Why do we feel stress?
Stress is an automatic process developed in our early ancestry to ensure our survival.
Faced with danger, our body responds instantly, flooding itself with hormones that elevate the heart rate, increase blood pressure, increase breathing, tighten muscles, boost energy and prepare the body to deal with the threat. This is known as the fight/flight response.
In our modern world, we are not often faced with actual life threatening situations, nonetheless our body responds to modern stressors in the same way as our ancestors.
Most of us experience stress at some point in our lives. Some of us experience it more often than others, and some of us have trouble dealing with its effects and overcoming its hold.
Are you stressed? Find out the most common signs of stress.
The effects of stress
While stress can be a positive process such as when it motivates us to complete a task or meet a deadline, it often has a negative effect.
Stress can cause us to feel overloaded, overwhelmed and for want of a better word – stressed.
Occasional stress generally does not result in long term or chronic health problems, but experiencing stress over a prolonged period can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health.
It can lower your body’s ability to respond to illness by affecting the immune system, which can result in frequent colds and infections.
It can also result in cardiovascular disease, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes.
Ongoing stress can result in a person withdrawing from friends, family and others and lead to serious mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
Since prolonged stress can impact your health in so many ways, it’s important to develop positive coping mechanisms to manage the stress in your life.
Some activities that can help you manage your stress include physical exercise and relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
Eating a balanced diet, getting sufficient sleep, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake are also helpful ways of reducing the effect of stress on the body.
Identifying the cause of your stress is a helpful first step in being able to do something about changing the experience of stress.
If you feel like stress is getting the better of you, seek help from your doctor.
Your doctor can help determine the underlying cause of your stress and can help you to develop strategies to address the stress.
A doctor can also help you access a psychologist or other mental health professional who is trained to help you to learn how to manage stress effectively.
If you need help
Our community mental health services provides free or low-cost community-based mental health care.
If you need care in a hospital-setting, you access care through St John of God Health Care hospitals:
New South Wales