Everyone experiences stress sometimes and what triggers it varies from one person to the next. Though normal stress can help us muster our energies and skills to meet necessary challenges and deadlines. However, persistent or intense feelings of stress and anxiety can increase the risk of heart disease, clinical depression, and other serious medical conditions. People who chronically experience excessive and dysfunctional stress should seek help in order to address underlying triggers and develop skills to more effectively manage the symptoms.

What is Stress?

This condition is actually a brain response to a demand and all animals exhibit this response. During stressful times, hormones and nerve chemicals are released, preparing us for “fight or flight,” either facing a threat or fleeing from it. Muscles tense, the brain increases activity and utilizes more oxygen, breathing rate increases, and the pulse quickens. This response to stress has been necessary for human survival in conditions of true threat.  While the fight or flight reaction can be positive and even lifesaving, some people cope differently or recover more quickly. When we are chronically stressed, brain chemicals can suppress functions that are not required for immediate survival. Immunity is reduced and the excretory, digestive, and reproductive systems cease normal operation. If the response persists, problems may occur. Furthermore, chronic excessive stress can lead to a tendency to experience fight or flight responses unnecessarily, even when there is no threat, which can be disruptive and lead to further dysfunction.

What Causes Stress?

Change is a typical trigger and it can be positive or negative, minor or major, and real or perceived. Pressures at home, work, and elsewhere can lead to stressful responses. Experiencing a traumatic event such as a serious accident, assault, natural disaster, or war can also cause this reaction. Our bodies respond to these different triggers in similar ways but each of us may experience this response in a different manner. Some people experience panic attacks, or get headaches; others experience digestive issues, and some become depressed.

Getting Stress Relief

Addressing stress is important; Otherwise negative effects can build over time and can cause pathological anxiety, depression or other serious health problems. People who feel they cannot cope and those who have suicidal thoughts should consult with mental health providers. For many, a stress management approach that includes adequate sleep, regular exercise, a more balanced lifestyle and better time management skills can be beneficial.  Stress management literature is plentiful and features many natural and non-invasive ways to cope with daily pressures. Talking with a doctor will reveal other treatment options.  Furthermore, yoga, meditation, and tai chi calm the body and focus the mind, making it easier to deal with and diffuse stressful feelings.



  • Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center

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