Mental Stress

Mental Stress

The term stress is defined as a condition where an object or individual is under pressure. From a medical point of view, stress is related to a situation where the individual feels some sort of mental or emotional pressure. This pressure may be obvious to the individual. In most cases, in fact, individuals are often unaware that they are under stress. Stress usually produces a physical and emotional response in your body, which is how the body deals with the stressful situation. This is actually good for you as it works to stimulate your body into action. However, over time, this may prove to be harmful to the body as it will continuously be exposed to the stressful state this will eventually have an adverse effect on your health. When the body is under stress, the brain initiates the release of adrenaline and cortisol, both of which have the effect of bringing the body into a state of alertness. Under the influence of these substances, the body will be prepared for the situation that has arisen.


Symptoms of Stress


When we discuss stress symptoms, it is important to understand what type of stress one is talking about. When it comes to stress that is associated with a sudden onset of danger or pressure, the body will react in a particular way. When the body is under continuous stress, the reaction will be different.


For sudden stress, the symptoms include increased heart rate, increased respiration, sweating and generally an increased state of alertness. This is part of the human body’s self preservation mechanism. When the body is faced with a dangerous situation or with a situation that brings on stress, it reacts in such a way that the body ends up being more alert. This is the reaction that helps individuals react when they are confronted with dangerous situations. This type of stress may occur when one is in an emergency situation such as when one is required to execute an emergency maneuver while driving.


Long term stress is far more dangerous for the body and is known as ‘bad’ stress. This kind of stress occurs when an individual is in a situation that subjects him or her to emotional or mental pressure for a considerable period of time. There are many reasons why chronic stress might affect an individual. People who work in high pressure jobs are likely to suffer from chronic stress. Common examples of high pressure work environments include finance related jobs. It is possible that an individual may suffer from chronic stress even if the person is not involved in a high pressure job. Issues associated with an individual’s personal life or financial stability may make it likely that the individual will suffer from these issues. There are several personal situations that can cause stress, such as failure in a relationship, constant nagging at home or work and insufficient relaxation time between hours of work.


Long term stress may cause physical symptoms that include high blood pressure, headaches, digestive issues, general aches and pains and a loss of sex drive. There are many emotional symptoms that an individual will suffer from as well. These include agitation, depression, feelings of loneliness and irritability. An individual suffering from stress will also display some behavioral symptoms that are linked to the condition. These include appetite changes, procrastination, isolation from others and changes in sleep patterns. One’s thoughts are also not immune to stress. People suffering from stress tend to worry and think negatively. Furthermore, such people also tend to be forgetful and lacking in proper judgment. To add to this, such individuals are often faced with constantly racing thoughts which impairs their ability to concentrate effectively on the task at hand.


Causes of Stress


Stress is an extremely complicated condition that has many possible triggers, most of which an individual may not even be aware of. As explained above, stress causes behavioral, cognitive, physical and emotional changes to occur in the body of an individual. This means that there could be a huge number of possible triggers for stress. When it comes to the instinct of danger avoidance, stress may be caused by some physical injury or some event unfolding in front of the individual. Aside from this type of stress, one can categorize causes of stress as those factors in the life of an individual related to emotional and mental wellbeing.

Stress is therefore associated with any of the reactions that may take place. Setbacks suffered by an individual both in terms of work life and in terms of personal life may affect the individual such that he or she starts suffering from stress. Another important cause of stress is associated with the life goals of an individual. Most people set targets that they would like to reach, many of which are time based. Failure to achieve such targets is often a cause for stress as it leads to the individual doubting his or her own ability. This type of issue is often described as a silent cause for stress because it is something that weighs on the individual’s mind without actively being present in the day to day happenings of the person’s life.

Remedies for Stress


The first thing one needs to do is to accept that there is a problem that needs to be tackled. Stress can be tackled by reducing one’s triggers of stress. One must reduce excessively long work hours to get rid of stress. Stress release techniques can be used by the individual to get over stress. When one is on holiday, one must not think about work and about what needs to be done on returning from a holiday. Instead, time should be spent on relaxing activities. The use of massage techniques can be applied for people who suffer from stress. Massages provide mental and physical relief to the individual as they tend to boost blood circulation and slow down the heart rate. Massages are often coupled with aromatherapy sessions to provide a good release to the individual.


Any activity that brings about a sense of relaxation to the individual must be pursued. This could include activities like walking, jogging and exercising or non physical activities like reading books or any other thing that would relax the individual. Relaxation time is of great importance because it helps the individual focus more effectively when he or she returns to work.


In some cases, medication will be given to the individual to deal with stress. Medication must only be consumed under supervision of a doctor. This is done in cases where there is a chance that the individual’s health will be under threat from long term stress. Medication is an option that must be accompanied by the other remedies mentioned above as it can work more effectively if one takes steps to avoid stress as well.


