Stress, when neglected can result in physical manifestations and illness. Read some simple solutions to managing stress effectively.
Stress is a part of everyone’s life as much as morning coffee, and daily traffic is. It’s hard to conceptualize it without experiencing the same firsthand. While many people live through different degrees and severity of stress, the effect of it on our physical and mental wellbeing is uniform.
Unfortunately, one cannot really prevent stress. There will always be external factors beyond our control that contribute to a non-desirable environment. These often affect us negatively. One cannot prevent stress but it can be managed.
In fact, learning effective stress management is a way to lead a deeper, more meaningful life. If dealt with in a healthy way, mental stress can be a learning tool. But before we learn how to manage stress, it’s important to know what it is, and how it manifests. Let’s take a look at the mechanism of mental stress, and how natural therapies can help manage it.
What is Mental Stress?
In pure biological terms, stress is any external environmental pressure that forces a response or change within an organism. In a medical context, any factor that causes physical or mental tension is called stress. In simpler terms, mental stress refers to the condition in which a person experiences anxiety and discontent to a point where it affects them mentally. Mental stress usually does manifest physically, as we’ll see later.
Mental stress is also known as psychological stress. Stresses can be
-external: such as environmental or social
-internal: such as illnesses or disorders
Humans respond to stress through basic physiological mechanisms – though we tend to process it in a more complex way. In humans, mental stress causes the body to flood with adrenaline and hormones that stimulate the fight-or-flight response. When humans are faced with a challenge or threat, our mind makes a split second decision to either fight the challenge or run away from it. Such physical reactions to stress are more suited to tangible stressors.
Mental stress is, in that manner, hard to categorize. It’s considered more of a symptom or an initial diagnosis of a much larger mental illness – usually anxiety or depression. Stress management is a priority when it comes to dealing with mental health.
People deal with stress almost everyday. The differentiating factor of different types of psychological stress is how often it’s experienced by the individual.
Types of Stress
The National Institute of Mental Health defines two types of stress: acute and chronic. These two types require different levels of stress management.
In humans, acute stress is characterized by the immediate threat or danger that stimulates the fight or flight response. It’s one of the most common types of stress and is often short-term. Acute stress usually develops when a person thinks about the upcoming challenges or deals with the day-to-day troubles of daily life.
For example, a student may feel stressed about an upcoming exam or deadline. Once that event passes, that stress will not affect their life or mental health. Acute, short-term stressors usually have a straightforward solution. It does not cause the same damage that chronic stress does.
However, if a person is stressed about things repeatedly, then it can develop into a chronic stress condition which is harmful.
Chronic stress is defined by a persistent presence of a factor or factors that cause stress. An unpleasant living situation, chronic illness, and traumatic events can cause chronic stress.
Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to regulate its stress hormones which negatively affects other systems such as immune and cardiovascular.
Causes & Physical Symptoms of Stress
One of the biggest red-flags of stress is that it can start to feel normal. You can get used to feeling fatigued and overwhelmed and that can cause you to not seek treatment or help. Understanding the causes of stress and knowing how it manifests is vital to ensure that you can manage your stress without it burdening you.
There’s a distinction between a “stressor” and “stress”. A stressor is anything that causes stress – it can be a person, a place, a situation, etc. Stress is the physical and mental response to that stressor.
Different things affect different people. What may be a stressor for one person may not be for another. A combination of those can lead to either acute or chronic stress. A few, general stressors include:
-Loss of a loved one
-An upcoming deadline
-Anxiety about change (starting a new job, moving to a new city, etc.)
-Personal situations (illness, debt)
Generally speaking, the above are the commonly observed situations that cause stress in people across age groups and demographics. Knowing how to identify the signs of stress is the first step towards managing it.
A few physical and psychological symptoms of stress include:
-Elevated blood pressure
-Rapid heart rate
-Fatigue and exhaustion
-Changes in behaviour (social withdrawal, mood swings, loss of appetite)
The effects of stress can be long-lasting and painful. Mental stress alters brain chemistry and functioning – something that is very difficult to treat. There are treatments available after a diagnosis by a mental health professional. These treatments depend upon the kind of lifestyle one leads and the frequency of their stress.
There is no one way to beat stress. However, there are effective ways to manage it. In fact, natural medicine and therapies can really go a long way in enhancing the benefits of stress treatments.
Natural Remedies for Stress
Natural remedies are at the crossroads of modern technology and medicine. Traditional medicine helps address problems that can be seen whereas natural medicine aims to cure the underlying cause.
When it comes to mental stress, it makes sense that many people would look towards natural remedies and therapies to help them manage their stress responses. While someone with a diagnosed stress disorder wouldn’t give up their prescribed medications, adding naturopathic changes in one’s lifestyle can help manage stress or at least, ease the burden of being stressed.
Here are a few lifestyle and diet changes that you can incorporate in your daily life.
1. Exercise Regularly
Exercise is mostly a cure-all – it can benefit your mental and physical health. Regular exercise can have a lasting impact on your wellbeing; according to a study one workout session can alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety for hours.
2. Reduce Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a stimulant. In small, moderate doses caffeine can be very beneficial – it stimulates blood flow, and reduces cholesterol. But in larger doses, it can leave long-term negative effects on the body’s systems. Caffeine can increase the severity of symptoms as it elevates heart rate and blood pressure.
3. Practice Mindfulness
For many people, stress removes the ability for them to focus on the present. Mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and yoga can help in centring the mind and body. Since these exercises are relatively low-risk, people are often directed towards these when it comes to making lifestyle changes.
In terms of diet changes, there are quite a few options available. It’s important to note here that dietary recommendations are made after a full health evaluation – similar to the one at Swaantana. But, there’s no harm in having information.
1. Herbal Medicine
A popular herb for anxiety is chamomile. It’s mostly taken in a tea form – which for many people is a soothing exercise. Extracts of ginseng, lemon balm, and passionflower have been shown to be effective treatments for anxiety and depression. In Ayurvedic medicine, Brahmi is a well-known memory booster. This study also supports the use of Brahmi tonic as an anti-anxiety remedy.
In natural treatments, there’s no shortage of herbs that can be used. When it comes to herbal medicine though: you know your own body best. What works for others may not work for you.
2. Herbal Supplements
Herbal supplements are more commonly prescribed because they can work alongside conventional prescriptions. Low levels of B vitamins can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Vitamin B6 and B12 are most commonly prescribed by doctors along with other multivitamins.
Ginseng supplements are a popularity in recent times. This is because ginseng is known for its anti-stress properties. It stabilizes the nervous system and improves cognitive abilities for those who are exposed to high levels of stress everyday. Research also suggests that the use of ginseng as a secondary ingredient in treatments also works as an antidepressant.
Generally, natural remedies are safe to use alongside conventional medicine, though they can’t replace it. However, some remedies and supplements can have an effect on medications, so it’s best to consult a doctor beforehand. At Swaantana, you can book a consultation with an expert and get recommendations and advice that can help you manage your mental health.