With all the negative news around the world, the increasingly slanted work-life balance and other life pressures, it’s become more common to experience stress from time to time. Some stress can be helpful – studies show that up to a certain level, stress can improve your work performance – but too much of it for too long can take a toll on your physical and mental health.
The effects of chronic stress, or stress that persists over an extended period of time, isn’t just limited to making you feel tired and run-down. Chronic stress has been associated with weakened immune system, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of developing heart disease and obesity. Below are what you need to know about chronic stress and ways to address it.
What Are the Signs of Chronic Stress?
Stress manifests differently in every person, but some physical, mental and behavioural symptoms may be present. These include anxiety, fatigue, aches and pains, low mood, disorientation, difficulty focusing, irritability and sleep issues among others. You may also feel unmotivated, withdraw from social situations or lose interest in things you love.
What Causes Chronic Stress?
To put it simply, chronic stress happens when the stressors in our life become too intense, overwhelming and/or could not be resolved for a long period of time, affecting our ability to cope.
Stressors are unique to every person – what causes stress in one may have negligible effect on another. However, these stressors often share common elements known as NUTS: Novelty, Unpredictability, Threat to ego, and (loss of) Sense of control.
How Can We Treat Chronic Stress?
Stress is a part of life – rather than eliminating it, the goal should be to manage it.
Take one of the most popular tips from counselling college courses: take care of yourself. This includes doing the ‘fun’ things (sleeping better, relaxing, doing recreational activities) as well as other seemingly mundane tasks (exercising, walking, staying active, eating healthy, meditating).
Re-evaluating your goals and priorities could also help you identify the stressors in your life and change your environment if needed.
When all else fails, reach out to a doctor or mental health professional to get help and find better ways of handling stress.