Managing your work, family, and personal life, trying to find balance in the daily hassles you encounter can become overwhelming to your body and mind. In response, your body develops certain symptoms, these physical symptoms are collectively identified as signs of physical stress.
Stress is everywhere and it affects everyone, over 7 million Nigerians suffer from stress and stress-related issues. While a little stress is fine and can be beneficial, too much stress can affect your physical health negatively – to an extent, your life.
Stress affects both mind and body, however, for this article, we’ll be focusing on the signs of physical stress, its major causes, and how to manage and cope with these signs.
What Is Physical Stress?
Physical stress is a normal bodily reaction to changes or challenges whether they are real or perceived. When you experience such challenges, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to respond appropriately to the challenge. This reaction is known as the “Fight or Flight Response“.
Your bodily responses help you to adjust to respond appropriately to challenges. Physical stress can be beneficial to you when it alerts you of unpleasant situations or motivate you. A good example of when stress is beneficial is when you have an interview, a physical stress response will hello you to stay awake to prepare well. Physical stress can also be harmful to you when the challenges continue for an extended time without relief or relaxation.
Signs of Physical Stress
Physical stress affects your daily life, but because people manage stress differently, the physical symptoms of stress can be different in people. However, some symptoms have been identified to be common to physical stress:
- High blood pressure
- Low Energy
- Nervousness – shaky, cold, or sweaty hands and legs, ringing in the ears
- Rapid heartbeat and chest pain
- Muscle aches and pains – muscle tension or jaw clenching
- Upset stomach – constipation, diarrhea, and nausea
- Frequent cold and infections
- Decline or loss of sexual desire
- Weak Immune system
When stress is left untreated for an extended period of time, it often becomes more life-threatening. And if still not treated, can develop serious physical health complications such as:
- Back pain
- Worsening asthma symptoms or any other chronic disease an individual has
- Increases risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack
Chronic Physical stress can affect your entire body by increasing the risk of certain diseases and reducing your quality of life.
What Are the Causes of Physical Stress?
As stated earlier, physical stress develops from our daily experiences and challenges. Now since people have different experiences and challenges and also react to them differently, the causes of physical stress in people also differ. An instance is, someone could be overwhelmed by a traffic jam while another turns on his car air conditioner and turn on music, making the experience less inconvenient.
Some factors able to develop physical stress could be what we are already used to but experienced with increased intensity or it could be a completely new challenging factor. Major causes of physical stress are streamlined as:
1. Financial Problems
When you find yourself feeling guilty after buying non-essential things, feeling anxious and worrying about money, and frequently arguing with loved ones about money, there’s a chance that your stress is financially caused.
Physical stress as a result of work is often characterised by frequent rapid heartbeat severe nervousness, sweaty or sweaty hands and legs when carrying out a specific project or assignment at work. Job dissatisfaction also plays a role here.
3. Personal Relationships
There are many causes of stress in personal relationships – social media inclusive. The natural urge to compare yourself with others can lead to the stress of feeling inferior or inadequate.
Abuse or control in a relationship, loss of a loved one, moving to a new home, lack of communication and not being able to spend much time with a loved one are other common stressors.
4. Daily Life Hassles
Day-to-day hassles are common to us such as forgetting your keys at work, misplacing an item, running late, and other common inconveniences. Normally, they are inconvenience you often look over, however, when they occur frequently or with increased intensity, they could become sources of stress for you.
How You Can Manage Physical Stress
There’s no way to avoid stress but you can manage its symptoms on your physical health by practicing some strategies that will help you maintain not just a healthy body but your mind as well.
Exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, relaxing and other healthy living practices go a long way to help with the signs of physical stress.
While stress is natural and normal, when its intensity increases or duration is extended, physical and mental symptoms develop.
The physical symptoms of stress ultimately affect our health negatively, increasing our risk of diseases and reducing our quality of life. Nonetheless, some natural consistent practices can help manage the physical symptoms of stress.
How is physical stress diagnosed?
Most healthcare providers make use of questionnaires to understand the stress an individual is experiencing and how it affects their life. This is because stress is subjective, it is not measurable with tests, and only the person experiencing it can tell how it feels.
Healthcare providers evaluate physical symptoms that are related to stress such as high blood pressure and provide the appropriate care.
What happens to the body during physical stress?
Stress comes as a response to challenges or changes you experience. During Stress a chemical reaction occurs which is known as the Fight or Flight Response, this response triggers your autonomic nervous system which controls your heart rate, breathing, vision changes, and more. This response is also responsible for the signs of physical stress as listed above.
What are the effects of stress on our mental health?
Stress affects all areas of our lives, physical and mental. Stress affects the way we think (cognition) and the way we act (behavior). Common symptoms are; feelings of helplessness, inability to focus, loss of appetite and interest in activities once enjoyed, mental exhaustion, and constant worrying among others.
How do I avoid stress?
Stress is part of our lives, it cannot be prevented. However, they are daily life practices that help manage both physical and mental symptoms of stress.
Relaxing, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, having enough sleep and rest, being positive and realistic, accepting that you can’t control everything, acknowledging the good times, and reaching out to a mental health expert are ways to manage stress.
When is the right time to reach out to a mental health provider?
It is important to reach out to a mental health expert immediately if you feel overwhelmed. A Mental Health expert will help you manage physical and mental symptoms of stress and help you go through your experience. Mental health professionals also give advice and develop techniques that will best address your problem.