We regularly face stress on a daily basis- a passing deadline, traffic jam, or going through the books one last time before an exam. We all have felt stress at one point or another in our life. Stress can be a good thing for a short period of time. For a longer period though, stress can be detrimental to us. It particularly affects our mental health in a bad way, worsening the chances and effects of various mental disorders.
Whenever stress occurs, our body responds in various ways to control it. But if stress becomes long term, our body records it as a normal occurrence, and the natural responses of our body stop dealing with it. So we need to do some extra efforts to control the stress. This article tells you about what stress is, how it affects mental health, and the ways to minimize it.
What Is Stress?
Stress is a natural reaction to our nervous system. It is the way our body prepares itself for any upcoming hardship. Stress responses include elevated heart rates, sweating, or crying. These are the ways in which our body responds to any stressful event.
Apart from the visible effects of stress, it also impacts our short-term memory. It is a primal response to tough events. In the ‘fight or flight’ situations where a tough decision has to be made or tough work has to be done, we become stressed. In the simplest terms, our body enters a state of alertness to the situation around us.
Scientists have demonstrated the biology of stress. When something stressful occurs, our body releases stress chemicals that flow to our brain. It triggers a response, and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and adrenaline, are released. As a result, stress hormones are released, and these hormones create the state of alertness that we just mentioned; it affects our memory and muscle movements.
Another biological effect of stress is visible on our immune system. When stress occurs, our immune system becomes heightened. It goes to this state of alert to prevent our body from any type of harm.
In the short term, stress can be very useful, such as when you are preparing for an exam or an interview. This occurrence helps us cope with these tough situations and receive a better result.
What Is Long-Term Stress?
The next phenomenon we discuss is long-term stress. We have discussed the basic responses to stress. When these effects last for a long time or a sustained period and our body reacts to it regularly, it is called long-term stress.
We can compare this to an overused machine. When we overuse a machine, it faces wear and tear. As a result, parts of the machine become dysfunctional. Just like that, when our body is stressed all the time, the stress response mechanism of our body works too much. Mainly, when stresses linger, our body gets used to the situation of hypersensitive responses. As a result, our body fails to function normally.
Our attention is affected. Constant short-term memory alertness causes harm to overall memory capabilities. Our memory continues to be affected even when we are not stressed. This affects our mental health. Constant overwork of some body parts causes physical health to deteriorate too. This can result in some long-term problems like depression and anxiety.
We have talked about how stress causes different biochemicals to secrete, and it makes our body more alert than usual. When there is a prolonged period of stress in our body, these secretions become almost a regular thing in our bodies. But they were only meant to be in our body in short amounts and produce calculated effects.
Such a sustained presence of powerful chemicals causes harm to our body and mind. Researchers have found a biochemical connection between stress and mental health as well as physical health problems in our bodies.
The immune response we talked about is also damaging in the long term. Researchers have found out that prolonged immune activity is linked to depression. Research has shown that at least 30% of people with depression have some level of a prolonged immune response in their bodies.
Although stress is a completely natural response of our body towards tough situations, chronic stress is in no way helpful for us. The main defense against overstress is installed in our bodies. The physical effects, such as sweating or crying, are the body’s way of relieving stress.
But in the case of chronic stress, these responses are not enough, or sometimes, they are even harmful when they occur for a sustained period. This is why outside intervention is required for relieving stress. Many people deal with stress differently. Business owners manage stress in their own way, whereas students may handle it differently. But there are some common methods of handling stress, such as therapy.
Psychological therapies are one of the most effective tools for reducing stress. Mental stress can be brought down significantly through various psychological practices. Especially, talking about the events that are causing stress could help relieve it. Usually, these therapies are done in a private session with a psychologist.
The second type of therapy is more physical, such as body massage. This type of therapy relieves physical stress and increases blood flow throughout the body, making us feel refreshed.
Another type of remedy comes in the form of edibles. Edibles are available in various forms, such as cbd gummies, or they could be prescription medicine that helps with relieving stress. In any case, these are best taken after they were prescribed by a professional or a doctor.
Stress can be useful in the short term. However, if it is not handled properly, and the activities that cause stress are not reduced, it could become a chronic situation, and you may need to face other troubles that come with it. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.