Signs of Extreme Stress
In today's high-speed world, many people find themselves dealing with higher levels of stress than ever before. Jobs, social obligations, money concerns and the day-to-day frustrations of modern life all play into the levels of stress that people endure.
In some cases, however, this stress can cross the line from the everyday to the extreme, sometimes causing severe mental and physical health problems in the process.
Here are some of the things everyone needs to know about extreme stress, how to manage it effectively and when to seek out professional help.
Symptoms and Signs of Extreme Stress
The first step a person should take in managing extreme stress is understanding when the stress in his or her life has gone beyond normal levels. Everyone will react to stress and its underlying causes slightly differently, but there are several common signs and symptoms of extreme stress levels.
One of the most universal signs that a person is suffering from extreme stress is a general and continuous state of fatigue. This kind of fatigue is very different from simply being tired at the end of the day. Instead, it goes on and on, never seeming to get any better or even to be connected to a given day's activities.
Another common sign of extreme stress is trouble sleeping. This often contributes to the above-mentioned feeling of perpetual exhaustion, but is also a problem of its own.
When someone's mind is overly stressed, it can be virtually impossible to shut it off at night and get a full night's sleep. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of different factors, but prolonged and extreme stress is one of its more common causes.
Unfortunately, this symptom can also become part of a viscous cycle in which a person who is deprived of sleep because of stress becomes more susceptible to stress at the same time.
Under the most extreme conditions, people suffering from extreme stress may find themselves becoming emotionally detached from things they previously cared deeply about.
This, in turn, can also lead to social withdrawal from friends and family members. This symptom is particularly associated with the work-specific form of extreme long-term stress known as burnout.
Emotional detachment doesn't manifest in every person who is dealing with high levels of stress, but it is one of the key signs that something is seriously wrong in the cases where it is present.
Finally, the signs of extreme stress include a variety of types of physical discomfort. Common physical issues associated with unusually high stress levels include headaches, stomachaches, digestive issues and unexplained muscle soreness.
These symptoms can be made worse by frequent or severe infectious diseases, which constitute another indicator of extreme stress.
Over enough time, stress can wear down the immune system, making a person far more vulnerable to common viral and bacterial infections.
How to Mange Stress in a Healthful Way
A person suffering from some or all of these symptoms is very likely in need of healthy and sustainable ways to manage stress. Stress management is an important skill in modern life, but one that relatively few people have truly mastered.
Luckily, there are several ways to cope with severe stress that do not involve medication.
One of the best ways to deal with stress is to perform a schedule evaluation. A person who is trying to cope with higher-than-normal levels of stress is likely trying to do too much on any given day.
By taking a close look at their average days, people can determine if there are things that are causing unnecessary stress without providing any real benefit. If so, those things should be eliminated as soon as possible.
Another way for a person to cope with stress in a healthy and effective manner is to try getting more exercise. Though it may seem like just one more thing to do in the course of a day, exercise can reduce the level of stress hormones in a person's body, thereby decreasing the physical and mental effects of extreme stress.
Cardiovascular exercise, such as running or hiking, is particularly effective for this purpose. Since being in nature has also been shown to be effective in reducing stress, outdoor activities are generally preferable to indoor exercise.
If a person's stress is caused primarily by his or her job, taking time off is another important component of managing that stress. Too many people work practically all the time.
While this can boost productivity in the short term, it is a recipe for disaster in the longer run. Taking time off gives people a chance to relax, unwind and relieve themselves of the stress that builds up on a day-to-day basis.
For this reason, every working person should take his or her vacation and use it to its fullest advantage, rather than just using it to catch up on other stressful tasks outside of work.
Increased social activity is another way that stress can be alleviated. Many people spend so much time on stressful activities like work or school that they badly neglect social interaction.
Spending time with friends and family, however, can be a great way to unwind and get away from some of the stressful situations of daily life. Becoming socially isolated can also be a source of stress in and of itself for many people.
Those who feel they are under intense stress on a daily basis should try to incorporate some kind of social activity into their regular schedule. Ideally, a person should be able to spend time with others in a social capacity at least once or twice per week.
Finally, for those who need daily stress relief, meditation is a good option. Meditation, when practiced regularly, has the ability to relieve stress from the mind and make a person more able to handle future stress.
Even 10-15 minutes of meditation each day can have a substantial impact on the way a person responds to stressful situations. For those who want to start a practice of meditation, all that is needed is a little space in a quiet room and a bit of time to relax and clear the mind.
Knowing When to Seek Medical Help
Even though there are many ways for people to manage their stress effectively on their own, there are instances where stress is so severe that it requires professional intervention.
Generally, these cases are caused both by the severity and the duration of the stress involved. Most people are capable of handling even very extreme stress for short periods of time.
When it goes on and on, however, the effects can become too overwhelming for a person to handle on his or her own.
One of the most common signs of extreme stress that requires medical intervention is adopting unhealthy habits in order to cope. These habits can range from eating for comfort to much more extreme problems, such as substance abuse.
Though they may seem to help with stress for very brief periods of time, these habits can be dangerous and harmful to a person's health.
The sleeping problems mentioned above are also a good sign that it may be time to consult a medical professional. Over time, sleep deprivation can be extremely harmful on a physical, mental and emotional level.
A person suffering from stress-related sleep deprivation will quickly find it harder and harder to function normally. If this goes on for a long period of time, that person's overall qualify of life can decrease significantly.
Another critical sign that it may be time to seek out professional help is that no lifestyle-related changes, such as exercise of taking time off, seem to reduce stress.
When this is the case, it's a clear sign that the problems have gone from being caused entirely by day-to-day stressors to being persistent, regardless of the presence of those stressors. At that point, medical intervention is very likely required.
Finally, it is important for anyone whose stress seems to be leading into anxiety or especially depression to seek out professional help as soon as possible.
These conditions can be aggravated by stress, or can simply occur in conjunction with it. Such mental problems can take a devastating toll on your health, work and social life, so anyone who believes he or she is suffering from them should get help immediately.
Failing to do so has the potential to compound the problems and make them more difficult to deal with later on. Contrary to popular belief, these conditions can also negatively impact a person's physical health.
Just because a person has to seek out medical help, however, doesn't necessarily mean that he or she needs to become reliant on medications to deal with stress.
Though medication may play a role, doctors today are also likely to prescribe counseling and therapy that can help people to more effectively manage their stress naturally.
The exact way that a medical professional chooses to treat a given person will depend heavily on the nature and degree of his or her stress symptoms.