Today is National Stress Awareness Day which is held on the first Wednesday of every November. Today is an opportunity to recognize and reduce the stress factors in your life. I have published 2 posts about stress and how to deal– this is the first.
Stress: Chronic Or Acute?
Most people make the incorrect assumption that all stress is the same, when in fact, there is bad and good stress. This response is a primal reaction that ensured our survival in the past. But in today’s world, we don’t need this survival response as much, if ever. Instead, our responses have been influenced by events such as being late for work or experiencing social alienation.
While serious in their own right, these actions don’t warrant a massive release of stress hormones but are even worse when they become chronic. With that said, there are ways to determine if your stress is chronic or acute in nature because there are clear differences in their manifestations. Look for the following:
1. You Suffer From Insomnia
Short-term stress does not have a lasting effect on the body, even though adrenaline is one of the body’s stress hormones. Adrenaline is the hormone that kicks us into high gear, so that we may “fight or flee.” This makes us alert, increases our heart rate and breathing, and eliminates the desire for sleep.
When this turns chronic, however, adrenaline is released around the clock — impairing your ability to sleep. If you find yourself unable to sleep for several nights in a row, chronic stress may be at work.
2. Poor Concentration And Inability To Work Efficiently
Stress rewires the way the brain works to make it more emotionally responsive. Thus, there are decreases in the areas of the brain responsible for learning and memory and increases in brain areas that control emotional responses. Consequently, when someone assigns you a task at work, you may cry if you can’t meet the deadline, or lash out in anger because you feel overworked. This is not ideal and may be indicative of chronic stress.
3. Lack of Interest in Sex
Chronic stress suppresses testosterone levels and induces negative changes to blood vessels that impair blood flow. The result can be a loss of interest in sex. Even when the desire does arise, the inability to attain or maintain an erection. In women, it primarily manifests as suppressed libido. It can also affect fertility in both genders.
4. Inability to Feel Joy
The effects of chronic stress are far-reaching, and can also affect the levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. More specifically, it depletes their levels, which in turn hinders motivation and drive, and can cause depression due to reduced brain serotonin. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter than modulated mood and wellbeing, while dopamine keeps us driven. When both of these brain chemicals are reduced, the result is a general loss of purpose, and a “so what” attitude. This has far-reaching effects on the family of the affected as well.
5. Changes to Attitude and Temperament
Though the changes to attitude and mood that occur when under chronic stress may be attributed to sleep deprivation, cortisol itself is known to cause these changes as well. As mentioned, cortisol alters the areas of the brain that govern logical thinking and emphasizes emotional reactions. Individuals become increasingly likely to display outbursts of angry tantrums, or just act in a manner not conducive to fostering healthy relationships.
It is imperative that you get your responses under control as fast as humanly possible. Schedule a mini-vacation, take a few days off from work and just try to get some sleep. The signs of chronic stress taking hold occur gradually, and should easily be managed in the early stages. Don’t allow your acute response to stress to become a much worse beast- relaxation is key!
Loving Life — The Reboot!
This article provides general information and discussion about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this article, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. Consult your own physician for any medical issues that you may be having.