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:
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.
Check out 10 Amazing Ways that Will Help You Relieve Stress Naturally.
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.
Do you have trouble sleeping? You hit the bed after a long day, and instead of falling into slumber, you keep tossing and turning. At some point in one’s life, falling asleep might become difficult. The factors causing these may be stress, anxiety, illnesses, etc. From bad skin to puffy eyes to migraines to mood changes, and unproductivity, lack of sleep can be detrimental to health. The effect of lack of sleep in the body, and life, in general, cannot be overemphasized.
One of the best ways to increase your productivity and live a good life is to fix one’s sleep. Nothing is worse than having a long and stressful day and then finding it hard to drift off at night.
Regard the following as a checklist on how to sleep better, a list to mentally tick off for better sleep. These are easy steps you can imbibe in your day-to-day life for a good night’s rest. Take them up one after the other and implement them daily. You don’t have to do everything all at once, pick one at a time until they become part of your night routine.
How to Sleep Better at Night
1. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Drinks containing caffeine like coffee, soda, etc. keep you alert by stimulating your brain and central nervous system.
Reducing their intake, especially late in the afternoon, can help you sleep better since the stimulating effect would have worn out your body.
2. Eliminate Heavy Food
Eating a large meal or eating very late at night will not only aid weight gain but will also tamper with your bedtime. You might feel uncomfortable or bloated because of the undigested food in your stomach.
It is advisable to eat a full meal early in the evening or eat lightly at night. Avoid midnight snacking.
3. Organize Your Bedroom
A well-arranged room will help promote sleep more than a scattered one. Try putting your bedroom in order before bed and make your bed with fresh bedclothes and pillowcases. A smelly and lumpy bed will not induce sleep but a well laid and clean one will.
4. Reduce Screen Time
One or two hours before you go to bed, ditch the phone, laptop, and TV. However, this might not be easy to do, especially on the phone, since we live practically on our gadgets.
It will be better if we let them go before going to bed so our eyes can be away from the bright light they produce, which affects our sleep.
5. Create a Sleep Schedule
Come up with a time when you will go to bed every day and stick to it. Sleeping at different times might be hurting your sleep as your body cannot keep up with it.
Once your body adjusts to a sleeping schedule, you will naturally fall asleep during that time. Check out how to create a foolproof sleep schedule here.
6. Improve Ventilation to Help You Sleep Better
Before going to bed, air out your room by turning on a fan, or air conditioner or by simply opening up the windows. A hot and stuffy or smelly room will disturb your sleep. It is advisable to get rid of anything that will make your bed space inconvenient.
Tips to Sleep Better During Bedtime
7. Take a Shower or Bath Before Sleep
You should not go to bed with all the sweat and dust from the day. Taking your bath before going to bed will not only clean your body but will also relax and refreshen you.
Make a habit of taking a shower before going, no matter how tired you may be.
8. Wear Comfortable Night Wears
Avoid wearing tight or body-fitted clothes to bed. Endeavor to wear more loose night wears as they will allow easy blood flow and let you sleep better.
9. Try Yoga
Bedtime yoga, along with meditation is one of the best things to do for better sleep as it reduces stress and makes you relaxed enough to sleep. Bedtime yoga poses are easy to do and can be done on the bed.
10. Read a Book
If you are still not feeling relaxed enough to sleep, you can try to read a book. Reading a book can be soothing for some, and for others, it is an instant sleep pill. If you are part of the latter, I recommend putting a book on your bedside table to help you induce sleep.
However, I do not recommend this for avid readers, so you don’t “just one chapter” your way to 3 a.m.
11. Turn Off the Lights (Or Not)
There are different perspectives on this. Some people cannot fall asleep with the lights on, but it is otherwise for some. Whichever way, try to reduce your exposure to harsh or bright light.
You can turn it off altogether or use a lesser intense light like red bulbs. However, you should avoid blue light.
12. Listen to Relaxing Tunes
Determine what is relaxing and soothing to you and play at reduced volume to help you fall asleep.
13. Have Good Thoughts
The type of things you occupy your mind with will determine how well you will sleep. Thinking about sad and bad things can raise your alertness and will keep you up from sleeping. While having good and happy thoughts will lure you to sleep. Save all the worrying for the next day and get to bed.
A good night’s sleep will give you a fresh start to tackle life problems the next day.
Lastly, sleeping pills are not a good option for sleep as they can be addictive and detrimental to health. Avoid these as much as possible unless a doctor prescribes them. If your sleeplessness persists, you should seek medical attention.
Extremely stressful events we experience such as being in an accident, watching a loved one die or a natural disaster might have their toll on our physical and mental health as a response to the experience. This response is called “Trauma”. If you’ve experienced such traumatic events, here are signs that you are living with trauma.
Trauma develops when you experience highly stressful or life-threatening events that cause physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. This leads to feelings of physical threat or extreme fright.
Examples of such traumatic events include:
- Witnessing a death
- Domestic abuse
- Physical injury
- Witnessing a natural disaster
- Chronic illness
- A difficult divorce
- Parental abandonment
Trauma can have a long-term effect on the well-being of a person. If symptoms do not decrease, it might be that the trauma has developed into a mental health disorder called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Ptsd).
