Stress: prevention is better than cure!

Stress is part of our daily lives and that is a good thing. A healthy dose of stress is even necessary to perform well in all kinds of areas. However, when stress becomes too high, it has a reverse effect on our performance and our sense of general well-being.

What is stress?

The word stress is used all the time. We often seem to compete with each other for the title of most stressed, and we are satisfied when others recognize the stress we are under.

The causes of stress have changed over time, our ancestors probably had little trouble with road rage! Research shows that although working conditions have improved considerably, we are working longer hours and are increasingly under pressure in our working and living environment. Modern society expects us to think faster, work harder and excel in everything we undertake. We have saddled ourselves with a modern disease called stress. When we perceive danger, we experience immediate psychological changes. Hormone and adrenaline levels rise, bringing more blood to the brain and increasing perception. During moments of everyday stress, our body responds in a similar way, but the alarm phase (which normally turns into fight or flight) continues. If not controlled, it can cause physical or mental disturbances.

Stress is very common. It fits our ‘fast’ society and even our daily lives. Stress really doesn’t always mean panic and worry. To function well and perform properly, there is always a certain amount of stress required. That tension does not have to be negative. After all, in this case it is associated with a good result. So stress is just part of it. A healthy dose of stress helps us perform better in our work, leisure and sports. Without stress life would be very boring! As soon as the tension becomes unpleasant, when the demands exceed our capabilities, we experience stress, which can be very detrimental to health.

Symptoms of stress

The symptoms of stress can vary greatly depending on the person experiencing it and what triggers it. Typically, stress manifests itself as pain of some kind. That pain brings us a message, namely that something has to change. When we are stressed, a very simple problem suddenly seems insurmountable and we feel discouraged by even the smallest task. Some are constantly tired, others suffer imaginary pains, and still others throw fits of rage . You don’t have to be a doctor to diagnose stress. The treatment also does not require any special skills. If we can discover the real causes, we can ultimately heal ourselves if we don’t view stress as a “normal” part of our ordinary lives or as a means to gain sympathy.

When we feel stressed, that state is usually manifested by certain physical and mental symptoms that we cannot fully explain. These are normal warning lights that indicate that we need to redefine our priorities. Our body or state of mind tells us that something in our life needs to change. Here you will find some tell-tale signs.

  • Loneliness. We feel isolated from friends and family or always feel ‘lonely in the crowd’.
  • Insecurity. We suddenly feel shy or threatened around people we would otherwise feel comfortable with. Or we always feel judged or criticized.
  • Concentration and memory loss. We have a hard time remembering recent conversations or promises. We often feel confused, making it very difficult to understand and retain information.
  • Don’t answer the phone. We are not interested in others and dismiss their concerns.
  • Fatigue and sleep disorders. Although we are constantly tired, we cannot sleep. Vienna and changing moods. One of the most common symptoms is that we cry easily. Our mood also changes easily — sometimes cheerful, sometimes depressed.
  • Impatience and irritability. Little things make us suddenly lose our self-control. Or we attack people before it is really clear whether they accuse us of something.
  • Restlessness. We cannot sit still for a moment and nervously twist our hands or fingers or play with the rings on them.
  • Work obsession. Escaping from work can be a symptom of stress, but stress can also be manifested in absenteeism.
  • Compulsions. We cannot stop eating, drinking, smoking or buying clothes. At the same time, our habits become rigid and we find it difficult to do anything new.
  • Decreased appetite. We are no longer interested in food. We don’t eat anything at all or snack excessively. Or we eat whatever is in the pantry or refrigerator.
  • Fear of silence. Silence feels uncomfortable, so we keep talking in company or leave the radio or television on when we are alone. Conversely, we cannot tolerate noise.

What happens in our body when overloaded?

When we cannot creatively use the energy released by reactions to all kinds of internal and external signals, this energy is stored in the body. There it is converted into stress hormones .

Immediate symptoms include tension headaches and digestive disorders. If the overload continues for longer, complaints will occur: neck problems, back problems, stomach ulcers, concentration problems, memory loss, heart problems, blood pressure disorders, a tight feeling in the heart area, cholesterol increase, sexual dysfunction, inflammation, weakened immune system and therefore an increased risk of serious diseases, a cold. or a flu that won’t heal, pancreatic disorders (too high or too low a sugar level), disturbed metabolism (including weight problems), sleep disorders, depression, all kinds of negative emotions.

