21 Feb 2023


1 mins to read
Stress means different things to each of us, and while having a certain level of stress in our lives will motivate us and inspire us to move ahead, it should always work for us rather than against us.

Physical symptoms of stress may include: 

  • Headache   
  • Fatigue  
  • Insomnia   
  • Digestive changes, such as becoming more prone to indigestion, diarrhoea 
  • Loss of appetite or overeating (especially of ‘comfort foods’)    
  • Increased use of tobacco or alcohol    
  • Muscle tension (e.g. neck or backache)
  • Nervousness and a tendency to be easily startled

Psychological symptoms may include:

  • Tension or anxiety  
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Anger and aggression   
  • Poor decision making 
  • Memory problems and poor concentration 
  • Increased irritability   
  • If stress continues over a long period without being addressed, we may develop health problems such as cardiovascular disease, ulcers, headaches, fatigue and depleted immunity.

When we feel intense stress or fear, a hormone called adrenalin is secreted from the adrenal glands, which are situated above the kidneys. Our heart beats faster, our blood pressure rises, and our muscles tense up. At the same time, our breathing quickens, and the blood sugar levels rise to provide us with instant energy. This is what is known as the "fight or flight" response, and signals that our body perceives danger and is getting ready to deal with it.

The problem is that in our modern lives, factors such as job pressures and emotional ups and downs sometimes cause us to live in a state of stress for long periods, which may have consequences for both our physical and mental health.

Everyone reacts to stress differently and has a different tolerance level. The way that stress manifests in your body depends on things like your genetic make-up, diet and exercise routine, and physical surroundings.

  • Emotional and practical social support is a very important aspect of stress management. Often talking your problems over with someone helps you to see things from a different slant. This can be helpful in finding solutions that you hadn’t previously thought of to your problems. If there is no family member or friend whom you feel comfortable talking to or asking for help, ask your healthcare professional for a referral to a counsellor, psychologist or social worker who can help you to pinpoint events or conditions that are stressful to you, and to devise ways of reducing the stress they cause. 
  • Maintaining your physical health has a strong benefit for your mental health too. When you are under a lot of stress, pay extra attention to your diet and exercise routine. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and sugary and fatty foods, which can lead to declining energy levels, and aim for a balanced diet to ensure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. 
  • Schedule regular periods of activities that you find relaxing. This can mean anything from walking the dog to watching a funny movie or going out to dinner with friends. Massage is also of benefit, and as well as being relaxing can help to improve your sleep and relieve muscle tension.
  • Your body is less likely to be affected by stress when it's in good health. Stop smoking, commence a regular exercise programme and maintain a balanced diet, and you will find that you’re better able to cope with stressful circumstances. 
  • If you know that you are particularly susceptible to stress, consider taking up meditation or doing a course to develop new problem-solving skills. Sometimes changing the way you look at problems changes the way you react to them. For help in these areas, ask your healthcare professional to refer you to a teacher in your area.

  • If you are feeling under stress all or most of the time, chances are your body is feeling it too. Take time out to evaluate your situation and long-term ways to deal with it, and consult your healthcare professional for supportive therapy and advice.

Get free personalised advice from our team of qualified naturopaths here

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