How To Recognise Chronic Stress And Manage It

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The busy and chaotic world we live in today can bring with it a lot of worries, stress and workload. Most of us are struggling to excel in our professional life, while still pleasing others and keeping up with their expectations; all the expectations can bring plenty of stress itself. That’s why it’s important to be wary and recognize when chronic stress is taking over your life, as it can be very toxic for your body and mental health. Scroll down to read more about this phenomenon, ways to break out from it and insights from our resident therapist, Shahrukh Malik:

What Is Chronic Stress?

According to Shahrukh, chronic stress can be defined as a state of prolonged stress. This means that the body and nervous system are in a constant state of arousal for a long period of time. ‘Due to the pervasive nature of chronic stress, this can usually feel like a “normal state” for people who experience it. That being said, it can still be really challenging to live with’, says Shahrukh. 

The therapist tells us how chronic stress can manifest in the body in several ways. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: headaches, digestive problems, irritability, lower energy, fatigue, intrusive thoughts, elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and disrupted sleep. ‘If not dealt with properly, chronic stress can begin to manifest itself in the mind and body in different ways. These include, but are not limited to: anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, heart problems and skin issues’, says Shahrukh.

Causes Of Chronic Stress

Our resident therapist also adds that stress is generally caused by specific triggers or stressors – these could be emotional, work-related, relationships or environmental. ‘Many students experience stress related to studies, especially around the tests or examinations. Others might experience it in the context of one’s work environment – perhaps meeting deadlines. Even a fight with a loved one can be considered to be a stressful event. Each person will have a different stressor, and will deal with stress differently’, says Shahrukh.

Breaking Out From Chronic Stress

According to our resident therapist, during stress, our body’s nervous system and our body’s fight or flight response is active. It is important to make sure that in times of stress, one engages in stress-management techniques: 

  • Exercise: Exercising can be a good way of releasing some of that built up energy that’s been stored in the body. 
  • Body relaxation techniques: This can be in the form of breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, body scans and progressive muscle relaxation. 
  • Creative outlet: Whether it’s in the form of writing, art or cooking, finding ways to express yourself and mindfully engage in another activity. 
  • Practice self-compassion: Stressful events can bring about some challenging emotions. It’s important to be kind to yourself during this time. 
  • Shift your focus: Focus on the things you can control, and park away the things that you cannot.
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