Stress is a topic that is often approached from the wrong angle in modern society. We all deal with feelings of stress, often accompanied by short-lived stressors, and that can disappear once those stressors are gone, as well. However, it’s easy to get mislead into thinking that you’re just dealing with “a little stress” when the problem is more serious and chronic than that. Here, we’re going to look at how to seriously identify not only if you have an on-going stress problem, but why it’s important to identify the type and cause, as well.
The types of stress
Here, we’re addressing a lot of what you need to know about stress to help you talk more effectively about it and to understand it. Stress is used interchangeably to refer to an emotional state, a temporary reaction, long-term pressure, and a chronic mental issue. However, this isn’t because there isn’t a language to help better define them. Acute stress is, for instance, the body’s reaction to a stressor. For instance, a near-accident will cause acute stress and it’s not always a bad thing. In fact, it’s often the system working as intended. Episodic acute stress is when this happens episodically, which can start to affect your well-being, as can severe acute stress, which is when an episode is strong enough to cause severe problems, such as PTSD after a life-threatening situation. Chronic stress is what we’re typically referring to, here, involving high levels of stress over a longer period of time, and is always worth getting help in addressing.
Knowing the symptoms
First of all, it’s important to understand that stress can manifest in many different ways, including physical symptoms that might not seem at all relevant to how you’re feeling emotionally. However, if you are feeling mentally stressed, and also experiencing some acute symptoms of severe stress, then it is a sign that you should probably seek some help with managing it. For instance, if you experience triggers of acne, headaches, back or joint pain, as well as longer-term changes like decreased libido and feeling exhausted more often, these could be indications of chronic stress. They may just be symptoms of something else entirely, but it’s still important to go to your doctor to get an effective diagnosis so you can decide on a path of treatment.
Getting a clear diagnosis
This blog provides a lot of day-to-day advice on managing your stress, including at-home therapies and lifestyle changes that are proven to help. However, there is no denying that medical intervention is sometimes necessary to help you target issues in the most effective way possible. Clinical therapy can help you identify all manner of mood disorders and anxiety disorders, as well as acute causes of stress symptoms such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Stress should never be treated as solely a factor in your lifestyle to be accounted for. On-going, recurring stress, or severe stress should be treated as the medical problem that it is.
The root causes
It’s not always easy to figure out what is at the root cause of stress. There may be multiple stressors all working together to create a general layer of anxiety or high-tension in your life. Furthermore, eliminating stressors does not always eliminate the problem. One part of the nature of stress is that it can become self-propagating. However, that’s not always the case. In all instances, doing what you can to eliminate or at least to address the stressors can help improve your situation to some degree. Some of the primary causes of stress can include financial problems or issues with your work-life balance that do have practical solutions. Fixing them may not fix stress, but it can at least ensure they’re not active stressors.
The causes and triggers of stress are not always the same thing. The causes may be factors that were contributing when you originally started experiencing symptoms of stress or anxiety. Triggers can be related to the causes, but they are effectively in-the-moment circumstances or factors that elicit a stress response. In the case of anxiety disorders, for instance, triggers are most often talked about in order to identify the elements that trigger a panic attack. Learning your triggers can help you not only avoid them if you are concerned about having a reaction to them but also how to acclimate to them over time. Being mindful of one’s triggers can help to decrease the effect that those triggers have on them.
The relationship between stress and sleep
Though it can be hard to pinpoint the exact causal relationship at times, symptoms of stress and sleeplessness have a very well-documented and time-tested link. Feelings of stress can make you more physically uncomfortable and keep your mind more active at night, which results in keeping you awake. Not getting enough sleep increases the production of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) in the body, which then also results in increased feelings and symptoms of stress. As such, an important part of tackling stress in the long-term is also tackling sleep issues, which can often be done with sleep relaxation techniques. Medical options are also available to help with sleep issues, but many would recommend a more holistic approach in the long-term.
The importance of treating stress
Extended periods of stress, frequent episodes of stress, and severe moments of acute stress are all worth taking the time to treat. The symptoms that result from it can lead to a real decrease in quality of life. However, beyond that, untreated stress can lead to instances of severe mental distress, such as burnout or a stress-induced breakdown. There are steps to take to help prevent this, but it’s important to identify the issue is there in the first place.
Taking the time to combat stress via meditation, mindfulness, and living a healthy lifestyle is a good tip for anyone, regardless of how serious or light their stress issues may be. However, identifying your stress can be crucial in helping you find the right approach when you need it.
Identifying Your Stress and Interview with the Vampire (aka STRESS)