We are so often faced with stressful situations, experiencing a state of increasing anxiety and worry, that we have ceased to attach special importance to this phenomenon. Stress has become something commonplace. And a serious danger lies in this: we may underestimate the power of its hidden effects. And the consequences are always more difficult to deal with than preventive measures.
Let’s find out what stress is, what causes it and how to recognize it in time in order to regain self-control and return to a resourceful state.
What Is Stress
Stress is a complex reaction of an organism to changes in its environment and conditions. This stress arises under the influence of an external stimulus and spreads at several levels – physical, psychological and emotional.
In essence, stress is the mobilization of the body, which is urgently trying to adapt, readjust, adapt to new – unfamiliar, often unfavorable – conditions.
It all starts with a signal of danger, which is received by the central nervous system, processed and transmitted further – to the executing organs. A portion of stress hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline – is released into the blood, which helps you survive the “attack”. Blood flow intensity is corrected, “supplies” are redistributed – first of all “fuel” is sent to the organs and systems that participate in the “fight” (heart, lungs, muscles), the supply of “food” to the digestive tract, immune and reproductive systems slows down.
Short-term shakes are quite natural – it’s even useful for the organism to get out of the comfort zone: hidden reserves are discovered, work capacity increases. But when the state of tension drags on, the consequences can be unpleasant.
Stress Is Useful and Harmful
So, stress is tension, which occurs as a response to some external stimulus. These stimuli can be different – both negative (a conflict situation at work, a letter with sad news from relatives), and positive (an upcoming wedding, a huge win at the bookmaker website 20Bet, the birth of a child, an unexpected career boost). In any case, a person is seized by a flurry of emotions.
Stress can also be helpful (constructive) and harmful (destructive).
In the first case we are dealing with eustress. Both positive and negative events can be the trigger. In a state of eustress the person is aware of what is happening to him, what he is feeling, in what state he is. An external stimulus, regardless of whether with a “plus” or “minus” sign, forces one to “group up”: to mobilize all one’s resources. It is this ability that helps to survive in extreme situations. Eustress can be compared to a powerful impulse, a motivating kick that makes you move and act. All attention is focused on the fulfillment of tasks, all hidden forces are involved, efficiency is increased, the body is toned down. Having experienced a short-term peak load, the body relaxes, returning to a comfortable state of rest. If this doesn’t happen, the tension continues to build up. It’s impossible to stay in a collected state for long, to be ready to repel a blow. Having reached a boiling point, exceeding the threshold of sensitivity (individual for each person), anxiety acquires destructive power – stress turns into distress. This destructive state, which brings the nervous system to exhaustion, destroys energy reserves, just de-energizing people. Not only physical but also mental activity suffers, ability to work is momentarily reduced, the armor of immune defense is broken through, which means that the body with great difficulty will repel the attacks of viruses, infections. Physics is closely connected to the psyche, and therefore the consequences of prolonged stressful states often become chronic illnesses, addictions, psycho-emotional dysfunctions.
What Are the Manifestations of a Stressful State
Each person experiences stress in his or her own way – depending on the experience of overcoming crisis situations, on the features of the psyche, personal qualities, emotional stability and, of course, on whether he or she is able to ask others for help. However, it’s possible to distinguish the general symptoms by which a stressful state can be recognized:
- Forgetfulness and problems with concentration.
- Sleep disturbances and nightmares.
- Increased anxiety.
- Tearfulness or laughter that cannot be quieted.
- Acute reactions to events or phenomena that may seem insignificant to others.
- Shaking hands, nervous tics (the corner of the mouth or eye twitches).
- Digestive problems.
- Headaches and dizziness.
- Increased colds or sudden allergic attacks.
- Constant tension of all muscles, inability to distract, to relax.
- The desire for solitude, to cut oneself off from everyone.
- Depressive mood, apathy.
- Panic attacks or hysterics.
- Increased sweating.
- A state of constant tension, inability to relax.
- Desire to be alone, apathy.
- Chronic fatigue, loss of strength.
In such an uncontrollable state, there may be a desire to take “dope” to calm down and relax a little, or to go rescue shopping and buy things you don’t need at all, or to join gambling fans.
All of this has a negative impact on the quality of life. It can be difficult to cope without the help of a specialist.
What Causes Stress
The threshold of sensitivity is different for everyone. Some do not get anything to get through. Others literally lose consciousness from a carelessly said word. And yet, let’s identify the main stressogenic factors:
- Psychological traumas (loss of loved ones, shocking news, legal proceedings).
