Stiff backs, aching heads, drooping energy levels, ‘down’ feelings and feeling out of focus. These states majorly describe how a lot of us would feel at the end of a typical day, whether in college, office or even at home.
Why does this happen? The answer is the 6-letter word that we’ve been using for the past many years- STRESS!
Fight or Flight Response A stressful situation can trigger a host of events. You can even think of these as chain reactions. When stressed, your body releases adrenaline (a hormone responsible for speeding up your heart rate, breathing and upping your blood pressure). These reactions set you up for a ‘Fight-or-Flight’ response that helps you deal with stress in the short-term. Let’s assume you’re scared of dogs and on one strange night, you’ve ventured out for a walk on a rather secluded road, there you hear a dog barking very loudly. Your body automatically jumps up, activating your ‘Fight-or-Flight’ response. In such a situation, you would start feeling your palms getting sweaty, your heart rate would go up, experiencing a higher rate of breathing and higher blood pressure. Once you successfully make your way out of that lane, your body would take between fifteen minutes to sixty minutes to get back to its normal state.
Long-Term Effects of Stress To think about it, your body’s reaction in the short-term is great. However, if stressors are a prolonged part of your life, it can take a toll on your health, physically and mentally. Now, imagine if you were exposed to a threatening situation for a long period of time and your fight or flight response was switched on, all throughout? The major problem with being stressed for a long period of time is because, when you’re stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released in the body, but prolonged release of this hormone can cause a drop in your immunity and affect the functioning of your brain cells. In the short-term, cortisol helps the body deal with stressors, but in the longer run, it exhausts your system.
Psychological Effects of stress
Stress and Memory
Have you ever forgotten something really important during a stressful situation, when you should have remembered it? For example, a college or an entrance exam.
Why does this happen? Cortisol affects the regular functioning of your neurotransmitters (chemicals that the brain cells use to communicate with each other). This hormone makes it difficult to think or recall long-term memories. Stress hormones also divert blood glucose to exercising muscles, therefore the amount of glucose (energy) that reaches the brain's hippocampus (part of the brain that is the centre of emotions, memory and the autonomic nervous system) is diminished. This creates an energy crisis in the hippocampus which mitigates its ability to form new memories. This can also explain why some people can't remember a very traumatic event and why short-term memory usually takes the first hit of age-related memory loss that results from a lifetime of stress.
Stress and Negative Thinking
Have you noticed how being stressed causes you to think more negative thoughts?
Why does this happen? When you’re stressed, your body tries to warn you about possible dangers and situations that could put you in a life-threatening position. In this quest of protecting yourself, these thoughts go farther away and muster up several negative scenarios as ‘what if’ situations in your mind. These ‘what ifs’ create more problems when you’re already stressed. It almost becomes like a cycle wherein your stress causes you to think negatively and vice-versa. Negative thoughts often turn into constant worrying, racing thoughts and a chain of automatic thoughts.
Stress and Depression
Losing a job can be very stressful, it affects your social contacts, your lifestyle and creates a thousand thoughts in your mind that push you into a spiral of negative thinking. These negative thoughts again, trigger stress and make you more vulnerable to depression.
Why does this happen? The connection between stress and depression is one that’s complex and circular. As you may already guess, people going through stress often neglect healthy lifestyle practices. They could take to smoking, drinking more than usual, while neglecting a regular exercise routine. The constant state of being ‘stressed out’ leads to adoption of certain behavioural patterns that can lead to a chronic stress burden, in turn increasing the risk of depression. Interestingly, many of the changes in the brain during an episode of depression resemble the effects of severe and prolonged stress. Once someone is in the grip of major depression, it’s usually not seen as the best and easiest time to make lifestyle changes, but it’s definitely possible. However, you can guard against a re-occurrence of depression or protect against the first episode of depression by adopting lifestyle changes that modify the body's stress response. Building resilience is particularly important if you are experiencing chronic stressors.
Physiological Effects of Stress
Stress affects your body not only psychologically, but also in the form of certain physiological changes or signs.
· Frequent headaches, often turning into throbbing aches, making you feel like someone’s hitting a hammer on your head.
· Lower energy levels all through the day, leaving you feeling tired and lethargic.
· Increased vulnerability to acne.
· Loss of Appetite leading to eating less or even eating too much.
· Sleeping too much or too little.
· Lower Immunity levels, making you prone to falling ill more often.
· Issues with the digestive system, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diarrhoea, constipation and the like.
· Lower levels of sexual arousal and overall negative effect on libido.
Dealing with a stressful time: Covid- 19
We know you’ve heard enough about the current outbreak, but we just want to make sure you’re feeling well, mentally and physically.
Here are just a few ways you can deal better with the stress that the current situation may be causing to you.
- Make a routine for yourself every day, along with a to-do list of tasks and chores that you need to get done on a particular day. This will help you feel more in control of your day and even in helping you feel more productive. The feeling of ticking off completed tasks from a to-do list is great!
- In case you’ve got lots of free time on hand during these days, take a pen and paper to jot down things that interest you. It could be anything, right from reading, watching Netflix, painting, cooking, exercising or to even decluttering your living space. Once you have this list ready, plan how you’re going to go about using this time to do everything you like.
- Connect with friends and family through video calls, regular phone calls and play some fun games with those at home.
- Move your body! Whether it’s a soothing yoga session or an intense workout, make sure to pack in some exercise as you spend time at home.
- Take a break from reading articles, posts and watching news about the outbreak. We’re over-exposed to information and it’s important to take a break from all of it, once in a while.
- Don’t force yourself to be productive, it’s okay to take things slow. We’re all going through changes and facing a situation that’s never experienced before, just let yourself be.
- We know you really want to finish making that deck or finish watching the gripping show, but grab some sleep and avoid messing with your sleep cycle.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with all that’s going on around you, or just need someone to talk to, book your Free Consultation with us or get in touch with us on 9825207606. We’d love to hear from you!
Written - Vrushti Oza