Stress

Summary

Stress is actually a reaction of the organism (physical and mental) to an extreme or important effort, not exactly a disease. It can be beneficial in certain circumstances, such as escapes, fights, dangerous situations, tests, among others. But it becomes harmful to health when the body is continuously exposed to stimuli that cause stress (stressors).

Each person has a different tolerance, resistance and vulnerability to stress. These differences, added to genetic predispositions, cause people to develop symptoms for different causes, at different times and for different causes.

Hormonal changes caused by stress trigger symptoms and illnesses. Usually the first signs of stress are: distraction problems, decreased performance, memory failure, tiredness, weight gain or loss, headache , muscle aches.

Prolonged stress decreases the response of our body’s defense mechanisms, increasing the risk of diseases, especially heart problems and infectious diseases (flu, herpes , etc). Other diseases may also be related to stress, such as diabetes , high cholesterol , hypertension , etc.

Symptoms that commonly arise are: ulcers, nausea, irritability, constant grinding of teeth, skin and nail problems, hair loss , insomnia , delays in menstruation, sexual problems, among others.

The diagnosis of a person who is suffering from stress can be made by a health professional, such as a doctor or psychologist, through observation of the patient and investigation of the patient’s emotional state.

The best treatment is lifestyle change, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing physical exercise, maintaining regular sleep, among others. Try to find the causes of your stress and remedy them.

Nowadays, there are many stressors and not always eliminated, learning how to reduce them is fundamental.

Some options that help in changing your lifestyle: Yoga, acupuncture, meditation, relaxation, vacations (one of the best treatments!), the technique of letting everything happen naturally. Psychotherapy (with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist) can help the patient to better understand stress and, above all, to better manage it.

Drug treatments are also possible, but should be avoided and used in more serious cases, medical monitoring is essential.

An alternative treatment is medicinal plants , such as passiflora, passion fruit, cava-cava, chamomile, among others.

There are some activities that help relieve tension and are indicated, such as physical exercise, hot bath, sleeping well, laughing, maintaining a healthy diet rich in magnesium.

Definition

Stress is a reaction of the organism (physical and mental) to an extreme or important effort. In general, stress activates hormonal and nervous processes based on an alert state, which explains the increase in heart rate and alertness.

Stimuli that trigger a stress reaction in the body are called stressors.

Sometimes stress can be beneficial (like when preparing for a test or as a reaction to a dangerous situation,…) but it can also unfortunately lead to an unfavorable situation (bad stress), which can trigger ulcers or even various psychological problems ( fatigue, sleep disorders, depression).

Stress becomes harmful when the body is continuously exposed to stressors, preventing relaxation after tension.

Information for specialists: Stress is based, among others, on the activation of the hypothalamus pituitary hormone system (with the secretion of adrenocorticotrophic hormone), which activates the adrenal gland, triggering a secretion of glucocorticoid hormones, such as cortisol (formed from the ACTH). Cortisol increases protein breakdown in muscle, bone, and lymphatic tissues and inhibits protein synthesis. Which causes the level of amino acids in the blood to increase, which are used by the liver to produce glucose, increasing the blood sugar level.

The sympathetic system (which allows the body to be awake and responsive to stress), with the well-known hormone adrenaline, is also strongly linked in the development of stress.

Causes

Stimuli that trigger a stress reaction in the body are called stressors.

Each person has different resistance and vulnerability to stress. The presence of genetic, preexisting or acquired factors, together with the individual’s resistance and exposure to stressors determine the emergence of physical and psychological illnesses. The greater the predisposition of the individual, the lower the tolerated level of stress before the onset of any disease.

Here are some of the most common causes of stress:

– Sudden change in lifestyle or routine

– A passing nervousness;

– Work and its problems in general: overload, exhaustion, mobbing, tests, tension…;

– Relationship problems (sentimental problems,…);

– An emotional shock (death, …);

– Lack of time to perform a task;

– Lack of rest (lack of holidays and weekends,…);

– Social problems (isolation, loneliness, debts, financial problems,…);

– Sleep problems (creation of a vicious circle, as this can be both the cause and the consequence of stress);

– Mental illnesses such as depression , anxiety , anxiety attacks, etc;

– Chronic diseases, such as: Lupus , diabetes , hypertension , cholesterol , certain types of cancer , among others;

– Dependence on or excessive consumption of certain products such as coffee , alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc.

– The development of diabetes occurs especially in women who are stressed at work, according to a study published in Canada in August 2012. Stress at work seems to promote diabetes through two phenomena: disruption of the neuroendocrine and immune systems leading to increased production of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, changes in eating behavior and energy expenditure, perhaps as compensation.

Symptoms

Stress symptoms can be very varied, each person can develop a different symptom and with different types and intensities of stressors.

Over time, stress can lead to an increase in infectious diseases due to the chronic secretion of corticoids and somatotropins. It also decreases the response of defense mechanisms in our body, facilitating the emergence of diseases, mainly cardiovascular.

– Problems with distraction, decreased performance, memory failure, tiredness, weight gain or loss, headache , muscle aches; are usually the first symptoms;

– Digestive problems: ulcers, nausea and vomiting;

– Irritability (the person gets irritated easily);

– Bruxism (grinding teeth while sleeping);

– Heart problems (accelerated heart rate), increased blood pressure ( hypertension ), high cholesterol , diabetes ;

– Several sleep problems ( insomnia );

– Psychic disorders: nervousness, excessive and unusual anger, anxiety attacks, excessive fears (phobias), depression , anxiety ;

– Disorders of menstruation, in women;

– Appearance of dandruff (especially in men);

–  Hair loss (may occur up to 3 months after a stressful episode);

– Concentration problems (eg at school);

– Development or reappearance of infectious diseases such as cold sores , genital herpes , sore throats , colds,…;

– Bad breath (due to dehydration of the mouth caused by stress).