The physiology of stress

Three phases can be distinguished in the tension/stress response: the alarm phase, the resistance phase and the recovery phase or exhaustion phase.

In the alarm phase , physical changes occur that enable the body to respond optimally to the stressful situation, to fight or flee. The biological process consists of the release of adrenaline by the adrenal glands, an increase in glucose levels in the blood, accelerating heart rate and breathing, contraction of the muscles, blood pressure increases, digestion stops, etc. The entire body is prepared for action.

During the resistance phase , regulatory response mechanisms prepare to restore balance. The body defends itself by releasing cortisol and other corticoids. Energy is produced to cope with the stress. If these hormonal changes necessary to cope with a prolonged resistance phase continue, the risk of disease also increases.

This is followed by rest: the recovery phase . If this does not happen, such as with regular or long-term stress reactions , the body does not have sufficient opportunity to relax and regenerate. The body continues to run at an increased speed, as it were. If the body is not given enough time to recover, the

exhaustion phase will eventually occur and all kinds of physical, mental and psychological complaints can occur. The body’s resistance capacity is exhausted.

Less stress: How do you do that?

The first step to combating stress is to accept that it is a result of our lifestyle or beliefs, not a sign of failure or inadequacy. More and more often we are required to be good at everything, not only at work and at home, but also in the garden, when organizing holidays and even while resting. We start to demand so much from ourselves that the activities that should give us relaxation themselves cause stress.

We often hear people say that they perform better ‘under pressure’. When we look at the adrenaline level, this seems to be confirmed. The gently increased pressure increases adrenaline levels and improves performance. However, when adrenaline production reaches a certain level, the performance curve begins to decline steeply, eventually collapsing. If we push ourselves within our limits, we may be successful. When we push ourselves to the limit, we are bound to experience stress. Finally, we must accept that stress may be a part of our lives, but it is not an essential feature of it. If we get to know our needs and capabilities, we can manage stress. Nothing forces the stress on us. We can all keep that modern tormentor at bay.

Suffering from too much stress? You better do something about that. Learn to relax and manage your stress. Then you can enjoy life more and also do something for your health. Because too much stress is unhealthy. Stress places a high burden on the body. But stress also leads to other unhealthy habits, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol and not enough exercise. Reducing stress is therefore good for your health. Reducing stress does not happen overnight. Try some of the following advice. You will soon notice which one suits you best. But, as with most things in life, practice makes perfect! Be patient and work towards a more relaxed life step by step.

  • Make a list of all the things that cause stress. For example, do traffic jams, your demanding boss or household chores stress you out? Recognizing these causes of stress is a very important first step.
  • Try to come up with a solution for common stressful situations. For example, avoid traffic jams by leaving home at a different time or by traveling by public transport. Have a conversation with your boss. Find good help at home.
  • Are you in a situation that causes stress? Then pay close attention to your breathing. Take a deep breath into your stomach and exhale slowly.
  • How much exercise do you get? Sports and exercise are very relaxing. Try to walk, cycle or jog every day at a leisurely pace. Exercise, preferably outdoors, gives you new energy and helps you get a good night’s sleep.
  • Take time for your social contacts. For example, you can exercise or go for a walk with your friends. Talk about your feelings of stress. After all, shared sorrow is half sorrow.
  • Make time to relax, even if it’s just ten minutes. Try to get up a little earlier for a leisurely breakfast. Plan some time in the evening for a nice hot bath or a quiet read on the couch. In any case, make time for a lunch break during work. Feel free to take a day off for yourself to rest and relax.
  • Try yoga or stretching classes.
  • Do breathing exercises regularly. A physiotherapist or yoga teacher can teach you some exercises.
  • Do one thing at a time. Make a list of the things that need to be done, with the most important ones first. Complete the items on the list one by one.
  • Eat healthy. Take your time with each meal.
  • Eat less sugar, eat less refined products, eat less heavy, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid too many sweets.
  • Drink at least 1 liter of water per day (preferably more) and drink less coffee, tea and cola.
  • Many people use alcohol and smoking as a way to relax. However, this is a short-term solution, with negative consequences for your health. Don’t drink too much and try to quit smoking.

See if you can reduce stress step by step. Seek professional help if you are unable to change your situation yourself. Contact your doctor to find a permanent solution. Remember that working on stress is definitely worth it. Your life becomes more relaxed. You can manage problems better and therefore enjoy yourself more.