Stress has many harmful effects on the body and mind. Even positive stress, such as that which happens with a new job, new baby, or marriage, can take a toll on a person’s wellness. Dr. David Hepburn, a physician from British Columbia, explains the ways that stress can affect the mind and body, offering suggestions for people who want to reduce the amount of stress in their lives.
When people are constantly under stress, their bodies are in a state of “fight or flight.” The body is preparing to combat a physical challenge by fighting or by running away. This response was developed when it was necessary for our survival as a species, but it is not necessary for most situations. Stress causes the heart to beat rapidly and blood pressure to rise. This puts a strain on the cardiovascular system and can lead to sustained high blood pressure and heart problems.
Other Physical Symptoms
People who are under stress may sweat and may have digestive symptoms like stomachaches and nausea. Stressed people may even present with the symptoms of an anxiety attack or a panic attack.
Stress may cause people to drink more alcohol or to smoke more. It can also cause people to abuse drugs. Self-medicating can lead to a host of other problems. This unhealthy coping method is very common. In extreme cases, stress can lead to alcohol addiction or drug abuse. It is important that people intervene in their stressful situations before the problems become ever-present in their lives.
Constantly being under stress can lead to the development of mental illness. When not controlled, stress and pressure lead directly to diagnosable anxiety, depression, and OCD. When people are under stress, they feel a constant sense of dread. Frequently, they cannot sleep well, and their nightly problems lead to several difficulties during the day.
Stress can cause a person to react inappropriately in certain situations, overreacting and causing friction between themselves and their loved ones. When two partners are stressed, it is too easy for them to snap at each other and cause hurt feelings. Some people will withdraw as a result of stress, putting pressure on their relationships.
While positive stress comes from events people are happy about, it can be as damaging as negative stress in the short term. Parents with newborns at home are often under stress due to the baby’s constant demands. Their sleep is affected, and they are not able to react as they would normally in a stressful situation.
Marriage, a new job, or a new home, can also be stressful. The pressures of moving and taking on a new financial responsibility can be troublesome. Even if a person is happy about the circumstances of the change, the stress they feel can be harmful to their bodies and minds.
Work is a uniquely stressful situation. People may feel stress from overwork, from workplace conflicts, or from being unsatisfied with their jobs. As much as possible, try to delegate tasks to other employees. Try to make sure that the work is distributed evenly across the people in your department. This will curb resentment, a feeling that can combine with stress to create unhealthy feelings.
When people are stressed at work, their productivity will go down. It is in employers’ best interest to create an atmosphere where people can healthily deal with their stress. More employers are creating health and wellness programs for their workers, supporting them as they try to reduce stress in their lives.
To manage work stress, it is important that people engage in healthy time management. Make sure that tasks are broken down into achievable goals. Make sure that the most important tasks of the day come first. Avoid taking on too much, and rely on your coworkers to take up the slack if you cannot handle everything yourself.
Changes That Can Be Made
When people are experiencing stress, it is important that they do something to combat the feeling of pressure. Some methods of relieving stress include deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and herbal supplements. Many people who are under stress also benefit from talk therapy when a therapist can help to offer suggestions on how to deal with their problems in a healthy way.
One of the most important tenets of stress reduction is evening the workload. For example, if both parents work, yet only one is responsible for most of the tasks around the house, this will build stress and resentment within the relationship. When people feel that their tasks are divided fairly, they are less likely to feel stressed.
Dr. David Hepburn encourages everyone who feels stressed to seek help. Redrawing priorities can also help with feelings of stress.