Stress is the body’s normal and punctual response to a situation of danger or aggression, but it takes on another dimension when it becomes chronic. Chronic stress can have long-term negative effects on both your mental and physical health. To remedy it, you need to investigate its origin and find solutions with the help of a doctor or psychologist. Qare’s medical team gives you advice on how to deal with chronic stress.
What is chronic stress?
Definition : Chronic stress is a prolonged response of the body to an unpleasant situation or source of stress. Know that stress is not just a feeling, it includes a response from your brain that, in response to the perceived aggression, increases the production of corticosteroids . This hormone sends signals to the rest of your body which has various consequences for your health. If your stress is continuous and sets in for several weeks or months, it can damage your health.
Acute stress vs. chronic stress: what’s the difference?
You can feel acute stress because of a specific event, for example: an exam, the realization of a professional project with a tight deadline, the participation in a competition. This form of stress is transient and does not persist after this event is over. This stress can help a person stay alert and achieve their goal.
When stress sets in and becomes permanent, it is called chronic stress. It can occur if you are easily stressed or if you are usually calm and undergoing a stressful situation for a prolonged period of time . For example, the health crisis and confinement may have generated stress for you, because this situation is unprecedented, uncertain and lasting.
Chronic stress at work and the risk of burnout
You can suffer from chronic stress because of your job. It is one of the most frequent sources of stress. It is often a consequence of overwork , and can lead to burn-out (burnout syndrome). For example, if you experience an imbalance between your workload and the means you have to carry out your task over an extended period of time, you can build up stress.
There are several possible causes of stress at work, for example:
- relations with your hierarchy;
- your pace of work;
- your workload;
- a lack of autonomy;
Some jobs can be more stressful than others, especially positions of responsibility or requiring a sustained and continuous effort (eg catering). In addition, it can add to more personal difficulties. If you are under stress or overwork at work , you should talk to a healthcare professional and your line manager.
Post-traumatic stress: prolonged acute stress
Post-traumatic stress is a special form of chronic stress. You can suffer from it after a traumatic event and feel persistent stress even after the event is over. This form of stress is characterized in particular by:
· of recurrent intrusive memories of the traumatic event;
· of mood disorders ;
· of sleep disorders ;
· the strong reactions even violent to stimuli recalling the event (eg a loud noise);
· a loss of interest for daily activities;
· of substance abuse (alcohol, drugs …)
· of depressive symptoms .
What are the symptoms of chronic stress?
The symptoms of chronic stress are numerous and vary from person to person. Here is a list of different stress signals, physical and mental, that you need to watch out for:
· insomnia or sleep disturbances;
· constant fatigue ;
· stomach aches ;
· headache ;
· back pain ;
· muscle pain ;
· difficulty concentrating or remembering information;
· consumption of more fatty and sugary foods;
· loss of appetite ;
· fluctuation in weight;
· mood change .
What are the effects of stress on the body?
Aside from the effects you may experience, chronic stress can have invisible longer-term consequences on your health. High blood pressure is one example of the effects of chronic stress. Stress also promotes other cardiovascular disorders that can lead to a heart attack, but also respiratory disorders such as asthma. It can also lead to musculoskeletal disorders or mental health problems (anxiety, depression). By increasing cortisol levels, chronic stress can also cause blood sugar levels to rise, which promotes diabetes .
Chronic fatigue: a symptom of stress?
If you are chronically stressed, you may experience a kind of continual , rather intense, fatigue and feel like you never get enough rest. It can affect your well-being and affect your daily tasks, especially if it is accompanied by difficulty concentrating or remembering. It is a symptom that is often found in overworked people . You have to react quickly to avoid what is called burnout . See a doctor quickly to find solutions for your chronic stress
What pain can stress cause?
During times of stress, you can also have certain physical symptoms. These signals sent by your body alert you to your mental state. These can include acute stomach aches , migraines , muscle pain and tension. You can also suffer from digestive problems. Sometimes pain can also affect other parts of the body.
If your chronic stress is leading you to have an anxiety attack , you may experience worrying pain , especially in your chest. This phenomenon is accompanied by fear and a feeling of imminent danger, but also an inability to gain control over oneself. Once the anxiety attack is over, all of these symptoms go away.
If you have experienced this type of sensation, you should speak to a doctor quickly to avoid recurrence and find treatment. This is no longer a sign of chronic stress but rather a sign of anxiety which can progress to generalized anxiety disorder .
How to cure chronic stress?
Are you afraid of suffering from chronic stress and wondering what to do? The first reflex to have is to talk about it around you, you must not isolate yourself. It is then important to talk to your doctor who can see what the best treatment approach is. If necessary, he can refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Several solutions can be considered to treat your chronic stress:
- the therapy ;
- the drug-based approach over a limited period;
- a change in lifestyle (improved diet, regular physical activity);
- of relaxation exercises or meditation.
All of these can be combined to fight chronic stress and provide you with a lasting solution. However, medication is not always necessary to treat chronic stress. They can be prescribed if the patient is in great difficulty, and their intake will be limited in time.
The different treatments for chronic stress
There are also different types of therapies that can help you:
· the behavioral therapy and cognitive ;
· the neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is a set of techniques to change our behavioral patterns;
· the relaxation therapy based on breathing and relaxation.
Natural solutions against chronic stress
To cure chronic stress, you can set up certain habits, in addition to therapeutic monitoring, which will help you better manage your stress on a daily basis :
- eat balanced meals at a fixed time;
- practice regular physical and sports activity ;
- take care of your sleep (sleep more, avoid screens at night, eat light before going to bed).
If the stress comes from work, you have to find a way to improve your working conditions , take more breaks, do not overload yourself and talk to your superiors to prevent it from continuing.
These tips for chronic stress can be supplemented with the use of natural treatments. For example, you can try acupuncture or herbal medicine , which are sometimes used as remedies for chronic stress. The essential oil of Bach Flowers is often recommended to regulate mood and remedy chronic stress or anxiety.
Who to consult in case of chronic stress?
In case of chronic stress, you can start by seeing your doctor or a psychiatrist who can assess the situation. Some doctors may give you a chronic stress test . If necessary, you will be offered therapy with a psychiatrist or psychologist. Namely that the psychiatrist is a doctor who can prescribe medication, if necessary, and whose consultations can be reimbursed by the Health Insurance. The psychologist is not supported.
In addition, we do not recommend that you seek to carry out a self-diagnosis or to find a treatment for chronic stress by consulting websites or forums. In the event of intense or prolonged stress, a medical or therapeutic charge should be favored.