Life confronts people with emotional experiences and stressors on all too regular basis. Every day we experience stress in all kinds of forms, from mundane arguments to meetings with much stronger irritants. Stress is practically an inevitable consequence of any conflict.
Let’s look at some statistical data, you can read more about it here.
- A Prudential Healthcare opinion poll have found that a third of the US population plans to take part in stress control programmes.
- Every month Google records over 150 000 stress related search queries (such as stress, relax, stress management, relaxation, stress relief, etc.).
- $400 mln are spent on audio and video materials about stress management annually, additional $300 mln — on anxiety pills.
- Amazon has over 200 000 stress reduction products (including books, cassettes, additives, audios, videos, homeopathic medicines, aromatherapy, massage and various tools).
- There are over 1000 Facebook pages about stress and stress management.
The term “stress” was coined in 1936 by the Canadian physiologist Hans Selye, who developed the concept of stress as an adaptive reaction of the body to extreme factors. The concept’s popularity rose because it explains a lot of everyday phenomena well. Selye’s classic definition of stress is the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change. Stress manifests itself as the body’s efforts to overcome difficulties and adapt to changes.
Functionally, stress is our navigator in the unpredictable world. It detects whether an experience was good, bad or dangerous and helps you be prepared for a response to similar situations in the future. It is true that not all kinds of stress are good for us and our body. The key to stress management is being able to withstand blows from the outside world as well as the ability to limit them.
Impact of stress
Stress can have both a positive and negative impact on your body. As a rule, short and moderate-intensity stress is good, however, long and intense stress has disastrous consequences. It has a negative impact on a lot of things, for example, physical and psychological health, socialization, goal achievement at work, romantic relationships, etc.
Got the ball rolling
Our goal is to stay here
BURN OUT – chronic fatigue
PICTURE CAPTION: Stress can be good. Our goal is to prevent intense stress
Stress and health
Stress and its consequences are directly proportional. The longer and more intense the stress, the worse its impact, primarily on health. Stress messes up your everyday life. The most vulnerable body systems suffer that blow as a result of the nervous overstrain. Stress affects physical health which most often manifests itself in the following symptoms:
- Shortened attention span, memory loss, increased fatigability, chronic sleep deprivation, and in some cases insomnia and migraines.
- Weakened immune system means frequent viral infections.
- Other symptoms include rapid heart rate, hypertension aggravation, and in rare cases serious heart disorders (such as myocardial infarction).
- The digestive system also suffers: gastritis and ulcer may aggravate or develop.
- A lot of hormones are produced in stressful situations. For the muscles it could mean muscle loss. Bone tissue absorbs less calcium and loses its mass, there is an increased risk of osteoporosis. Hormones also lead to skin thinning and as a result poor regeneration.
Stress and socialization
Stress itself doesn’t affect who you socialize with. However, physiological changes (as a consequence of stress) may affect your interaction with people. Mostly, it has to do with unwillingness to maintain relationships, which leads to:
- problems in the family,
- problems at work,
- narrowing of the circle of friends,
- being prone to conflict, anger attacks
- intensification of post-stress reactions
Stress provoking situations are called stressors. It is stressors that are the causes of stress in our life. We are used to equating stressors with problems like losing money or tragic situations. But positive situations are stressors too and can also cause stress.
You can read about the main stress causes in Russia (based on a GFK study) here.
Stress causes can be internal and external. External causes are events in the outside world (drastic life changes, conflicts at work, relationship and money problems, etc.) Internal causes lie in the mind and are mostly figments of our imagination (pessimism, unmet or unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, etc.) The distinction is made for the sake of convenience, the causes are interrelated.
Let’s look at the main stress causes:
- finances (major purchases or losses, debts, etc.)
- work (career difficulties, unemployment, etc.)
- health and safety
- family (difficult relationships with the family)
- interpersonal relationships (with colleagues, friends or even strangers)
- personal problems (loss of control over your own life, inability to express yourself)
- death (pets, relatives and even the anticipation of death)
Boss doesn’t compliment my work
What does everyone want from me?
Nothing is interesting besides work
What’s the point?