Types of Trauma
1. Acute Trauma
This trauma develops as a result of a single stressful or life-threatening experience. Examples are accidents or the loss of a loved one.
2. Chronic Trauma
This results from prolonged exposure to extremely stressful events repeatedly. Examples include domestic abuse, bullying, or child abuse.
3. Complex Trauma
This trauma develops as a result of exposure to multiple traumatic events.
4. Vicarious Trauma
Vicarious Trauma also known as secondary trauma, this occurs when an individual develops trauma symptoms from close contact with someone who experienced a traumatic event. Mental health providers, families, and those who provide care to traumatised people are at risk of this form of trauma.
Signs That Show You Are Living With Trauma
The way people respond to trauma is different ranging from mild to severe. There are no obvious signs mostly, but people may have serious emotional reactions.
People tend to use shock and denial to protect themselves from the emotional impact of the event. You may feel numb or detached and chances are you might not feel the intensity of the event immediately.
Once you are past the initial shock and denial, the signs you are living with trauma settle in. These signs are:
1. You Avoid Anything That Reminds You of the Event
When you experience a life-threatening situation, you do everything you cannot feel as you did in the course of the event. You’ll find yourself staying away from the environment, places, people, and things that would remind you of the traumatic event. You shy away from people or activities related to the event.
An example is staying away from the family of a lost spouse or engaging in activities that’ll take your mind off the traumatic experience.
2. You Have Flooding Intrusive Thoughts About the Event
Some people, especially those with highly creative minds recreate the traumatic event over and over in their minds, some experience the event again through repeated nightmares and others can’t get their minds off the event. If you find yourself amongst these, you are exhibiting one of the signs you are living with trauma.
3. You Are Constantly on Edge
Traumatic events make people emotionally vulnerable. And in your effort to prevent yourself from such feelings, you feel unsafe and become paranoid even in normal environments. This makes you struggle to feel safe amongst friends and families.
4. You Feel Disconnected From People Around You
Having gone through something you feel most people around you haven’t experienced makes it difficult for you to communicate with them. You feel they cannot relate to what you are going through and as such withdraw from them, thereby isolating yourself from day-to-day activities.
5. You Try to Stop Thinking About the Event
When you find yourself walking away from a conversation about an event because it is distressing, it might be a sign that you are living with trauma. People who have had a traumatic experience find it difficult to stop thinking about the event yet try to. They try to avoid talking about the event to anyone, including mental health providers.
6. You Have Developed Unhealthy Behaviours to Help With the Negative Feelings
As explained earlier, people who experience traumatic events try to numb the distressing feeling they have as a result of the experience. Some people turn to drugs, alcohol, and even binge-eating in an attempt to do away or reduce the symptoms of the trauma they experience.
7. You Develop Some Physical Symptom
Since trauma occurs as a result of highly stressful events, victim exhibit certain physical symptoms of stress. Fatigue, headaches, digestive symptoms, sweating, and nausea are common physical effects of trauma.
Also, traumatic experience tends to worsen an existing medical condition of people.
8. You Have Difficulty Sleeping/Insomnia
As a result of the repeated nightmares and flashbacks of the traumatic event traumatised people experience, having a healthy sleep becomes difficult. The fear of reliving the traumatic event again while sleeping often leads to anxiety which in turn triggers Insomnia. If you are having difficulty having a good night’s rest as a result of a nightmare about a stressful event you experienced, it is one of the signs you are living with trauma.
9. You Are Having Difficulty Concentrating After a Traumatic Event
The lack of sleep, mental exhaustion as a result of trying to avoid the thoughts of a traumatic event renders traumatised people tired. This exhaustion makes it difficult for you to concentrate on your work, school, family, and your day to day activities.
10. You Experience Emotional Outbursts
Experiencing emotional outburst is one of the signs you are living with trauma. Carrying the constant thoughts of the traumatic experience and not being able to share these thoughts will someone else, leads to emotional outbursts in an attempt to ease the mind of pent-up emotions. These outbursts could be sudden and excessive crying, laughter, or anger.
How Do You Manage Trauma?
They’re many behaviors you could adopt to help with the symptoms of trauma. such behaviours include:
- Spend time with others to help with withdrawal.
- Talk about the traumatic experience with your family, friends, journal, or diary.
- Recognise you can’t control everything.
- Try to eat well, exercise frequently, sleep well and avoid alcohol or drug use.
- Maintain a routine.
All of the above mention behavior adjustments could help with your symptoms. However, it is advised and even more appropriate to reach out to a mental healthcare provider for professional help. Psychologists and other mental health professionals can help you find ways to cope and manage trauma effectively.
At one point or another, some people will experience traumatic events in their lives. Some may respond to it for a short while in the form of shock and distress and can easily recover from it. However, a minority of people will respond to traumatic events for a long term, as in the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This involves a lengthy process of recovery.
Understanding the symptoms and signs you are living with trauma, self-care and therapy can help you cope and manage symptoms from a traumatic event and improve your quality of life.
You could also check: 9 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Stomach Ache.