We all experience it at different times in our lives. What are its repercussions on our daily physical and mental health? The Qare medical team helps you better understand stress, its consequences and, above all, to fight it.
Understanding stress and its various consequences
Definition of stress
While stress is often mentioned in everyday life, little is known about its exact definition. It is a set of psychic and physiological reactions of our organism in response to an aggression suffered, to a pressure or to an unusual situation. It is these reactions that plunge us into a state of stress, which is to be distinguished from anxiety which is an emotion. There are different types of stress.
- Acute stress is a very intense form of stress caused by a terrifying or traumatic but one-off event that does not spread over time.
- Chronic stress , on the other hand, is due to a stressful factor that repeats itself or lasts over time. Stress can then be experienced in a different way by each individual, because it depends above all on the perception of the subject. If you are under a prolonged period of stress, you can talk to a doctor on teleconsultation .
What are the symptoms of stress?
Stress can trigger various symptoms like:
- of stomach pains and even vomiting ;
- of eczema ;
- of headaches or migraines .
These various symptoms or pain related to stress are categorized as psychosomatic disorders .
Stress can also trigger symptoms that are also associated with anxiety or anxiety :
- sleep disturbances ;
- attention and concentration disorders;
- mood changes , irritability;
- permanent fatigue ;
- deregulation or eating disorders;
- muscle tension ;
- addictions (increased consumption of tobacco or alcohol);
- symptoms of depression .
Exposure to prolonged or chronic stress can also cause neurological symptoms and cognitive impairment , such as persistent memory and concentration problems, especially in people with depression. In men, stress and anxiety can also manifest as erectile dysfunction .
Good to know : contrary to popular belief, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is not a symptom of stress, in any case, not that of everyday life. These reflux rather concern hospitalized patients, intubated, for example.
The consequences of stress
Stress can also have other consequences on our health and in particular cause:
- of dermatological diseases like itching or rashes such as psoriasis , urticaria or the occurrence of shingles ;
- reactivation of the herpes virus ( cold sore);
- of cardiovascular disorders ;
- of hypertension .
Good to know : Ulcer is not a frequent consequence of chronic stress. This pathology generally occurs in patients who have undergone very intense physical stress, as is the case with people who have been in intensive care.
How to fight against stress?
One-off, time- limited stress doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can even be useful in certain situations , such as an alarm signal from our brain. For example, for a student stressed before an exam or someone who has to prepare for a public speech, stress can improve performance. This is what we call “ good stress ”.
On the other hand, long-term stress can have negative effects on our mental and physical health. It also indicates that we are exposed to a stressful stimulus for a long time.
Finally, some people cannot stand being exposed to stressors, even occasional stressors, “stress stresses them out”, and they will have a hard time managing. For example, if a student has trouble managing his stress before an exam, he will decrease his performance (“blank page”) rather than improve it. It will then be necessary to appeal to different stress management techniques .
In some situations, removing the stressor is enough to lower it. Anti-stress treatments may be indicated if a person experiences some form of chronic stress or develops an anxiety disorder . If you are in this case, consult your doctor or a psychiatrist to discuss it. If the stress is due to overwork at work , for example, the doctor can help you and possibly stop you from work , if he deems it useful.
In addition, they can refer you to behavioral and cognitive therapy to better manage your anxiety, and possibly prescribe medication , if necessary. However, this last approach is not necessarily the most recommended for treating stress.
How to fight stress naturally?
If you are mildly stressed or episodically, you can also learn to manage your stress better using natural methods. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also essential to achieve this.
- Sport is a recognized natural stress reliever . Regular physical activity helps regulate stress.
- Take care of your quality of sleep . Fatigue or asthenia can increase stress. Go to bed and get up at the same times and avoid screens at night to conserve sleep .
- Yoga, relaxation techniques or even sophrology can help you better manage your daily stress and even prevent it.
- Arranging breaks during the day and better management of time are a good way to reduce stressors and overwork at work or in the family.
- Don’t hesitate to talk to your loved ones or a healthcare professional if you feel overwhelmed. It is important to exteriorize and seek help in order to find solutions and not accumulate stress.
The mechanisms of stress
The state of stress is caused by a chemical reaction in the brain which, when faced with a stressor, produces cortisol . This hormone will then activate other areas of the brain in reaction to the perceived aggression, and this will have various repercussions on our metabolism . It is this corticosteroid-like hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, that sends information to our brain and causes our state of stress.
There are many different stressors that are unique to everyone. It all depends on your perception of an event. You may very well be stressed by a situation that would be better accepted by someone else. The stressors are often external. For example, the management of family life, an intense period at work, or a period of examinations can be triggers. Stress can also come from apprehension of an event, for example, before a sports competition.
Exceptional events or unusual situations can promote stress. For example, the coronavirus crisis and the containment measures are a source of anxiety and stress for a large part of the population. Various studies and institutes such as Public Health France have highlighted the increase in anxiety and depressive disorders since the start of this health crisis.
Stress or overwork is a very common source of chronic stress. If you suffer from it and do not take matters into your own hands quickly, this situation could lead to what is called the phenomenon of burnout . The symptoms are similar to those of stress (back pain, headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, memory impairment, sleep disorders, mood disorders, etc.).
You have to find a way to rebalance your professional and private life so as not to suffer from burnout. Sometimes it’s an organizational problem, or just a difficulty in saying no. In this case, it is necessary to speak about it to your hierarchy to find a solution to your overload of work . If this period of overwork is prolonged, we advise you to talk to your doctor or the occupational physician.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is post-traumatic stress
Post-traumatic stress is an acute and prolonged stressful state that occurs following a traumatic event. It manifests itself in particular by very strong reactions, in particular following stimuli that recall the event (such as a sharp noise, for example).
People who suffer from it may have intrusive thoughts and recurring memories , and have nightmares that make them constantly relive the event. This syndrome often affects people who have experienced life-threatening events or who have been injured. This is common among ex-soldiers, for example.
What is oxidative stress?
This type of stress has nothing to do with psychological stress. This phenomenon is caused by the penetration of free radical molecules into the body’s cells which “oxidize” other molecules. This can cause inflammation, mutagenesis but also cancer.