Contributed by: Priyaish Srivastava
What is mental health?
Mental health, a term that has been going around rather frequently, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, is an aspect of one’s health, often overlooked or worse, socially stigmatised. In simple terms, mental health is how a person thinks, feels, and acts upon which can have a direct impact on his/her’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Benefits of good mental health
Mental health is equally if not more important than your physical well being. A balanced state of mind helps in making the right decisions, being creative, learning new things, and enjoying life. With good mental health, it becomes easier to cope with challenging situations, such as stress, that can arise in professional and personal lives.
What is stress?
Stress is the body’s natural response to a changing environment or challenging scenario (stressors). In some cases, stress can be helpful and aid in staying positive, alert, and ready to tackle any situation.
For example, you have to complete an important project that will help you get better grades in college, and the deadline is just around the corner. In such a challenging scenario, the stress of meeting the deadline can probably motivate you to wrap it up on time, thus minimizing procrastination.
However, stress can become dangerous if the stressors aren’t resolved or the situation isn’t properly contained.
This article will help you learn about the impact of chronic stress on your health and some preventive measures that can aid in keeping stress away.
When a person experiences some of the following factors for a prolonged duration, he or she may be going through excessive stress.
Stress triggers at work
- Too much workload or responsibilities
- Working long hours with inadequate time management
- Working under too much pressure or a dangerous condition
- Facing discrimination or harassment at work
- Being tensed about termination or chance of moving up the ladder
Stress triggers in life
- The demise of a loved one
- Loss of job
- Less income and more unavoidable expenses
- Emotional problems (depression, anxiety, anger, guilt, and lack of self-confidence)
- Traumatic events such as natural disasters, theft, or any sort of physical violence
- Chronic illness or injury
Sometimes, it is not only the external factors that can give rise to chronic stress but the internal factors too. These include excessive worrying or overthinking, which can also cause chronic stress and impact both physical and mental health.
How stress impacts physical health?
When under stress, the heart tends to beat faster than the normal pace due to the secretion of adrenaline which can trigger hyperventilation (rapid breathing). Stress can also aggravate breathing problems in people who already have lung diseases such as asthma.
As the oxygen intake rapidly rises when under stress, it causes spasms in the coronary arteries. This increases the workload of the heart and can spike up blood pressure and heart rate.
If the exposure to stressors is prolonged, it may even give rise to hypertension which may cause abnormal heart rhythms, stroke, and even heart attack.
Excessive stress can minimize the blood flow to the stomach which can cause acid reflux, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, or even inflammation.
Chronic stress can make the immune system weak and compromise its ability to protect the body from infections. This can lead to a slow recovery time from infections or viral illnesses.
How stress impacts mental health?
Disturbed sleep patterns
Excessive stress not only impacts the duration of sleep but can also influence the quality of sleep. You may tend to wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling asleep again. Chronic stress is also known to be a possible trigger for insomnia.
Stress can negatively influence your diet and even the speed of food intake. You may have your meal at a fast pace and eat more than your diet or experience a lack of willingness to have a meal and eat at a very slow pace.
Chronic stress can severely impact your ability to deal with conditions that are unhealthy for your mental health. These include:
- Panic attacks
- Angry outbursts
Lifestyle habits that can aggravate chronic stress
There are high chances that a person who experiences chronic stress may try to manage it with certain lifestyle choices that are harmful to health. These choices not only aggravates chronic stress but can also deteriorate the overall well-being. Here are a few examples of such possible courses of action:
- Excessive alcohol intake & smoking
- Overeating or developing an eating disorder
- Using drugs
- Compulsively indulging in excessive sex, shopping, and internet browsing
Stress preventive measures
Simple lifestyle and dietary changes can help in minimizing the onset of stress. Here are a few tips to keep stress at bay:
- Exercise regularly
- Practice meditation
- Eat healthy foods (such as veggies and fruits)
- Stop using tobacco and nicotine in any form
- Avoid alcohol
- Try and reduce exposure to stress triggers
- Set realistic goals and work hard to achieve them
- Talk to a person you trust
- Consult your doctor
- Do not skip prescribed medicines
Stress can be harmful to your overall well-being and should not be left untreated as it can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health.
The information provided above can not only help you identify the symptoms of stress but also what all to avoid and watch out for.
Also, the stress prevention tips in this write-up are some of the easiest to follow for a stress-free you.
If stress is keeping you unsettled, it’s best to opt for a stress test to identify the markers. Then head straight to a doctor for proper consultation, medication and a piece of sound professional advice to manage and slowly overcome stress, completely.
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