– Problems in pregnancy: in early pregnancy stress increases the risk of miscarriage, already at the end of pregnancy increases the rate of premature births. Male fetuses are more influenced, one of the explanations is based on the size of fetuses, as male fetuses are larger and require more effort from the mother.

– Sexual problems: erectile disorders , loss of desire (libido problem), problems with sterility treatment.

– Skin problems due to increased oiliness caused by the “stress hormone”, cortisol. Stress can make recovery from skin injuries worse, in addition to being a trigger for many diseases that affect the skin, such as psoriasis and seborrheic dermatitis.

– Behavior problems such as; scratching the skin, pulling hair, or rubbing body parts.

– Nails can show different signs of stress. Some people bite their nails, others rub their fingers over their thumbnail (which can create a groove across the entire nail), and others have brittle or peeling nails.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a person who is suffering from stress can be made by a health professional, such as a doctor or psychologist, through observation of the patient and investigation of the patient’s emotional state.

The problem is that many patients only discover that they suffer from stress after manifesting some illnesses, such as: heart attack, depression, heart problems, insomnia, gastritis, migraines, among others.

It’s not just intense stress that affects us, moderate and ongoing stress can also cause health problems.

Treatment

Before starting drug therapy, it is preferable to look for the cause that is causing stress. Try to understand the situations that put you in a stressful state and try to remedy them (eg reducing work overload, talking in case of psychological problems). In the environment we live in today, everyone is exposed to stress, so learning how to reduce it is essential.

Therefore, the best treatment is lifestyle change, maintaining a healthy diet, practicing physical exercise, maintaining regular sleep, among others.

Some options that help in changing your lifestyle: Yoga, acupuncture, meditation, relaxation, vacations (one of the best treatments!), the technique of letting everything happen naturally.

Psychotherapy (with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist) can help the patient to better understand stress and, above all, to better manage it. Coaching techniques can also be very beneficial.

However, there are remedies against stress, which can help in curing this. Are they:

A. Tranquilizers
These are mainly natural herbal treatments (eg valerian ).

There are medications used as a tranquilizer, such as: clonazepam , antidepressants, anticonvulsants (diazepam). These should only be used in more serious cases and always with medical prescription and follow-up. B. Stimulants, food supplements or restoratives These medicines are mainly used in situations such as exams, tests or overwork. They are vitamins, minerals: mainly magnesium (photo), omega-3s or even amino acids. In addition, there are specific treatments for illnesses resulting from stress.

Herbal medicine

The following medicinal plants have been shown to be effective in treating stress and nervousness:

– valerian , presented in the form of capsules, tablets, infusion or tincture (drops).

– passionflower ( passion fruit ), in infusion, bath solution or capsules.

– lavender (lavender), in infusion, bath products or capsules.

– hawthorn ( crataegus ), in drops or capsules.

– hops , in infusion or capsules.

– lemon balm ( melissa ), in infusion or capsules.

– kava ( kawa-kawa ), in capsules.

– black tea (according to studies from 2007, it acts on the regulation of stress in a positive way), available, as the name implies, in tea form.

– linden , presented in the form of linden infusion or in capsules.

– ashwagandha, an Indian plant to fight stress and anxiety, used mainly in pill or capsule form.

Other medicinal plants or natural products can also be used against stress, such as butterbur (Petasites hybridus) or cod liver oil extract.

Tips

– Practice sports! It is an excellent way to relieve stress and nervousness. A 2018 study in mice showed that running helps the brain fight the negative effects of chronic and prolonged stress. Exercise also helps protect memory and improve learning. This study, conducted by scientists at Brigham Young University (BYU), Utah, USA, was published on February 9, 2018 in the scientific journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory   (DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.01.008).

– Take preparations based on magnesium (for an adult about 400mg per day). This mineral can play a very important role (especially in case of magnesium deficiency) in the development of stress.

– Seek to understand the causes of stress and remedy them. You can, for example, make a self-criticism (self-analysis) every night of the stressful situations experienced during the day in order to prevent it from reproducing.

– Talk about your problems when you are having difficulties (sentimental, professional, financial, etc.), in fact, the conversation is very liberating to relieve stress.

Conversation is more liberating for men than for women. In fact, according to a June 2007 study by Swiss researchers from Zurich, talking would not be as liberating for women, but a massage would have a very positive effect. After a massage in stressed women, researchers observed a lower amount of the stress hormone, cortisol. So, women, let your partners massage you, and men, talk about your problems!

– Set aside time to rest, relax and think about other things: walks, vacations, fun,…

– Relax through calming techniques: yoga, meditation, etc.

– Take a hot bath (baths have a proven relaxing effect). Add, for example, essential oils or lavender-based liquid solutions.

– Reduce the consumption of exciting or psychotropic substances such as tobacco, coffee or alcohol.

– Adopt a good quality of life: sports (get moving), healthy eating (with fruits, vegetables and omega-3 ) and get enough sleep.

– Take a nap (even if it’s short), if possible at midday, to relax and regain strength.

– Laugh! For example, in groups or watching comedies. In fact, laughter has a positive effect on stress. This phenomenon has been proven by clinical studies (action on cortisol and adrenaline: two key hormones in the stress mechanism).

Sources and references:
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.01.008).

 

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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