Try to open your heart to someone you can trust to relive stress
Everyone experiences stress, which gives you an unpleasant feeling, but it’s not a disease in itself. However, there are links between stress and mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and psychosis. It is a reaction to a real or perceived event that acts as a stressor.
In other words, how stressed one feels depends on how much stress one perceives in a given situation. Stress causes a chemical response in the brain with several physical and psychological effects. Acute stress can trigger anxiety, and long-term stress, even if it is of low intensity, can cause permanent changes. Your heart, muscles, nervous system, and immunity all get affected. Fatigue, lethargy, muscle aches and pains, lack of enthusiasm, irritability, and sleep disturbances may occur.
Lifestyle malfunctions are the result; social and interpersonal health suffers. Mental illnesses, like any illness, are vulnerable to stressful events. Here the stress chemical acts as a trigger, which activates an underlying vulnerability.
Acute stress associated with the sudden death of a loved one can trigger mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. Psychotic disorders associated with hallucinations and delusions can become prominent after severe stressful events like death or an accident.
Loss of sleep can trigger the onset of manic or depressive episodes in known or high-risk cases of bipolar disorder. Similarly, in patients with OCD or Observed Compulsive Personality Disorders, stress exacerbates obsessive-compulsive symptoms.
Long-term stressful situations that go untreated manifest as psychosomatic conditions or somatoform disorders. Anxiety disorders and health-related anxieties are often caused by prolonged life stressors in biologically vulnerable individuals. Physical or surgical stress is also known to cause anxiety episodes and sometimes psychosis in individuals with limited stress-coping abilities.
The signs and symptoms of stress may be thinking-related, emotional, or physical. This can vary from person to person. Thinking-related symptoms may include feeling difficulty, concentrating or thinking, memory-related problems, facing negativity or lack of self-confidence, feeling constant worrying, and difficulty making decisions.
Emotional symptoms may include the likes of feeling moodiness, low morale, irritability, feeling hopeless or helpless, apprehensive, anxious or nervous, feeling depressed, being unhappy or guilty, agitated or unable to relax.
Physical symptoms may include headaches, muscle tension or other physical pain or discomfort, stomach problems, loss of sex drive, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure and fatigue.
To deal with stress, one should start making a stress diary and identify what causes stress, while also asking why it causes stress; is it a negative presumption about the event or a reality that is bothering you? One must figure out ways to deal with stress and figure out the alternatives in cases of failures. If you are not able to do this exercise by yourself, consult a psychotherapist.
Some healthy ways to deal with stress may include—regular breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media; eating healthily and practicing good hygiene; exercise, get plenty of sleep; and give yourself a break if you feel stressed out.
Taking part in other activities could also be helpful. Talking to others is also a way out of stress. Try to open your heart to someone you can trust. Ask when you need more help. If problems continue or you are thinking about committing suicide, talk to a psychologist, social worker, or professional counsellor regarding the same.
(The author is founder and senior psychiatrist, Manasthali)