Stress is a response to environmental pressures or demands ("stressors"), in particular when we feel they are a threat to our coping strategies or well-being. Stress is a normal response to situations where we perceive a threat or danger. When this happens, our built-in alarm system - the "fight-or-flight" response - becomes activated to protect us.
What causes stress?
Stress is a likely result of any situation in which:
- high pressures or demands are placed on us;
- we perceive the situation as being a threat to our well-being, or we don't feel we have enough resources to cope with the demands.
These situation can include negative events such as financial problems, relationship breakup, difficulties at work or school, injury, illness or bereavement. However, situations leading to stress can also include positive changes such as work promotion, getting married or buying a house.
What are the symptoms of stress?
The signs and symptoms of stress my be cognitive (thinking-related), emotional, physical or behavioural. Their severity can range from mild to severe.
Is it Normal to feel stress?
A certain amount of stress is a normal part of daily life. Small doses of stress help us, for example, to meet deadlines, to be prepared for presentations, to be productive and to arrive on time for important events.
Chronic stress, however, can become harmful. When stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged, the risks for psychological and medical problems increase.
Prolonged stress increases the risk of psychological problems such as anxiety and depression; sleep problems; pain, muscle tension or other bodily complaints; and substance use problems.
Prolonged stress also increases the risk of medical problems such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, immune system suppression, infertility problems, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and stroke.
In addition, psychological and medical problems can reinforce one another, increasing the effects of stress.
How can I reduce and manage stress?
Taking care of ourselves is important for reducing stress and psychological distress. Some good ways to reduce and manage stress include eating healthily, exercising regularly, trying to reduce negativity, prioritizing leisure time, limiting alcohol and caffeine, avoiding cigarettes and other drugs, and adopting proper sleep hygiene.
Other ways to help reduce and cope with stress include:
- prioritizing, organizing and delegating tasks;
- seeking support from family and friends;
- attending a support group or stress management program, consulting a healthcare professional, or accessing self-help materials.
Once we have a sense of emotional well-being, we feel stronger and are more able to bounce back from stress. We also feel that we can cope better with difficult life events.
Source: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
For more information visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health website at http://www.camh.net/ or call the Community Crisis Centre at (519) 973-4435.
DISCLAIMER: Information on this site is not to be used for diagnosis, treatment or referral services. HDGH, its healthcare team, CMHA and CAMH do not provide diagnostic, treatment or referral services through the Internet. Individuals should contact their personal physician, and/or their local addiction or mental health agency for further information.