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Chronic stress: The physical and mental impact

How to be resilient in facing life’s challenges

By Sara Mahdawi , Family Flavours - Jun 04,2023 - Last updated at Jun 04,2023

Photo courtesy of Family Flavours magazine

By Sara Mahdawi
Clinical Psychologist

Stress may result from happy occasions like getting married or beginning a new profession, as well as unhappy ones like losing a loved one or running into tough financial issues.

Whether you’re a hard-working CEO, a stay-at-home parent, or an athlete, prolonged chronic stress can have a substantial impact on your day-to-day activities.

While a small amount of stress might help us stay motivated to reach our goals, excessive stress can be bad for our physical and mental health. Our body’s intricate system of physiological and psychological changes in response to stress helps us in managing a stressful situation. As a clinical psychologist, I worked with a lot of people experiencing chronic stress. In this article, I’ll equip you with some constructive strategies to deal with stress as well as situations in which getting professional assistance may be necessary. 


Coping mechanisms


There are many healthy ways to cope with stress. Here are a few strategies that have been shown to be effective:

• Exercise: A a great way to relieve stress. It releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals in the body that help reduce pain and improve mood. Moreover, exercise helps enhance sleep, which is crucial for stress management

• Mindfulness: Improves alertness and being present in the moment. It entails giving your thoughts, feelings and bodily experiences undivided concentration. By encouraging you to keep your attention in the here and now rather than worrying about the future or reflecting on the past, mindfulness can help you feel less stressed and anxious

• Social Support: Having a network of friends and family to lean on might assist to decrease stress. You may feel less alone and more supported if you speak with someone who can relate to what you are going through

• Time management: Stress can result from ineffective time management. Learning to manage your time properly might help you feel less stressed by enabling you to prioritise your activities and responsibilities

• Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and visualisation can help to reduce stress by calming the body and mind 


When does stress become chronic?


While stress is a natural part of life, long-term stress can seriously harm both our physical and mental health. Chronic stress is stress that lasts for a long timeoften months or years. Many things such as work, family, money troubles and health issues, can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress can have detrimental repercussions. Many health issues, including diabetes, depression and heart disease, have been linked to chronic stress. Moreover, long-term stress can cause issues with focus, memory and sleep.


When to seek professional help?


It’s crucial to receive professional help if you are experiencing chronic stress. You can enhance your mental health and build good coping mechanisms with the assistance of a clinical psychologist. Here are a few indications that it might be time to consult a professional:

• Stress is interfering with your daily routine: if your stress is causing you to have difficulty functioning at work or in your personal life

• Stress is causing physical symptoms: Chronic stress can cause a variety of physical symptoms, including headaches, muscle tension and stomach problems

• You are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety: Chronic stress can lead to depression and anxiety

• You are using unhealthy coping strategies: If you are using drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, it is important to seek professional help. These coping strategies can lead to addiction and other negative consequences


Navigating our way with healthy coping mechanisms is essential to maintaining a psychological resiliency that can help us to face the challenges that life throws at us.


Reprinted with permission from Family Flavours magazine

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