Stress: the effects on the mind and body (and how you can come out on top)

Stress: the effects on the mind and body (and how you can come out on top)

Stress. It’s the worst. So I’m here today to suggest how you may be able to manage it and come out on top.

Hi there. For the past (nearly) year (well we are at August now) I have chronicled and shared my adventures and discoveries in my personal journey toward improving my physical and mental health and wellbeing. I hope that by me sharing my experiences that in some way the blogs have helped you. I hope that by me also being more personable, that you may feel more comfortable to come forward should you have any questions or seek advice. Over the next few months I’m looking to branch into a website, so I’m looking forward to sharing my blogs with you as well as offering you a more active platform on which to the interact.

Over the past (nearly) year I have also been sharing with you my health and life experiences as well as that with my loving and nurturing partner Lana. And over this time I have seen how different life challenges and the associated stresses have had an effect on her and I. In this week’s blog I would like to explore stress, how it effects the person, and what can be done to take control of the situation to alleviate stressors, and to help those of you out there who may also be suffering from stress.

So I guess the first thing to look at is stress. More specifically, what is it?

Without going into too much detail, I have observed those close to me, including friends and family and loved ones, experiencing stress. I am sure that there are many of you who have or are experiencing stress, so will not be too surprised by it. But lets break it down anyway.

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According to the Mental Health Foundation (2019), stress is: “our body’s response to pressures from a situation or life event. What contributes to stress can vary hugely from person to person and differs according to our social and economic circumstances, the environment we live in and our genetic makeup. Some common features of things that can make us feel stress include experiencing something new or unexpected, something that threatens your feeling of self, or feeling you have little control over a situation.” 

When we experience stress, the body releases stress hormones. These hormones include adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine.  When these stress hormones are released, our body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, to help us respond quickly to situations which our body perceives to be a threat.

The stress response has positive and negative effects. As a positive it will keep you safe and help to get you through a nerve inducing moment such as sitting an exam or making a speech to a large group of people.

As a negative, prolonged stress over an extended period of time can result in wear and tear of the body and may make us feel overwhelmed, unable to cope and exhausted. This prolonged exposure to stress will have a negative effect on our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

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The Mayo Clinic (2019) supports some of the views expressed by the Mental Health Foundation (2019), and further suggests that stress will have the following effects on you.

On your bodyOn your moodOn your behavior
HeadacheAnxietyOvereating or undereating
Muscle tension or painRestlessnessAngry outbursts
Chest painLack of motivation or focusDrug or alcohol misuse
FatigueFeeling overwhelmedTobacco use
Change in sex driveIrritability or angerSocial withdrawal
Stomach upsetSadness or depressionExercising less often
Sleep problems  

From Mayo Clinic (2019)

Stress can have debilitating effects on our mental and physical health and wellbeing, and could set us back on working to our wellness goals.

So how do we manage stress? 

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If you have stress symptoms, taking steps to manage your stress can have many health benefits. Explore stress management strategies, such as:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or massage
  • Keeping a sense of humour
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

Aim to find active ways to manage your stress. Inactive ways to manage stress — such as watching television, surfing the internet or playing video games — may seem relaxing, but they may increase your stress over the long term. And be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy, balanced diet. Avoid tobacco use, excess caffeine and alcohol, and the use of illegal substances.

In summary, prolonged stress has negative mental and physical effects on the person, and left unchecked or untreated may make us feel overwhelmed, unable to cope and exhausted. This prolonged exposure to stress will have a negative effect on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. Getting regular exercise, spending time with friends and family, getting quality rest and avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol, are ways to help us manage stress symptoms. Where you feel you are still overwhelmed and need further support, please see your GP. You are not alone. The support is there. 

I hope you have found the blog of some help. Remember: it’s a journey. It will take time. Have patience in the process. You will get there. Until then, stay happy, stay healthy, and have a lovely weekend wherever you are on the planet.

And remember: love yourself. 

References:

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019). Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Available: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987. Last accessed 15th August 2019.

Mental Health Foundation. (2019). Stress. Available: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress. Last accessed 15th August 2019.

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A bit about the author:

I am a guy who is (nearly) 40, who is sharing a journey of weight management and wellbeing.I am also a mental health professional with a wealth of years of experience in supporting individuals who have challenging mental illnesses and personality disorders.

Prior to my current professional role, I spent several years supporting members of the community as a fitness professional, assisting individuals with weight loss and health improvement programmes.

I completed a PGDip in Mental Health Nursing in 2013, and an MSc in Advanced Practice in 2016 in which I looked at improving nurses’ level of engagement with patients with challenging personality disorders.

In 2018 I successfully undertook a Clinical reasoning in Physical Assessments course with the view to start studying toward becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in late 2019.

In 2015 I also undertook a Mentorship for practice (BSc Hons) course and have been supporting future nurses with their training and development. I have also recently supported a Healthcare Assistant Staff toward training in and successfully passing and achieving a Foundation Degree in Mental Health Nursing.

In my current role I am a person looking to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the individual. As part of my role within the health services in supporting individuals with mental health care needs, I am also currently looking to develop myself as a Wellness Coach, to support the individual with weekly wellness blogs, with the view to support individuals on a 1:1 basis as well as holding motivational lectures and seminars.

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