A mega-guide for understanding stress and dealing with it

A mega-guide for understanding stress and dealing with it

Here are causes and symptoms of stress with various methods to naturally keep it away.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : September 25, 2014 4:30 PM IST

StressAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression, the common stress related disorder, is the leading cause of disability worldwide and the number one occupational disease that has emerged in the 21st century. 3 out of every 5 visitors to the doctor complain about stress related problems, with about 76% people suffering from sleeping disorders and 58% from frequent headaches.

Unfortunately, these statistics have arisen because stress is a condition that most people neglect or just learn to live with. For a better understanding about stress, here's a mega-guide that will help you identify, treat and prevent stress in your life.

Understanding stress:

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Stress usually refers to a state of mental tension and is associated with irritability, insecurity and anxiety as well as mental disorders like depression or insomnia and physical disorders like migraine, cardiovascular diseases and sexual problems. Although there is a link between stress and physiological health of people, many people can remain healthy in stressed conditions because the susceptibility varies from person to person. It is mainly dependent on genetic, environmental and psychological factors.

Identifying stress

Recognising stress is the first step to deal with it successfully. Here are 10 symptoms which indicate that you may be stressed.

1. Weight gain: High levels of stress hormones cause excess fat deposition irrespective of whether you're thin or fat. Also, a few people tend to overeat under stressful situations which cause the body to store more calories instead of burning them.

2. Increased muscle pain: Your body releases several hormones when you're stressed (fight-or-flight response). In chronic stress, these hormones may cause your muscles to tighten up.

3. Stomach ache: Butterflies or jitters in the stomach are classic symptoms of stress. People who are stressed are more likely to suffer from gastro-intestinal problems like constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or acidity.

4. Hair fall: With chronic stress, the levels of sex hormones (androgens) increase which can interfere with your hair follicles causing temporary hair fall.

5. Menstrual problems: Stress in women causes repression of hormonal control which may affect their regular menstrual cycle, ovulation and other reproductive functions.

6. Forgetfulness: Cortisol, a hormone released during chronic stress, can interfere with your brain's capacity to remember things, making you more forgetful.

7. Eye lid twitching: Eye lid twitching and stress are closely linked, although the exact connection is not established.

8. Acne: Chronic stress can lead to sudden breakouts on the skin due to increased levels of androgens.

9. Sleep disorders: If you're facing chronic stress, your brain speeds up the thinking process potentially interfering with sleep pattern.

10. Disturbed sex life: Stress hormones also interfere with the functioning of other hormones that control sex drive (libido) in humans. Here's a detailed explanation to how these 10 symptoms occur in stress.

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

Effects of stress on the body

Stress can affect your overall well-being to a great extent. From focus and concentration to physical health and appearance, prolonged stress affects almost everything normal functioning in your body.

1. Lowers immunity: According to a study published in Science Daily, prolonged stress affects the body's immune system and triggers additional health problems. A study on animals by scientists at Ohio State University showed that chronic stress changes the activation, or expression, of genes in immune cells.

2. Increases the risk of diabetes: A study led by S. V. Madhu of the University College of Medical Sciences, showed that chronic stress is a significant factor in the development of diabetes in Indians. The study suggests that high stress levels could cause insulin resistance and glucose intolerance.

3. Affects oral health: It's a fact: When you're stressed you tend to pay less attention to oral health by eating more sugary foods and grinding your teeth. Plus, stress also releases hormones that reduce saliva production, cause mouth ulcers and lead to painful jaw.Here are 7 reasons how stress can be bad for your teeth and gums.

4. Headache: Stress contributes to thunderclap headaches where patients experience sudden onset of headache and it only takes a few seconds to minutes to reach maximum intensity. Read more about how stress can give you a splitting headache

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Natural remedies for treating stress:

Stress can affect the functioning of immune system drastically, affecting the defense mechanism against infections. Here are a few natural remedies that can help you combat stress or deal with it in a healthy way.

  • Herbs: Herbs such as cardamom (elaichi), aswagandha, jatamansi, guduchi, brahmi, tulsi and shankhpushpi, lettuce, celery, peppermint, chamomile and fennel (saunf) have amazing relaxing properties. Make these a part of your diet by adding it to your tea.
  • Oil massage: According to Ayurveda, oil massage is an easy way of de-stressing the body as well as the mind. For even better relaxation, mix in a little powder of shankhpushpi or brahmi into the oil you use for the massage.
  • Cut down alcohol: Alcohol tends to increase feelings of anxiety and stress. Cut down on your intake of such beverages and you are sure to observe your stress levels becoming much more manageable.
  • Breathing: A lack of proper breathing technique reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the brain which is a major reason for increasing stress levels. Wherever you feel stressed you should breathe in slowly and deeply a few times. Feel your stomach and chest expand as you inhale, and fall as you exhale.

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