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How to Cope with Traumatic Stress & PTSD

Stress & Irritability

Irritability is a feeling of agitation that is likely to conjure frustration and easy upsets. Causes of stress and irritability include anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, low blood sugar, respiratory disorders, menopause, premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome, drug use, alcoholism, nicotine withdrawal, and caffeine withdrawal. Feelings that may accompany stress and irritability include sweating, racing heart, fast breathing, confusion, and anger.

Symptoms of Stress

In today’s fast-paced world, where juggling work, family, and personal responsibilities often seem like a high-stakes balancing act, stress has become an inevitable companion for many. Whether it’s the looming deadline at work, unexpected challenges in personal relationships, or the constant barrage of news and notifications, there’s no escaping the fact that stressors are everywhere in our daily life.

However, recognizing the symptoms of stress isn’t always straightforward. Many people mistakenly attribute their feelings of fatigue, irritability, or sadness to other factors, overlooking the fact that they might be experiencing the tangible effects of chronic or acute stress. Understanding these symptoms is crucial, not just for one’s immediate well-being, but for long-term mental health as well.

Imagine trying to solve a puzzle without knowing what the complete picture looks like. Recognizing the symptoms of stress is much like having a reference picture for that puzzle, making it easier to put the pieces together and find a solution. Continue reading as we delve into the intricate details of how stress manifests physically, psychologically, and behaviorally, offering you a comprehensive guide to navigate these challenging waters.

Recognizing the Symptoms of Stress

Physical Symptoms

The human body is a complex machine, intricately designed to respond to external stressors. One of the most immediate reactions is the physical manifestation of stress:

  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure: It’s common to feel your heart racing during moments of acute stress. This is a direct outcome of the sympathetic nervous system getting activated, preparing the body for a ‘fight or flight response’. Sustained stress can lead to prolonged elevation, increasing heart disease risks.
  • Muscle tension, chest pain, weight gain: You might find your shoulders tensed or experience occasional chest pains when under stress. While occasional muscle tension is normal, chronic muscle stiffness can lead to other complications. Additionally, stress can result in overeating, leading to weight gain.
  • Role of the adrenal glands and the stress hormone: Our adrenal glands produce cortisol, often termed the “stress hormone”. In balanced amounts, it aids our daily functions. However, excessive chronic stress can lead to an overproduction, impacting our immune system and causing fatigue.
  • Impact on the immune system: Chronic stress weakens our immune system, making us more susceptible to infections and prolonged recovery times.
  • Chronic vs. Acute stress: It’s essential to differentiate between these two. While acute stress is a direct response to an immediate threat, chronic stress is long-term, arising from persistent stressful situations in daily life.

Psychological and Emotional Indicators

While physical symptoms are tangible, psychological indicators might be subtle, but have lasting impacts on our mental health:

  • Anxiety and its risk factors: Feelings of restlessness, constant worry, and being on edge might indicate an underlying anxiety disorder. Stress is often a significant contributor to these feelings.
  • Depressive symptoms: Long-term exposure to stressful situations without relief might lead to feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and even clinical depression.
  • Traumatic events leading to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Experiencing a traumatic event can lead to PTSD, where the individual constantly relives the trauma.
  • Work-related stress: This involves constant deadlines, demanding bosses, or workplace conflicts. This type of stress, if not addressed, can impact job performance and personal relationships.
  • Ripple effect on close family members: Your stress isn’t yours alone. Often, family members can sense, and subsequently, absorb this stress, leading to a cycle of anxiety and tension within the household.

Behavioral Symptoms and Secondary Health Conditions

How we act or react often becomes the most evident sign of underlying stress:

  • Avoidance behavior: One might start avoiding places, people, or situations that remind them of a stressful event or situation.
  • Link between stress and conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Chronic stress has been found to exacerbate symptoms of IBS, including abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.
  • Potential of stressful events leading to anxiety or depression: Continued exposure without relief can lead to severe mental health conditions.

Recognizing these symptoms early and understanding their source is the first step towards effective management and healing. Next we will explore some methods to address these symptoms and achieve a balanced mental state.

General Stress Alleviation Techniques

Here are some universally acknowledged methods to mitigate the symptoms of stress:

  • Healthy diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Nutrition plays a pivotal role in our mental health. Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress.
  • Physical activity: Engaging in regular physical activity not only promotes overall health, but also serves as an effective stress reducer. The endorphins released during exercise act as natural painkillers, elevating mood and reducing stress.
  • Relaxation techniques: Simple techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or even taking a short break can calm the nervous system. Practicing these regularly can become an essential tool in your stress management kit.
  • Emotional support: Sharing your feelings with friends, family members, or professionals can provide immense relief. Sometimes, all one needs is a listening ear or a different perspective. 

At Diversus Health, we are here to help support you as you manage symptoms of stress and irritability. Contact us today to get started.