A Comprehensive Guide to Stress and its management

By Dr. Saloni Gupta in Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences

Nov 05 , 2022 | 3 min read

Stress is the physiological and psychological response to a challenging or threatening situation. It is a term that is very commonly used nowadays but plays a significant role in improving or decreasing the quality of life. Yes, you read it right, stress is not completely bad for you because there is something called good stress and bad stress. Keep reading to find out how to differentiate between the two and how you can kick down bad stress.

Do you know how your body responds to stress? Have you heard of this term called fight-flight response?

Fight-flight response

Whenever your body faces something challenging, adrenal glands release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that result in a fight-flight response, which results in increased heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure. This response prepares your body to face an adverse situation.

Are there types of stress?

Yes, the most recognised forms of stress include:

  1. Acute stress- refers to stress that lasts for a short period of time, like a few hours to a few weeks. Acute stress is characterised by its ability to be reduced with certain relaxation techniques. Acute stress can range from hitting the brakes and meeting deadlines to bereavement and natural disasters.

  2. Chronic stress- Refers to long-term stress caused by financial, familial, emotional, social problems and more. It is stress that continues for weeks or months without rest and can cause long-term effects on our health and well-being.

  3. Eustress- Good stress, also known as eustress, is the stress that makes you feel excited when you know the particular task is doable. It is temporary stress. For example, when you have been given a project that is a bit challenging, you know that you can crack it. It makes you more energised and focused on accomplishing the task. It is the kind of positive stress that can help with alertness, motivation, resilience, contentment, self-efficacy and flow.

What happens to the body under stress?

  • Stress activates the body’s flight or fight response.

  • The nervous system floods the body with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to manage the stressors or the situation. 

  • These hormones increase heart rate and alertness, sharpen senses and slow down blood flow to major organs and muscles to provide a burst of energy. These symptoms subside as stressors are eliminated. 

  • In the case of chronic stress, no rest is available despite the lack of stressors. This can have long-term implications.

What are some signs and symptoms of stress? 

Stress can cause a range of concerns:

  1. Fatigue and irritability

  2. Changes in eating and sleeping habits

  3. Skin concerns like eczema

  4. Gastrointestinal disturbances and discomfort

  5. Sexual dysfunction

  6. High blood pressure

  7. Muscle tension

  8. Mental health issues like depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and more

How can I manage my stress?

Some tried methods to help manage stress are:

  1. Exercising- Exercising releases endorphins, which are hormones that reduce stress, relieve pain and boost your mood

  2. Relaxation techniques- Techniques such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing can help centre our attention. 

  3. Spending time with loved ones, like your family, friends and pets

  4. Taking care of yourself is an active effort that includes taking care of your body, mind, and spirit and equipping yourself with skills that help you manage symptoms of stress.

  5. Accept that not everything is in your control and know when to let go.

  6. Say no to additional responsibilities.

Is there a way to include more eustress in our lives?

It is necessary to view things as a challenge rather than a threat. Considering this, practicing the following can help manage stress:

  1. Learning something new every day, no matter how big or small

  2. Exercising regularly

  3. Set realistic goals

  4. Get out of your comfort zone

  5. Learn to recognize signs of burnout

If stress remains after self-help techniques, then meet with a mental health professional like a psychologist or psychiatrist.