Diet for Stress


There are some guidelines that need to be followed when it comes to the type of food an individual should consume when he or she is stressed. Generally speaking, a healthy diet is required for all people. Stressed individuals tend to be more prone to consuming junk food. Individuals suffering from stress also tend to consume food at odd hours, often skipping meals. This combination of irregular consumption and junk food consumption tends to be typical of those in high stress situations. Many people suffer from this condition which is known as ‘stress eating’. A replacement of unhealthy food with healthy alternatives will be good for the health of the individual.


Several studies have suggested that stimulants should be removed from the diet of an individual, especially when he or she is suffering from stress. Caffeine is a common stimulant present in various products that we tend to consume excessively when afflicted with stress. Salty foods should also be avoided as much as possible. Salt tends to raise the blood pressure which is further harmful to someone who is already under stress. Oily foods are, in any case, not good for the health of the individual. If a person has time constraints when it comes to meal times, then he or she should pack some healthy snack options such as whole grain sandwiches or salads. These can be both nutritious and healthy for the individual, thus providing balanced nutrition for the body.


Suggestion for Stress


Stress is a chronic condition that often goes undetected. People who are under stress must understand their situation so that they can do something about it. The diagnosis of stress is also quite vague in that there are no commonly agreed upon parameters for this condition. People also tend to respond differently to stress which is why each individual case is different. Individuals must therefore be aware of the various different symptoms that could be linked to stress. When any of these symptoms become apparent, the individual should visit his or her doctor for a checkup. It is far more prudent to do this than to avoid the symptoms and ignore the problem. Stress can be easily and effectively dealt with if it is identified. People who are free from stress tend to perform more efficiently. This is something that every person would like to be capable of. Therefore, effective stress management will lead to an improved quality of life.

How do you know when you’re stressed?

Are your shoulders tense?  Maybe you grind your teeth or twirl your hair.  Maybe you hold your breath.  Maybe you get a headache or bite your nails.

Me? I sit perched on the edge of my chair, staring at my computer, holding my breath and feeling like I don’t have enough time!  It’s not pretty.

But at least I recognize the signs now.  Because you have to recognize that you’re stressed to be able to deal with it!

Aside from making some major life changes, cutting back on caffeine and getting more exercise (which are all things to consider if you have regular stress), I like to have some quick-fixes up my sleeve.  And no, I’m not talking about a large glass of Pinot Noir.

Simple Home Remedies to Reduce Stress

  1.  Sip a chamomile infusion.  Chamomile is an essential part of your home remedy toolkit!  I suggest buying loose chamomile and making your own infusion.  This basically means, put 2 Tablespoons of dried, loose chamomile flowers in a teapot (or French press), fill with boiling water, steep for 5 minutes, then strain and drink.  You might also add some honey.  Chamomile is a super safe and versatile herb – it has been used for centuries for reducing stress, relaxation and soothing upset tummies.  If you know you’re going to have a stressful day – drink chamomile tea early and often.  Yes, you can just buy chamomile tea bags, but they’re a lot more expensive than brewing your own.
  2. Essential Oils to the rescue!  Lavender essential oil is the classic stress-reducer.  But I also love Clary Sage essential oil.  Clary Sage is relaxing and de-stressing, but also has a warming and uplifing effect on your emotions (which is helpful when you’re feeling frazzled!)  If you’re at home, put a few drops of one or both of the oils in an oil burner or diffuser.  On the move, you can put a drop of each oil on a handkerchief and smell it occasionally.  Or make my…
  3. Stress Relief Spray: in a portable spray bottle combine some rosewater (or distilled water), and a few drops of lavender and clary sage essential oils.  Shake to combine.  Mist your face or your general environment as needed, and enjoy the relaxing aroma…
  4. Take an aromatherapy bath.  Baths are relaxing enough, but for some extra stress-relief, I like to add a handful of epsom salts and 10 drops of essential oil to the running bath.  You can use the lavender/clary sage mix as above, but I also like adding some Rose essential oil or Ylang Ylang essential oil.  Just keep it to 10 drops total.  Soak for 20 minutes, then towel off and apply…
  5. Stress relief body oil!  For a super simple body oil, combine 1/2 cup sweet almond oil with 10 drops total of your favorite essential oils.  Try Geranium and Rose, or for a more masculine scent, add some Sandalwood or Vetiver.   Pour into a pretty bottle and use as a moisturizer after your bath or shower.
  6. Drink some water.  I know it’s not exciting, but when you’re feeling stressed make sure you’re hydrating yourself throughout the day.  Having enough water helps your body function at its peak, and also helps to flush out any toxins.  Drinking enough water also helps stabilize your mood and prevents the energy slump that comes from dehydration.
  7. Eat some green, leafy veg.  Greens are the most nutrient dense food, and we often don’t eat enough of them.  In times of stress, making sure you boost your intake of green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and  kale will ensure you body gets the nutrients it needs to handle the stress!