- Physical injuries and loss (even if temporary) of ability to work (traumas, surgical interventions, car accidents, etc.).
- Age crises, which cause changes in the body – both at the level of physiology and at the level of the psycho-emotional state.
- Conflict situations in the family, at work – with colleagues or management.
- Forced change of environment – relocation, dismissal and a new place of work, loss of a roof over the head.
- Workaholism (both physical and mental work in a non-stop regime inevitably leads to overwork, emotional burnout, and chronic stress).
- Experienced violence, which can be not just a shock, but can lead to the development of PTSD with all of its consequences.
Techniques for Relieving a Stressful State
The danger of stress lies in its ability to remain unnoticed for a long time, but to disrupt the nervous system, gradually destroying the human body, weakening its defenses. The consequences can be unpredictable: cardiovascular disease, severe depression, phobias, the appearance of inflammation or cell transformation into cancer, the formation of various addictions (drug addiction, alcohol addiction), etc. Therefore, stressful conditions should not be left unattended. Simple techniques can help you cope with your worries, “unload” everything that has built up and is bothering you, and restore your balance.
You need to regain a sense of the “here and now. To do this, you need to feel your body again, fix your thoughts, and understand your emotions. You can work through all three levels by asking yourself questions:
- What am I feeling?
- What am I thinking about at this moment?
- What is happening to my body?
This kind of thoughtful analysis of sensations helps to bring me back to reality, to shift my focus away from my experiences.
Count From Five to One
This exercise helps distract from frightening thoughts, growing anxiety, and by engaging your senses, return to reality. The “5-4-3-2-1” technique is effective for panic attacks and helps reduce anxiety and restlessness.
To begin, you have to take a couple of deep breaths and exhales, and then activate your senses:
- Turn on the vision. Find any five objects around you and call them aloud or to yourself.
- Catch the sensations. What does our body feel? Our feet are standing on a cool, smooth tile. Our backs are leaning against the door jamb. Suddenly there is warmth in the abdominal area, etc. It’s important to catch your tactile sensations, if it’s difficult, you can touch a radiator with your hands or run your hands through your hair, focusing on what you feel.
- Involve your hearing. Try to distinguish any three sounds in the surrounding reality. It can be the loud music of the neighbors, the siren of the ambulance or the merry murmur of sparrows discussing the weather.
- Recall the sense of smell. The task is to catch and recognize any two smells: the aroma of freshly brewed coffee or cinnamon buns, the intrusive smell of household chemicals or a subtle hint of a well-known perfume. If you don’t smell anything, you can “retrieve” scents from your own memory archives and try to revive them so that you can feel them clearly.
- Taste sensations. It’s necessary to try to remember and feel some taste – recently eaten chocolate or a banana, scalding kebab or hot pepper.
After doing all five steps of this exercise, you need to take a few more deep breaths and exhale. This technique won’t take long, but it will help shift the focus away from heavy feelings to more real things, and help you regain your stability.
Shake It off Properly
This technique is familiar to animals, which, after experiencing a strong stress, shake off intensely, shake off – release their tension. This method of relaxation will be especially relevant when experiencing strong emotions, when faced with something frightening, a person doesn’t run, doesn’t shake off, but freezes.
Shaking can be done with music – for example, turn on the African drums. Or you can shake vigorously in complete silence.
How do you shake? You can start with your hands – pretend as if you need to shake water off them. You can gradually increase the range of motion – join your arms, shoulders, head, bend your knees, and finally shake your whole body (the main thing is not to destroy everything around and get hurt while doing it).
“A smile will make everyone feel warmer.” And brighter, too! Just stand in front of the mirror and start smiling to yourself. Perform the exercise for at least 1 minute. If the smile suddenly disappears, start counting again.
In the first seconds the smile may look more like a grimace. After 10-15 seconds it will become more natural, relaxed. And after a minute it will be much easier on the soul. Why does this happen? When the corners of the mouth go up, a muscle contracts and transmits an impulse that signals to the brain that it’s time to switch to a positive attitude.
When stress hits us, we may not feel the strongest tension, which constrains the entire body and prevents normal breathing. To loosen these “shackles,” you first have to tighten them – tighten your fists, clench your teeth and tense all your muscles for 10 seconds. And then relax the body, feeling a pleasant warmth and peace.
One can tense the muscle groups one by one – hands, forearms and shoulders, then move on to the neck and back muscles, and then engage your shins and thighs. The starting position can be anything – standing, sitting, or lying with eyes closed. The main thing is to remember to breathe.