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Stress – causes, symptoms, complications and management

Could you be suffering from stress? Here is everything you need to know about stress.

Written by Pavitra Sampath |Updated : September 25, 2014 4:28 PM IST

Stress -- causes, symptoms, complications and managementEver had that feeling that things were just too much to handle? That sense of never being relaxed, feeling anxious all the time and extremely fatigued? Well, it's quite likely you are suffering from stress.

Stress is a normal physical reaction to situations or stimulus that make you feel threatened, upset or out of balance in any way. When you experience something that makes you feel threatened or upset in anyway, your body switches to the 'fight or flight' response stage also known as your body's stress response.

This reaction is not all bad, as this response was made to protect you. But, beyond a particular point of time, stress stops becoming helpful and starts affecting your health, productivity, moods and relationships. According to DrGorav Gupta, Psychiatrist, Tulasi Healthcare (Rehabilitation Centre), 'In the fast-paced lives everyone leads these days, we're either running for work, success, money, or we're trying to build a relationship and all this brings on a lot of worries and stress. This pressure causes a lot of stress and most people don't even get the time to simply revive themselves and relax which in turn piles on even more stress.' But it is a condition that's treatable. Here is all you need to know about the condition and what you can do about it.

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Why is it bad for you?

When you stress out or your body goes into flight or fight mode, it releases a host of chemicals including adrenaline. This hormone and neurotransmitter basically makes your body ready for an adverse situation. It increases your heart rate and breathing (making it shallower), contacts your muscles, constricts blood vessels and slows down other processes that it deems unnecessary for survival. What this does in effect, is that it puts your body in overdrive. While this state is okay for a short period of time, prolonged phases can cause serious damage to your entire body. Not to mention the effect it has on your brain and the way it functions. In duress the mind only looks at survival, reducing its ability to think and cognate optimally making you less productive and unable to focus on a task.

How do you know that you are stressed?

According to Dr Gorav, 'Stress can manifest in mainly two forms physical and psychological. Psychological symptoms include anxiety, depression, aggressiveness, restlessness, panic attack, mood swings, etc. Sometimes due to extreme stress people tend to become increasingly silent, or can react in a manner opposite to his/her normal behaviour. Physically the symptoms seen affect various parts of our body. For instance when stress affects the nervous system, a person would experience constant headaches, in the gastrointestinal system the person might experience reduced appetite, stomach upset or pain, and in case of the respiratory system one may experience difficulty breathing. Stress also affects the heart and can lead to a rise or a sudden fall in BP and possibly a heart attacks. It can affects one's sexual life as well. Other physical problems one can face is body ache and muscle aches as well'

Apart from these symptoms there are many more symptoms that affect every system in the body. According to the American Institute of Stress, a person may experience symptoms like frequent headaches, bouts of jaw clenching, tremors, trembling of lips, etc. Read more about the 10 most common symptoms of stress

What are the causes of stress?

Everyone is different and tend to react differently to situations, but broadly, stress can be caused due to problems at the workplace, problems at home or even sudden changes in life. Bereavement or the death of a loved one is also one of the most leading causes of stress. While the stimulus for the onset of stress could be different for all, the extent and severity of the condition depends on your innate strength to bear a problem. Therefore the stronger a person (mentally) the less likely he/she is to suffer from it.

What are its complications, if left untreated?

According to Dr Gorav, 'Ignoring it and living without dealing with the condition can leave you with many physical and psychological conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, PCOD, menstrual disturbance, headache, eating disorder, weight Loss and even IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).' Apart from that it can also lead to the development of obesity, heart disease and hypertension.

Now that you know you are stressed, here is how you can deal with it.

Dr Gorav says, 'The best way to fight stress is to find and resolve the reason behind it. Running away from the problem will never provide any solution. If you feel that the problem is a long term one and will take considerable time to resolve, you should try to reduce the amount of stress you feel on a daily basis. Adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes healthy eating, regular workouts, yoga and deep breathing can help you stay relaxed and stress free. Apart this you should also eat on time and get enough sleep. Most importantly remember that all of this must be done regularly.' You can try these yoga asanas to help relieve stress.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of stress.

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