Nothing makes me happy
No one but idlers around
Vacation doesn’t help
I’m not keeping up
Colleagues are idiots
I don’t want anything
Clients get under my skin
I’m working my socks off
Tomorrow work again!
The intensity of stress depends on how you perceive particular stressors. If you think of failures as an experience, then stress will take the form of low-level anxiety. But if you take it to heart, stress may lead to serious health problems, even depression or altered state of consciousness. That is why stress causes are individual and different for every person.
Many modern devices and apps can be useful for stress-management (directly or indirectly). Gadgets and apps that collect data about your physiological state, track your sleep and do everything to identify stress that is present in your life can indirectly help you fight it. There are fewer apps and devices that deal specifically with stress management. They can be divided into several groups by their functionality.
There are a lot of apps that measure your stress level.
For example, Stress Check, a stress test developed by psychologists experienced in stress management. The app measures your current stress level. The user can then study the details. All results are given with helpful descriptions and useful recommendations.
There is a great variety of meditation and breathing apps for everyday anti-stress sessions.
For example, The Mindfulness App, an iOS meditation app. Meditation can reduce stress, lower blood pressure and strenghten the immune system. A study has found that 20 minutes of meditation every day can reduce stress and be good for your health.
There a lot of gadgets that track and measure your stress level based on the state of your body and the environment you are in.
EmWave helps you monitor your body and tells you what to do to control your emotions. The device has been developed by a doctor (with the help of scientists) with the aim of helping people beat stress.
Stress Relieving Wristband can provide natural relaxation without any medical treatment. It gently massages and stimulates pressure areas on your left wrist. It is akin to acupunture but without needles. The device sends electrical signals reducing stress and convincing the brain that everything is ok.
At the very least, there are plenty of desktop punching bags, voodoo dolls and stress balls that you can use to vent your anger.
If the situation is not too bad, you can beat stress yourself. Here are several life hacks that will help you avoid stress and quickly relieve it.
If you spend your working day at the computer, your neck and head muscles usually get tense. One of the ways to prevent stress is combing your hair for 10-15 minutes. Comb is a magical tool that helps you relax your muscles and stimulate blood flow.
Putting things in their places helps you organize your thoughts. Besides, seeing order around you naturally makes you organized too. Tidying up your room helps you take your mind off things and relax.
Perhaps the simplest way to relax and relieve stress is rubbing the palms of your hands together they are hot. If stress makes your neck, shoulder and back muscles tight, you can do simple relaxation exercises: rotate and bend your arms in different directions. A 30-minute run up and down the stairs will bring more oxygen to the parts of the brain that are responsible for emotional stress management. Or you can just wash your conflicts and stressors away by having a 15-minute shower. Streams of water should massage your head and shoulders.
Tasty food is another effective way to fight stress. Oily fish contains acids that are very good for the nervous system. If you are not particularly excited about fish, you can have ice cream or a banana. Those products are as good as antidepressants.
Psychologists have found that having a 2-3-minute colouring session when you are stressed out makes finishing your work in time 5 times more likely. This way you can not only beat stress but also create something beautiful.
Aromatherapy is also an ace up your sleeve. Smells are strongly linked to emotional memory, which is why it is good to have a fragrance at hand that will remind you of some happy and pleasant moments in your life. Smell it more often, it will help you stay in a good mood.
Make sure to dance at home, rhythmic movements to music help reduce stress well. Besides, dancing is percieved as an entertainment, as opposed to workout routines. And smile, of course.
About the study
We are living in a century of information technology and the world is not very friendly to us. Psychotherapists are becoming increasingly expensive and pharmaceutical companies’ money turnover speaks for itself, there is a problem. But let’s be honest, delegating responsibilities for your own health and wellbeing to pills and, essentially, random people, is probably not the best idea. Modern technology allows us to manage or significantly reduce stress.
Welltory research company analyses various aspects of your health and lifestyle in order to find correlations and work out personalized solutions to difficult problems, including, stress. You can significantly improve a person’s state of health by making slight, but individual changes in their lifestyle or environment. For some people lighting may make a difference, for others – pressure, for you it might be spending time outside.