical and psychological issues.
- Other effects include- been forgetful, attention issues, confusion leading to difficulty in decision making, lack of motivation to work as
- well as withdrawal.
Even though Stress is common, seen often, its important to manage and seek help to cope with the stress at the right time. Some of the ways to deal with stress are:
- Seek professional help from a psychologist to deal with effects of stress as well as learn healthy coping ways.
- Mindfully bring about a change in lifestyle and habits by involving into healthy eating- know when you are really hungry and when under stress, following sleep hygiene, and avoid use of any substance.
- Connect with friends and family for support by sharing about stress.
- Use a time matrix- know what is important and urgent and keep asking self- Am I taking too many projects? This will prevent one from taking too much than required.
- Focus on solution rather than problem- ask self: what can be done to resolve than sulking about the issues, what is accomplished so far and what can be the next step from here?
- Exercise and engage into hobbies by taking breaks to unwind as required.